Friends at a house party faced with a party crasher

Banishing the Party Crashers

There’s a reason we invented invitations: most parties are not public spectacles. We organize private events because there are certain specific people we would like to spend time with. Extra guests are socially intrusive. They bring plenty of practical issues with them as well. The event organizer has the number of attendees in mind when they buy drinks, make food and organize space. Unexpected guests disrupt such careful planning. While you can’t completely guarantee a party crasher will not show up, there’s plenty you can do to avoid them.

Using Social Media

Organizing events on social media is fraught with complications. If you are going to use Facebook, make sure the event is set to private. Public events can be seen by anyone, while private ones are only visible to invitees. You must do this when you create the event; it cannot be changed later.

Also, make sure the people you invite cannot invite others. People who see the opportunity might interpret it as an active invitation to bring along friends. If they want to bring an uninvited guest, they should always run it by you first.

Communicating with Guests

Letting guests know this is an invitation-only party will go a long way in avoiding the party crasher problem. They’re your friends. They don’t want to disrupt your event, but they need to know exactly what you do and don’t want.

It’s possible a friend will ask if they can invite someone you would rather not have present. If you’re going to be firm on the “no extras” rule, then feel free to use it. Just remember your friend is going to feel put out if you later allow someone else to bring a guest. If you may be allowing other exceptions, it’s best to simply be honest and tactfully explain why you don’t want that particular person present. Again, friends generally understand. We don’t all like the same people, and this is, after all, your event.

Dealing with a Party Crasher

Even with preparation, it’s possible a crasher will show up. How you deal with it depends on the reason you didn’t invite them in the first place. If they simply heard about the party and presumed anyone could attend, you can curtly correct them. If they were invited by one of your guests,on the other hand, apologize for the miscommunication concerning additional invitations. But the end of the conversation should always been the same: this is a private party, and you really can’t accommodate more guests.

The arrival of a party crasher is an awkward situation. Turning people away at the door may feel ungenerous, but you aren’t obligated to cater to everyone who shows up on your doorstep. Party crashers can upset the group dynamics as well as put a strain on food, drink and space considerations. Overcrowding is a detriment to every one of your invited guests, so do everyone a favor and keep the crashers out.

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old wine bottles on the wine shelf

Giving the Gift of Wine

Wine is a popular gift in nearly any setting, from large weddings to intimate dinner parties. However, there is a time and place for it, and there’s a variety ways to best select it to make an extra special gift.

First, while you might normally just grab a bottle off the shelf at a grocery store for yourself, buying wine as a gift is a bit different. After all, you can grab a gallon of milk off the shelf as well, and no one thinks that’s an appropriate gift. So, even if that $8 bottle is your absolute favorite, you probably want to give something a little pricier, a little more special.

How you select wine depends in part on the drinking habits of yourself and your friend. If you know your friend’s tastes, you can buy something similar but perhaps a bit classier. Or, if you know of a favorite food, you can buy something that pairs well with it. If you’re at an actual wine store, an employee may be able to help you find a good match.

wine bottle with ribbon and filled wineglass, christmas tree and gift boxes on background
Keep wrapping simple. Wrapping paper can keep heat in and actually damage some wines.

If they’re not much of a wine drinker, buy them something similar to what you drink. That shows you’re sharing something you know intimately, rather than a random bottle off the shelf. Whether you buy according to your tastes or theirs, it demonstrates you put thought into the gift.

If you’re still not sure what to bring, go with a red. For whatever reason, people tend to associate red wine with sophistication. It will seem like an even more impressive gift than it already is. But don’t go with something completely obscure. First, you’ll be at a complete loss if your friend asks your opinion of it. Second, complex wines tend to not be appreciated by people who don’t often drink wine.

If it’s for a dinner party where wine will be drank, be sure to indicate your gift is for the host personally, not a donation to the general alcohol pool. Otherwise, they might pop that bottle open then and there and dole it out to guests.

If you are bringing a bottle to share during the evening’s festivities, it’s not really a gift any more than bringing mashed potatoes to a pot luck is a gift. In that case, feel free to bring what you want.

Magnums make great gifts for parties. They hold twice the volume as a normal bottle, and they actually look even bigger. So they’re helpful to a host who’s making sure there’s enough to drink, and it’s pretty darn impressive looking.

The variations of wine make gifting it a highly customizable process. The biggest thing to remember is this is, indeed, a gift, and gifts should be thoughtful. Random bottles say very little about the relationship between you and the recipient. It’s great if you can customize it to their tastes, but that might not be possible, in which case try sharing a personal favorite with them, just so long as it isn’t overly cheap. With a bit of thought, you might even turn your friend into a wine aficionado.

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RSVP

How to Get Guests to RSVP

There’s lots of reasons why a party planner needs an RSVP. For a large event like a wedding, the caterers need an exact count of how many meals to prepare. For a smaller gathering in a restaurant, you need to know how big a reservation is needed, and you need to be able to take a headcount to verify everyone has arrived. For more casual parties, it may be a variety of issues: how many tables and chairs to rent, how much food to prepare, etc.

But, more and more, invitees ignore requests for RSVPs. It may be a symptom of a culture growing more casual in general. It may also have to do with people not understanding the importance of the RSVP. It’s easy to understand why you need to RSVP if you’re attending, but it’s much harder to motivate people to RSVP when they’re not. The host cannot simply assume non-responders aren’t coming. Maybe the invitation got lost in the mail, and the host would hate it if the invitee was left out. Maybe the RSVP got lost in the mail, in which case the guest may show up expecting a meal and have none prepared. That is what goes through the mind of a party planner. It wasn’t until my own wedding that I realized the importance of getting an RSVP from every single invited guest and the inconvenience I must have caused party planners with my casual attitude to RSVPs.

To combat this, let people know exactly why you need the RSVP. Your friends aren’t being malicious. They’ve just never thought through how important it is to say if they’re coming or not. Once they understand the difficulty involved with unresponsive guests, they are much more likely to comply with your RSVP request. Also, make the deadline prominent in the invitation. It will reinforce the importance of a timely response.

Say No to Social Media

Don’t invite people over social media. Yes, Facebook has a feature where you can say if you’re going, maybe going or not going, but no one uses them to any accuracy. As one friend put it: “’yes’ means ‘maybe,’ ‘maybe’ means ‘no,’ and ‘no’ means ‘I don’t understand why I was invited.’”

That ‘maybe’ option is extremely problematic. Clicking ‘maybe’ is exactly as helpful as not replying at all. It’s not odd to see four people commit to an event and 23 people indicate ‘maybe.’ No one can plan around that, especially when you can’t even trust those four who say they are coming.

In an attempt to get invitees more engaged in the process, some people request invitees state their RSVP in the comments. It might work a bit better, but it still doesn’t produce results you can structure plans around, in part because it doesn’t fix the problem of people not responding at all. Social networks are too free flowing and casual.

If you need an RSVP, but don’t want to use paper invites, use an mail service like Invitecast which tallies RSVPs as they come in and allows users to sort by a number of different parameters, including whether or not they have RSVPed. That way you can easily send follow up emails to delinquent responders.

Knowing the number of attendees is an important part of party plans, but it can be difficult getting invitees to commit one way or the other. Help your guests understand the importance of the RSVP. Give them detailed information about the event, including why the RSVP is needed. Make sure they know the deadline. And stay away from overly casual forms of communication like social media, which doesn’t encourage people to be commit to in posted activities.

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Christmas dinner with turkey and drinks

5 Ways to Stay Sane While Throwing a Holiday Party

With Thanksgiving having come and gone, we are now officially into holiday party season. For many, a Christmas gathering may be the only time all year they see relatives. But holiday parties can become extravagant affairs that leave the host trying to catch his or her breath. Consider some ways to reduce stress this season when hosting a holiday party.

Delegate

Nothing says you have to put on an entire party by yourself. Ask for volunteers. Generally, people are eager to help out, whether it’s bringing a dish to share, running errands or setting up the space beforehand. The holidays are about bringing people together. There’s no need to be alone in party planning.

Decoration in Moderation

Every neighborhood has That Guy who decks out his entire house in Christmas lights. You don’t have to be him. A single, stunning door wreath, for example, will have just as much impact but will take far less of your time and money.

Indoor décor can be embellished with classic holiday ornaments arranged in a variety of ways. They can be gathered into glass bowls and set up on tables, for example. A string of Christmas lights can add twinkle.

 

Skip the Dinner

The traditional image of Christmas gatherings involves everyone sitting around a heavily laden table. However, creating that heavily laden table is a lot of work, more work than many modern people have time for. There’s nothing wrong with going out to eat and then retiring back to the house for more socializing and gift exchanges.

Consider limiting what can be offered at home to snacks and drinks. Stock up on a variety of finger foods and spruce up the presentation to create a more festive mood.

Attractive display of snacks

If you’re offering alcohol, you may wish to offer a single signature drink, particularly one which is holiday themed. That saves you from having to buy a wide variety of liquors.

Box wines are also great for large gatherings. They take up far less space than individual bottles, are highly affordable, and come in a wide variety of vintages.

The Buffet Option

If you’re going to cook, serve it buffet style. When you have a lot of people sitting around a table, it can be difficult to constantly pass dishes back and forth. Instead, give the food its own table and everyone can approach it on their own when they’re wanting seconds. Also, put the food table in the middle of the room so people can circle it and avoid traffic jams.

Play to the buffet style when planning your meal. There’s a reason hams and turkeys are so popular for the holidays: you throw one thing in the oven and then cut and serve when it’s ready. You don’t want to be cooking a bunch of individual entrees.

Gifts in Bulk

Shopping for gifts can be a nightmare, particularly if your Christmas list is a long one. Consider finding a gift that’s appropriate for many people and buy in bulk, such as getting each relative a bottle of the same wine. Spruce up gifts with nice paper or even just a decorative bow or ribbons.

The holidays are a busy time of year. They’re meant to be a time for people coming together, but they can also bring a lot of stress. You have your guests in mind, but don’t forget yourself. Find ways of reducing your own stress this season and everyone will get more enjoyment from the holidays.

 

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Group of friends toasting wine glasses and having fun at outdoor dinner party

Managing a Dinner Party’s Kitchen

Dinner party hosts have two sometimes mutually exclusive obligations: entertain guests while also providing food. Since you won’t want food going cold while you wait for guests, you’ll probably still be in the kitchen when they arrive. Meanwhile, early guests want to provide company or even help, which sounds great until the kitchen becomes too crowded for efficient operation. Managing the kitchen can be crucial for a successful dinner party.

One fundamental trick is to erect a few polite barriers between you an the guests. The first is a stocked bar in the main room which is obvious to everyone arriving. A coffee table works well. Offer a variety of options and enough space for guests to pour or mix their drinks. Not only does this slow their progression into the kitchen, but it gives them time to strike up distracting small talk with one another rather than with you.

If you have the space, set up appetizers at the edge of the kitchen space. This serves as a visual cue as to how far you’ve invited guests to go. Hovering over the appetizers also allows guests to speak with you without getting underfoot.

But, let’s be honest, there’s always that guest who feels obligated to help you whether you want it or not. Plan for this person. Come up with a few tasks to keep them busy yet out of your way.

Toasting drinks at a dinner party

Complete as much of the preparation and cooking ahead of time as possible. Not only will it get you to the dinner table faster, but it will also keep you there. The point of a dinner party is for everyone, including the host, to socialize. It’s no fun for the host to constantly be fetching things, and the guests won’t particularly enjoy the disruption either. You’re supposed to enjoy the meal as much as everyone else.

So get as much to the table the first time around. If you’re drinking wine, have chilled bottles available for people to serve themselves. If you’re drinking beer, set extras off to the side for guests to fetch as desired. In either case, make sure people are good on drinks before the meal starts.

Serve guests family style so you aren’t making a million trips to the kitchen carrying out individual plates. And try to avoid clearing the table afterward. That’s something you can do when the guests have left. Retire to the living room for dessert if you don’t have room for it on the table.

The biggest challenge of dinner parties is actually managing the dinner. Without some forethought, it can completely overwhelm a host and leave him or her trapped in a kitchen for most of the evening. However, with a bit of planning you can streamline the process and corral your guests to make your event less stressful and more enjoyable for all.

Group Of Female Friends Meeting For Baby Shower At Home

Planning a Baby Shower

The birth of a child is a monumental moment in life, and one way of celebrating that event is through a baby shower, where guests mingle, share stories, give gifts and generally express good wishes to the expectant couple.

Who plans a baby shower?

Traditionally, a close friend plans the baby shower. Because guests are expected to bring gifts, it was seen as tacky for the family to organize the event as they would essentially be engineering a way for themselves to get presents. Nowadays, however, its common for family members to organize baby showers, so don’t sweat it.

Who do you invite?

Baby showers are intimate affairs. As such, they should include close friends and family, not acquaintances. Most often, showers are held in the host’s home, which naturally limits how many people can be accommodated.

Traditionally, baby showers have been a thoroughly female affair as the raising of children was part of a woman’s sphere of influence. This is also from a time when men weren’t even allowed in the birthing room. However, more and more showers today involve both mother and father, and guests can also be co-ed.

friends with expectant mother at baby shower

When do you hold a baby shower?

I know a woman whose shower was held on her due date, based on the logic that no one goes into labor on their due date anyway. Guess when she went into labor.

It’s safer to plan a baby shower a couple months before the due date to avoid surprise arrivals. But you don’t want to do things overly early either. Before five months, the parents may not know the baby’s gender, and many people like to coordinate decorations and gifts with the gender. Also, some parents are leery of making a big deal of a pregnancy early on, due to their fragile nature.

Holding a shower at roughly the seven month mark allows parents to take stock of what they need and put together a gift registry. It also gives them time to pick up things not given as gifts before the little bundle of joy arrives.

What goes on a baby shower registry?

Registries are filled out by the parents and should offer a variety of moderately priced items. Books, clothes, and toys are all mainstays of baby shower registries. Consider leaving off the larger items like strollers and car seats. It may make guests feel their gifts are inadequate, particularly if one of these items shows up with a bow on it.

But remember a registry is a list of suggestions. Guests are in no way obligated to buy off of it. They may have their own ideas of what would be a perfect gift (whether they are or not). Showers are not about collecting stuff. Be grateful for whatever is given, regardless of elegance or ugliness.

Baby showers are a wonderful way for friends and family to share in the joy of an upcoming birth. Once strictly a women’s event, modern showers may now include members of both genders. The biggest thing to remember in planning a baby shower is to take into account the expectant parents’ needs and wants. This can be a particularly stressful time. They have plenty of preparations to make, so the event should be a blessing for them, not a burden.

hors d'oeuvres at catered event

Choosing the Perfect Caterer for Any Event

Caterers aren’t just for weddings. Many serve anything from large corporate luncheons to small social events, and everything from full meals to light hors d’oeuvres. They also vary greatly in price, quality and areas of expertise. The sharing of food is an important part of human socialization, so the meal, whether good or bad, can be a very memorable part of your event.

Venue

First, understand the policies of your venue regarding food services. Hotels often require you to use their caterers, which are frequently more expensive than independent companies. On the other hand, hotels commonly provide event space for free if they’re providing the food.

Other locales might have limitations for catering services. There might be limited space in which the caterer can work, there may be restrictions on what sort of things can be brought in. Historic buildings, for example, may have rules which protect objects within it.

It’s even better if your caterer is familiar with the location. It means they’ve already worked out the kinks of operating there, limiting complications for your own event.

Recommendations, Reviews and References

If possible, get recommendations. There’s a great number of caterers out there, all of which are going to tell you they’re excellent. Hearing other people’s experiences can help you form a short list of likely candidates.

Internet reviews can also be a resource, but they are more limited in usefulness. You trust your friends and business partners, but for all you know, the reviewer is an idiot. Also, people tend to only give reviews if service was great or terrible, with little feedback for mediocre experiences. Don’t just look at stars. Read the specific reasons reviewers gave the rating they did.

The caterer should also be able to provide references which you can contact for more insight on their performance.

Catereer and client discussing a menu

Interviewing Caterers

Have an in-depth conversation with caterers you are considering. Do they seem genuinely interested in working with you, or are they more interested in simply selling a generic service? Also, get a sense of what their specialties are. If you want something elegant, don’t go with the guy known for a great barbecue.

Taste testing is an absolutely must. Some companies offer it for free. Others make you pay. In either case, take advantage of it. You can’t know the quality until you’ve sampled it, not even if the caterer comes with glowing recommendations.

Even if the first company you interview seems fantastic, be sure to meet with a few others, including performing a taste test. Other caterers may bring up issues you didn’t consider when talking to the first one. It’s important to get a complete picture of the industry and your options.

Place settings and food at catered event

Contracts

Once you’ve selected a caterer, draw up a contract. These should be precise in what the company is providing: the type of food, number of servings, delivery fees, staff fees, provision of place settings, and more. Every item should be clearly priced out. Simply giving a total price is unacceptable. Laying out line items assures that you and the caterer are on the same page about expectations. Also, it protects both you and the caterer: each side has evidence of what was agreed upon.

Organizing a catered event can be a complicated task. However, it’s important to invest time in it to ensure the best possible result. Talking to others, scrutinizing catering companies, and insisting on detailed contracts will go a long way in ensuring a successful event.

A chocolate wedding cake surrounded by rose petals and a brides bouquet of flowers. Sitting an a table with a fire in the background. There are orange roses and nice details on the cake.

Cakes for all Special Occasions

Blue and white fondant elegant tiered cake
An elegant cake which could be used at multiple types of events, including weddings.

You need a cake, and not just something you picked up in the grocery store. These are special occasion cakes. The most common kind is the wedding cake, but they can be used for anniversaries, birthdays, baby showers and other life events.

But where to start? Wedding cakes used to be textured white buttercream monstrosities decked with flowers, and some of them still are (including mine). Those are totally legitimate designs, but there’s also a host of other highly popular and creative options.

Google “wedding cakes” and check out the images. You’ll find some both creative and elegant, a wonderful presentation of your personality suitable for the event. Colors both subtle and bright are popular. Surfaces are both textured and smooth. Fondant flowers can drape them. The tiers needn’t be even. Slanted layers create a wonderful, fun illusion of imbalance.

Even if you don’t fall in love with one, they may give good ideas on where you want to go. Then, with an idea (and a printout) in hand, go to your local bakery. They should have a book of their creations. If you’re suspicious of the quality, try someplace else. There’s no reason to mess around with a shoddy bakery.

If you’re happy with the quality, see if they’ve created something similar to what you have in mind. If they haven’t, you may want to move on, but if their work truly is excellent, they can probably create your dream cake fine. Just ask if they think they can translate your idea into cake.

Cakes of Personality

The most creative cakes are generally seen outside of wedding cakes, although there’s certainly nothing to stop you from creating a wildly designed cake for your wedding. It’s your day. Have the cake of your dreams.

These cakes can be bursting with color and may be sculpted into shapes. As an example, baby showers sometimes get cakes looking like a sleeping baby. (The only problem is deciding who has to eat the head.)

Maybe all you have is a theme. The birthday boy loves steampunk or the birthday girl is crazy for football. You can come to a gourmet baker with that rough of an idea. They’ll sketch something out and you can decide if it’s what you want.

Assymetrica l blck and whitecake
An asymmetrical cake with fondant to create sharp edges and smooth surfaces

Fondant is the tool that really helps create these designs. It’s rolled out in smooth layers, cut into flat shapes, and bent into a variety of objects. Fondant can transform a cake into a work of art.

If you’re looking for something a little bit lower key, or you wish to rein in expenses, consider gourmet cupcakes. They’re made from the same delicious cake used in larger creations. Fondant, berries, chocolates and more are often used to elegantly decorate on the top of each cupcake.

Chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate nestled into a buttercream frosting wrapped in delicate cut-out paper.
Chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate heart nestled in buttercream frosting wrapped in delicate cut-out paper.

Today’s opportunities for creative special occasion cakes are immense. Bakers generally keep a record of their creations, and the internet is bursting with additional ideas. It’s important to give yourself plenty of time to decide before the event. It may take time to decide on a design, and bakers often need several weeks to get you into their schedule. With a little planning, you can have a cake worth remembering.

group of friends partying with glitter

Safety Tips for House Parties

There’s a lot of things to keep track of when planning a party. No matter what kind of party you’re throwing, from birthday to bachelorette parties, you must remember to protect your guests.

Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Even if you’re planning on totally boozing it up, non-alcoholic drinks are an absolute requirement. Designated drivers are going to appreciate it, and the option will encourage alcohol drinkers to moderate their alcohol consumption with other beverages. The selection can be as simple as water, or you can offer soda, coffee, tea, juice or other drink.

Just make sure no one is under the impression drinking these beverages will sober them up. If you’re drunk before that cup of coffee, you’ll be drunk after it. Hydration does, however, stave off things like hangovers.

Insist on “Invitation Only”

When you plan a party, the number of attendees is a major factor in your decision-making. That’s why you ask for RSVPs. But while a couple of unreserved friends showing up might not be a problem, them bringing their own friends quickly turns into a nightmare.

You invited people into your home because you like them and trust them. You didn’t put all this effort into an event to be saddled with strangers you don’t know, don’t like, or don’t trust.

If your friends are so sure their buddy would be a great fit, all they need to do is contact you ahead of time and ask. It’s not your fault if they couldn’t extend this basic courtesy. It’s an uncomfortable task, but give uninvited visitors the boot.

girl putting cigarette in ashtray at crazy party
Make clear what is and isn’t acceptable on your property, such as smoking, drinking or vaping. Never allow illegal substances. It can get you in trouble even if you aren’t partaking.

Have a Plan

You should have an idea how you’re going to respond to common situations. If a guest attempts to go home drunk, what do you do? Pay for a taxi? Have a friend drive? Offer a place to crash? What do you do if he refuses these options?

Call the Police

Sometimes, no matter how well you plan, things get out of control. If this is the case, call the police, and don’t feel guilty about it. If your guests are behaving so badly that you’re considering this option, they have gone well beyond violating your hospitality, and you don’t owe them a thing.

When possible, issue a warning. Either they leave, or the police are being called. Them promising to “settle down” is not good enough. If they’re that out of control, you need them out of your house.

A lot of responsible party planning involves keeping control of the situation. Set clear boundaries: where people can go, what they can do, and who is welcome. If your boundaries are violated, be polite but firm. Guests need to either honor your wishes or be unwelcome. Keeping control of your party will let everyone have a much more enjoyable evening.

Little boy pointing at goal

Hunting for the Perfect Party

Scavenger Hunt parties are infinitely customizable. For very small children, you can plant items in a backyard or park and let them seek them out. As participants get older, the game can expand around the neighborhood, then around town as cars become available.

And scavenger hunts don’t have to involve picking up objects. If you can trust players with cameras, they can simply photograph the desired object. This means targets can be buildings, monuments, places of interest and anywhere else.

You can also require actions to be performed and photographed, such as cracking an egg over a teammate’s head, doing a head stand in an elevator, or sitting with police officers in a donut shop.

Different goals can have point values as well. The harder it is to accomplish, the more points are rewarded on completion.

Scavenger Hunt Themes

A boy and girl search for objects to collectScavenger hunts certainly don’t require a theme. You can grab a bunch of things that amuse you, give them point values, and send everyone on their way.

But themes can really turn the game into an adventure, especially for children. You can focus on historic landmarks and have them collect information from information plaques. For small children, you can use plastic dinosaurs or other coveted items and hide them around the game space.

The mall can become a great location for a scavenger hunt. Just make sure it’s clear what items need to be photographed and what items need to be brought back in person. The latter are generally things you can get for free, like a restaurant menu, not a new sweater.

You can be as general or specific as you want. Make them search for neon blue athletic shoes. Have them photograph the ugliest prom dress, with you awarding points based on hideousness. Make them return with a free sample of cologne.

Or get the kids out into nature. They can search for different colored plants, different shapes of leaves, kinds of trees, animals, bugs, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Preparation and Rules

Before you put together your list, scope out the area of play so you know what’s available. It’s no fun to look for acorns in a forest with no oak trees. Make sure what you want is available, and gauge how difficult it will be for players to find it.

Before handing out lists, make sure everyone understands the rules. The can include:

  • When everyone has to return to submit their finds
  • The boundaries of the game area, if there is one
  • Rules regarding children’s relationship with an adult supervisor, such as how far they can wander from the adult
  • Whether teams can divide up, or whether they are required to work together
  • Respecting other people’s property. No trespassing, no damaging of items to reach a goal, no taking of objects that are meant to be photographed.
  • Safety first. If you cannot find a safe way of reaching an objective, move on to another one.

There’s a million things you can do with scavenger hunts, and they’re super scalable. Small groups and big groups, young kids, teens and adults, this is an adventure which can entertain all of them.