Planning a Successful Family Reunion - Part II
Continued from Part 1.
Organizing a family reunion? Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of your relatives are counting on you to plan a great event. Don't stress out. Here are tips for finding locations, hotels and activities to ensure the family reunion is a smash hit.
5. Location, location, location. As in real estate, location is key. If you have a tradition of rotating between the homes of various family members or there is an obvious central location, this decision is easy. However, if your family is spread out and there’s no pre-established plan, choosing the location may seem daunting. Many families converge at places such as Disneyland and other theme parks, top vacation destinations such as Hawaii or San Diego, they explore national parks and monuments and also gather in urban, rural and resort towns across the United States. Your choices are endless and depend on group size, budget, time of year and the type of activities best suited to attendees.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you find the location just right for your next family reunion:
- Can the majority of folks easily get to the location without a huge expense (or are they willing to pay to travel that far)?
- Does the location provide fun and engaging activities for all ages from kids to seniors?
- Does the location have multiple activity options both indoor and outdoor (for those who need to get out of the sun, rain, or cold)?
- Is there anyone in your family or extended family that may have difficulty in a location (wheelchair considerations, health issues, etc.)?
- Parents with infants have a special set of needs (nap times, feeding times, diaper changes) and may require easy-access to a quiet room.
- Will in-laws (who may not be as excited as y'all about the prospect of spending an entire weekend sitting around listening to old family stories) have interesting things to do?
- Check with the convention and visitors bureau (CVB) before setting a date to ensure there isn’t a major event in town to avoid filled hotels and a location busier than normal. On the other hand, you could make a public festival or event part of the fun!
- Explore the advantages/disadvantages of having the family reunion in the same location as a previous year. There is comfort for people in being on familiar ground; plus, you can always try new activities, food and places to stay in that same location. Survey your group and find out if they prefer a new destination or an old favorite.
- Be flexible and you’ll have the greatest chance of securing a better rate. Keep in mind peak or off-season for various locations. For example, occupancy rates in Florida are very high over spring break but typically much lower in August. Granted, Florida is much hotter in August, but prices are significantly lower.
6. Hotels, resorts and vacation rental homes. To ensure that you are able to secure your desired lodging at the best possible rate, it's best to start the search as early as possible. Key considerations in selecting the right place(s) to stay for your group include:
- Your group's per night budget
- Number of rooms required
- Hotel's location
- Amenities required (on-site restaurant, pool, in-room kitchens, etc.)
- Meeting space and catering services available (if required)
- Shuttle service and parking
When making hotel reservations, simplify this part of the group organizing process by offering options in a range of price categories (for larger groups, arrange room blocks at multiple hotels):
- Budget (typically 1-star and some 2-star hotels)
- Moderate (mainly 3-star and some 2-star hotels)
- Higher-end and luxury (4-star and 5-star hotels)
- Suite hotels, houses for rent, villas, condos with in-room kitchens (often ideal for groups with young children)
7. Schedule events and activities. Why? They increase the fun factor, offer bonding opportunities, serve as fodder for conversations, jokes, photo-ops and turn into life-long memories.
Events and activities vary from formal sit-down meals to casual barbeques, from guided tours to theater, and from physical activities to family-oriented games. Activity-planning tips:
- Activities such as swimming, tennis, golf, bicycling, walking/hiking, shopping and visiting museums and historical landmarks provide great entertainment for family members young and old.
- Be creative and leverage the talents and skills of your group when thinking about food, decorations and entertainment for these activities.
- Schedule two events per day as well as "optional" choices such as a golf tournament or a hike so people can participate or opt out.
- Everyone may not know each other (spouses, for example) so think about ways to introduce people to each other. Nametags with names and favorite villain, cartoon, sport, animal, kitchen gadget, dessert or vacation spot (you choose!) is sure to spark conversation.
- Make sure that there will be enough space and food per activity.
- Alert the group when meals are incorporated or provided with activities. If a stop at a world-famous milkshake joint follows a white-water rafting excursion, you might entice more people to go rafting.
- Have a Plan B in case of rain.
- Family reunions are designed to bring people together so plan events and activities that encourage group interaction. Something as simple as a potluck brings everyone to one place for mingling.
- Provide games (Scrabble, cards, other board games) so people can sit down and relax without feeling anti-social.
- Bring a first-aid kit on excursion-type activities such as hiking, biking, touring.
- Provide a list of what to wear and bring for each activity.
Finally, thank you to everyone who sent us feedback. Here's what we heard:
Suzanne B. shared, "We were looking for options as everyone seems to be strapped financially. I appreciate your time and service in compiling this for us."
Marina T. wrote, "Planning these sort of things are really time consuming and I think you just made it that much easier :)"
And Marilynn S. added, "I think it is SO important to plan games and activities that can be enjoyed regardless of budget. Sometimes a reunion at a park or campground is more work than booking a hotel or cruise ship but isn't it worth having ALL your family attend - not just those that can afford the reunion fees?"
This article was originally published March 2006.