Tips for Planning a Family Reunion of any Size
Planning a family reunion can take as much effort and attention to detail as planning a small wedding. Bringing far-flung family members together in a way that’s both convenient and fun for everyone is possible, however,
if you know when to start, where to look for lodging, and what to plan to ensure success.
Use the following family reunion planning hacks to become the hero of your next family get-together!
How to Pick a Family Reunion Destination
The first step in family reunion planning is to decide where to hold the grand event. It’s important to take into account invitees’ geographical location, budget, and the overall theme of your reunion. Here’s how to go about it:
1. Choose a central location. Depending on distance between family members, pick a central location within driving distance, ideally near a major interstate, or adjacent to a “hub” airport everyone can fly into with minimal stress and cost.
2. Decide on a focus. Your reunion will be all about family time, but will you spend it outdoors enjoying a common activity, in a city with access to museums and culture, or primarily indoors?
3. Decide on a budget. Before determining a destination and lodging option, it’s essential to set a general budget.
Will every family member be responsible for their own transportation and lodging? Will some costs be shared among the group? An informal poll among family members can be valuable at this stage.
4. Decide on lodging type. The cost and theme of a family reunion will vary based on the type of lodging chosen. Ask yourself whether your family will want to stay all together, or spread out in individual units or rooms.
Do you want meals and activities to be included, or would you rather plan your own?
5. Think “large group” as you plan. Ask hotel or resort booking agents for a deal on booking multiple rooms, or for their group rate. Consider what lodging options are less likely to be at capacity during your reunion,
to ensure you can get the space you need.
For example, a ski resort has plenty of rooms (with discounts) during the fall, and a warm-weather golf resort will have extra space during the hotter months.
Determining a Family Reunion Timeline
Once you’ve decided where to go, what type of lodging would be best, and what type of activities family members would enjoy, it’s time to start booking.
8-12 months out: Book lodging, depending on the popularity of the destination. Many lodging options have limited space for large groups, making early bookings essential.
Be aware of the cancellation policy at your venue before making the decision to book. Send out reunion invitations to family members. Sending invites out now ensures invitees have enough time to plan and book travel.
Six months out: Buy airfare for domestic travel.
Three months out: Plan a daily itinerary of any activities or events. Three months is the standard amount of time needed by hotel or resort personnel you enlist, concierges, or tour operators.
One month out: Organize family members with meal lists, menus, or cooking duties.
Two weeks out: Email or mail driving directions, reservation numbers, or any other detailed information guests will need when they arrive.
Day of event: Greet family members and have a great time!
Planning Food, Dining, and Activities
Once you’ve determined where to go and where to stay, the next step in planning a family reunion is to organize activities and dining. To ensure your family members don’t scatter to the wind (or become bored),
keep them in the loop with the following hacks for organizing family members:
Make a meal list and share cooking duties: If your lodging option leaves the cooking (and cleaning) to you, share the load. After all, that’s what family is for, right? Assign each night’s main meal to a different family member.
Decide ahead of time whether groceries will be bought together or separately.
Create an activity itinerary: Not every family member will have the same interests, but you’re hosting a family reunion to be together, so plan at least one activity per day that everyone can enjoy together.
This activity can be as simple as a family walk or as elaborate as a family photography session or scavenger hunt,
depending on ages, mobility, and interests. Have additional daily activity options, which family members can join at will.
Book group tours and experiences: Book a class, tour, or experience that will be new (and accessible) to everyone in the group, such as a cooking class, bird-watching tour, or nature or historic walk.
Communicating With Family Members
Finally, it’s essential to have strong communication with family members during the planning process as well as during the actual reunion. Use the following tools to aid communication:
Download resort or vacation rental company apps: Most resorts have their own app, which includes maps, walking tours, activities, and cost information. Some apps,
such as vacation rental apps, even include secure messaging between home owners and renters.
Use HipChat or WhatsApp: Talk among family members for free both before and during the reunion, no matter what carrier or data plan is used. Family members must have a smartphone, however, to use these mobile apps.
Use TripIt to share vacation plans: TripIt can be used on a desktop or laptop computer or on a smartphone, allowing the trip planner to share important travel information, reservation numbers, and itineraries with select people.
Use a Facebook private group to share info: Provided family members use Facebook, a private group page can allow members to share photos, itinerary ideas, links, and lodging picks in a free-form way.
Enjoy your family reunion, and remember to take plenty of photos!