The best men deserve the best advice and when it comes to stag do ideas, information as they say, is power! So, if you’re looking to understand which stag provider is the best when it comes to your all important stag weekend then read on!
Back in 2012 when I started iamthebestman, my aim was to provide prospective Best Men with a reliable and useful resource to help them with their responsibilities.
Those run from duties on the day itself – not forgetting the rings is a big one – to what to wear for the wedding; how to give a memorable speech that causes just the right amount of offence, to probably the most important – organising a killer Stag party that gives the groom a send-off he’ll always remember (especially if you can get him tattooed).
Now, as there are so many different companies offering stag do ideas, most of them providing similar activities and destinations, I thought it would be useful to get an idea of what you can expect from each. Not just in terms of price, although that’s obviously important, but also how they operate.
When you’re arranging something as important as a Stag, you need to know that the company you’re booking with appreciates your requirements, and can support you if necessary.
So with that in mind, welcome to the first iamthebestman review of Stag operators, where I test some of the biggest names in the market-place and see how they measure up. This will hopefully be carried out on an annual basis, provided I don’t get sued, so that you always know who’s on top of their game.
My Approach in assessing the best providers of new stag do ideas
I contacted 10 Stag companies, either by email or online form, to request a simple quote, for a group of 15 or so lads to visit Newcastle for one night in July, staying in central 3* accommodation, and to include a morning of paintball.
Newcastle is justifiably one of the UK’s best Stag destinations – the nightlife is incredible and there’s a great range of fun daytime activities available, of which paintball is usually the most popular. Often you’ll find that you can go quad-biking or go-karting either on the same site or nearby.
I then timed how long it took for each company to respond with their quotes, and would arrange a callback so that I could see how responsive they were, what additional stag do ideas they offered, how knowledgeable about Newcastle, the accommodation, the various activities my Stag group could do. And also I wanted to get an idea of their personalities; their enthusiasm, and whether they were more interested in meeting my needs, or getting an easy sale. Each was scored out of 10 for 10 separate categories, leaving them with a final score out of 100.
Here’s what I found out…
- Every company was easily able to arrange what I needed, although some suggested the hotels they used preferred Stags to stay for two nights minimum.
- Central 3* accommodation was plentiful, but since July is a busy month in Newcastle, I would need to move fast with deposits to secure beds. You should book early for hot destinations.
- Some companies automatically included breakfast in the package, others didn’t. Specify if you want it so the right hotel is booked. The Jury’s Inn, apparently, prides itself on a fantastic breakfast that will set you up for the day.
- Every company offered a secure online payment system. How it works is, each member of the group pays their money in separately, and the company sends them reminders when more money is due. This takes a lot of hassle away from the best man in collecting deposits.
- Initial deposits, ranging from £30 – £50, are usually non-refundable, but some companies will refund later payments if someone drops out, depending on how close it is to departure.
- I was warned that some companies levy a processing fee for each individual payment – no names were given, but I suggest you check for that before making a booking with anyone, to avoid paying more than you need.
- Minimum group numbers vary – one company told me that even if it all went to pot and it was just me and the Stag, the price would remain the same. Again, check when booking if you are worried about drop-outs.
- All companies offer 24-hour weekend support, so if a restaurant doesn’t have your reservation, or your limo doesn’t turn up, or the strip club won’t let you in because they think you’re all too good-looking and the girls might run off with you, then you can get it sorted out straightaway.
- Most companies sent over bags of extra information with their quotes that will be very useful for first-time Stag organisers.
Note: while some of these companies do have affiliate links on my site, this study was conducted completely impartially. All views are entirely my own, and are as objective as possible.
Overall Score: 73/100
Approx Price: £72.00
The agent I spoke to was very efficient, getting in touch straightaway following my initial enquiry with a phone followup, and then after checking what I was looking for, she sent me several quotes which I could access online.
When I mentioned that I was getting quotes from other companies too, she immediately offered to match any price on a like-for-like basis, something no-one else did.
I had no complaints at all with Chilisauce, the quality of their quotes was excellent and the agent seemed very on-the-ball. The only thing I would say is that she didn’t seem in any particular hurry to chase me up after sending the quotes, but I put that down to this being her busiest time of year.
Overall Score: 86/100
Approx. Price: £85.00
The quality of the quotes and the price were fine, but what most stood out for met for me with Red 7 was the enthusiasm, knowledge and friendliness of the guy on the other end of the phone.
He had what felt like a very wide knowledge of the type of activities available in Newcastle, mentioning a couple I’d never heard of but that sounded very appealing. His description of the hotel breakfast at the Jury’s Inn had my mouth watering, and I was almost tempted to book an actual stay there just to try it.
He was clearly interested in what I wanted to do, rather than pushing me towards whatever they wanted to sell, he could give me plenty of information on everything I asked about, and he was happy to make as many changes to the quotes as I wanted. I would have confidence booking with these guys.
The Stag Company
Overall Score: 71/100
Now The Stag Company (TSC), like Red 7, are based in Brighton, which is a hotspot for Stag and Hen groups. Most agents though will only have a cursory knowledge of the cities they’re sending you to, beyond what’s on the screen in front of them – almost everyone suggested heading to the Quayside in Newcastle, which while reliable is a little obvious. If you want to know which bars or clubs are happy to accept Stags that aren’t on the list of places they have arrangements with, then you’re probably going to need to do your own research.
My advice, if you’re not sure, is to split into smaller groups, try and join up with some ladies, stay in touch with each other and ensure no-one is too wasted.
TSC was one of the first companies I called for a quote, and they were very helpful, giving me a good idea of the way bookings normally work, which seemed pretty common across the board.
The other impression I was left with from TSC was that they were very keen for my business despite being busy, and mine only being a fairly small package (wahey!). They called or emailed me several times over a period of 10 days or so, not enough for it to be a hassle, but certainly to keep the booking front-of-mind which is obviously important since it’s a big responsibility, and you need to get deposits in quick to get the hotel you want.
Last Night of Freedom
Overall Score: 75/100
Approx. Price: £103.00
Last Night of Freedom… are based in Newcastle, so naturally they scored highly when it came to knowledge of the destination. If no-one in your group knows their way around Newcastle well, these guys would be a good bet to help you have a good night.
They were the most expensive of the lot by a fair way, but that’s because they were offering a very good hotel, a modern central place, and also their quotes apparently all include nightclub entry as standard. Once I mentioned that I was getting quotes from other companies though, there was a sharp drop in price! Never be afraid to negotiate, my friends.
Now, if you do end up booking with Last Night…, one of the better stag do ideas is booking onto one of their organised bar crawls. You’ll be guided around the hottest local nightspots by an attractive lady with good local knowledge. You can hand over your kitty to her, and she’ll take care of drinks and entry fees, while you concentrate on having a good time. The company also offer a strip club deal where for about £10 you can get into any of the city-centre fleshpots you choose.
No complaints here, although I did find their inflexibility on including nightclub entry a little odd – what if you want to go somewhere they don’t have an agreement with?
Overall Score: 49/100
Approx. Price: £77.00
It took around 2 days for the Clear Cut quote to arrive, which is fine, as you would normally be booking the Stag several months in advance, but in comparison to most of the other companies I contacted, this was pretty tardy.
Their quote, while it contained all the relevant information I needed to make a booking, seemed very plain when placed against other quotes received, which were jazzed up with exciting images, inspirational or funny writing, and a mix of fonts to break up the text. It just came across as very bland and in need of some freshening-up.
The real issue though for me was when I followed up the quote. I arranged for a callback and the agent I spoke with seemed, unfortunately, pretty disinterested in the conversation. She didn’t sound bubbly and keen to work with me, as most of the others did, even though my package was pretty basic (wahey!). She didn’t look to get any more information from me about what I was looking for, and when I asked follow-up questions such as regarding payments or nightlife in Newcastle, the answers were perfunctory. Maybe she was just having a bad day.
It’s surprising really, because Clear Cut do have a very good reputation. Sorry guys, no doubt you know how to run a good Stag, but on this occasion your customer service let you down a bit.
Overall Score: 57/100
Approx. Price: £69.00
Another company that was comparatively slow with the response and followup. I did speak to one of their representatives eventually – actually I was never quite clear with Designaventure who was in charge of my enquiry, it seemed to change. In short they come across somewhat disorganised.
The lady was friendly though, and helpful, and tolerant of my failure to understand their refund procedure, which was actually very simple, I just hadn’t had my morning coffee at that point.
One thing I should mention about Designaventure’s website was that they have rough prices on there, so you can get a reasonable idea of what you’ll be paying straight off the bat which is always good when you’re in the stag do ideas phase of planning.
Overall Score: 75/100
Approx. Price £79.00
The Stagweb agent was exceptionally knowledgeable about Newcastle. He pointed out that while most companies assign bookings by whoever picks up the phone, they have destination specialists, so any enquiries for Newcastle will come only to him, allowing him to offer a lot of good advice. So much in fact that I could barely get a word in edgeways!
He was especially impressive when discussing things like Newcastle nightlife, from bars and clubs to casinos, having obviously spent time up there himself, and describing the paintball arena – I could tell he had played there himself, knew the organisers, and could give first-hand, reliable information.
He also offered to help with transfers from Newcastle at a reasonable price, to save us driving or taking a taxi, which was not something I had considered, and was also very reassuring about 24-hour cover in case anything went wrong. Having local knowledge definitely helps in coming up with decent stag do ideas that you haven’t thought of yourself which is a real feather in the cap for Stagweb.
I would especially recommend using Stagweb if neither you or any of your party know the place you’re heading to, and want to get a good idea of what to expect from a reliable source.
Overall Score: 79/100
Approx. Price: £72.00
Here’s what I think about Maximise – while there was nothing in terms of what they offered, or my conversations with the agent, that made me think “Wow! These guys are amazing!”, I just had a feeling throughout my dealings with them that everything they did, they did well. There were no gaps.
My enquiry was followed up straightaway with a call to assess my requirements from a very friendly guy who was chatty and knowledgeable but never pushy, and just seemed happy to talk about my plans and crack a few jokes.
The quote was high-quality and viewable online, and it laid out clearly exactly why I should consider booking with them, with their various USPs. No information overload, but enough that I had a good idea of the next steps I needed to take.
I followed up a few days later seeking to make a few adjustments, and he was happy to do that straightaway, as well as recommending some decent restaurants.
So just to reiterate, what made Maximise stand out for me wasn’t necessarily the price, the quality of the quote, or the friendliness and helpfulness of the agent, though they were all absolutely fine – it was just that they were seemed very good all-rounders. Another company I would have no hesitation in recommending, and they came very close to topping the poll.
Overall Score: 77/100
Approx. Price: £95.00
Off Limits fell nicely into the middle. My agent was very friendly and helpful, chatty, and with a decent amount of knowledge about Newcastle. She was able to deal with all my questions about the booking process satisfactorily and straightaway.
Like the other Stag companies, I requested a couple of adjustments to my package (wahey!) and she was very happy to make them straightaway. Off Limits are definitely worth getting in touch with to organise your Stag – theirs was the most expensive quote I received, but they have a good range of activities and seem to have a good idea of what they’re doing. Probably worth haggling a bit.
Stag Do Party
We did request a quote, but, er, they never replied. Not sure what happened with those guys!
And the winner, of Best Stag Do Operator, 2016…goes to….
By a nose, Red 7, with Maximise taking second place, just edging out Off Limits.
Generally I was very impressed throughout with the quality of the quotes I was sent, the knowledge, flexibility and friendliness of the agents, and the prices. Some have room for improvement, and I guess we’ll see next year whether they rank higher. And who knows, maybe by then the Stag Do Party quote will have arrived.
I hope this guide gives you some useful stag do ideas and helps in selecting a stag do operator. If you want my help in getting you the best deal then please get in touch using the form below. I’d be happy to help.