The holidays are fast-approaching, a prime time for family gatherings. And one thing is a given at family events of any size: food. Organizing meals for family reunions and groups of friends can be delightful but also stressful and challenging.
Here are five tips to help you manage this smoothly:
1. Plan Ahead with a Menu: Start by creating a menu that caters to various tastes and dietary restrictions. If appropriate for your group, include a mix of vegetarian and gluten-free options to ensure everyone has something they can enjoy. Planning the menu in advance allows you to organize shopping lists and prepare some dishes ahead of time.
2. Use Sign-up Sheets for Potluck Style: If you're opting for a potluck, use digital sign-up sheets like Google Forms or Sheets. This helps to avoid duplicate dishes and allows family members to showcase their specialty recipes. It also distributes the cooking load, making it easier for everyone.
3. Bulk Cooking and Prepping: For main dishes, consider recipes that can easily be made in large quantities, like casseroles, stews, or pasta dishes. Preparing some components of the meals a day or two in advance can also reduce stress. Items like desserts can often be prepared in advance.
4. Set Up Stations: Organize the dining area with different stations for appetizers, main courses, desserts, and drinks. This helps to manage the flow of people and reduces crowding. Stations can be themed (e.g., a kids' station with child-friendly foods) to make the dining experience more fun.
5. Consider Dietary Needs and Allergies: Make sure to label foods, especially if they contain common allergens like nuts, dairy, or gluten. Offering a variety of choices ensures that those with dietary restrictions or allergies can still enjoy the meal.
The key is in planning and communication. Make sure everyone is aware of the plan and, as appropriate, their responsibilities. Our post on the art of delegation may also be helpful.
Ready to get started planning your group gathering? Here are a few excellent sources for recipes that can cater to a wide range of tastes and dietary needs:
Allrecipes.com: This website is a treasure trove of recipes from around the world. You can find dishes that suit a variety of dietary needs and preferences, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and kid-friendly options. The user reviews and ratings are particularly helpful in choosing the best recipes.
Food Network: Known for its celebrity chefs and cooking shows, the Food Network's website offers a vast collection of recipes. These range from simple, quick meals to more elaborate dishes. The site also provides cooking tips and video tutorials, which can be especially useful for trying out new or complex recipes.
Epicurious: This site is well-regarded for its sophisticated and diverse range of recipes. It's great for finding unique dishes that can add a touch of elegance to your gathering. Epicurious also includes user reviews, and many recipes come with step-by-step instructions and photos.
Taste of Home: Focused on home cooking, this website offers a plethora of recipes that are perfect for large family gatherings. The recipes often include options for large batches, which is ideal for a family reunion setting.
Remember, the essence of holiday gatherings is to create an atmosphere of warmth and joy. The goal is to create happy memories and enjoy the company of family and friends.
Happy Holidays and Bon Appetit!
Congratulations, you've just volunteered - or been volunteered - to organize your next family reunion. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of your relatives are counting on you to plan a great event. Don't stress out. Follow these basic steps to ensure the family reunion is a wild success.
1. Start planning today. Family reunions can be particularly time consuming. So start early. Planning in advance will increase the odds that more people will be able to attend the reunion, which translates into more fun for everyone. By booking early, you can most likely secure better rates and/or reserve your preferred hotel or retreat site, flights and other travel arrangements.
2. Guest list size. Deciding which members of the family to invite and how far to extend the family tree can create stress and challenges. It's akin to planning a wedding invitation list. You don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and yet you have to draw the line somewhere. This is a personal family decision. While you can extend the invitation to more people over time, in order to begin the planning process it's critical to understand how big of an event you are planning and to have a rough sense of who will be attending.
3. Money matters. Your group's budget is perhaps the most important consideration to understand up-front. When estimating the expense for each attendee, consider the costs of transportation (by air or car), lodging, food and entertainment. With input from other family members, set a budget that will be comfortable for the vast majority of the family. If you will be collecting money from attendees to help cover the costs of special events and activities, keep detailed records of your expenses including any deposits for hotels, caterers or other service providers. Unfortunately, trip organizers are often left holding the bag with extra expenses. Don't be shy to ask for contributions. And, while you want to keep the event as affordable as possible, make sure you add some buffer to your budget. If there's extra money left over, splurge on a special treat for the group, or bank the funds for the next reunion. Most importantly, plan activities that can be enjoyed regardless of budget: potlucks, games, music, storytelling.
4. Choose the date. First of all, know in advance that you will not be able to accomodate everyone's schedule. With that in mind, here are hints to get the best date locked in:
- If you're scheduling the reunion around a particular event (i.e., a grandparent's birthday or 50th wedding anniversary), holiday or school break then your options may be limited. If you're not date constrained, and if there are particular family members who absolutely must be there, speak with them first.
- Next, talk to key family members (i.e., Uncle Bob who keeps in close contact with many people in and beyond his branch of the family tree) to determine if there are other events that might create a conflict for a number of possible attendees.
- Then select 3-4 dates that provide sufficient planning time, and send these dates to the family.
- Ask people to let you know which dates work best for them of the 3-4 options you provide, but make sure to emphasize that the majority rules so no one feels singled out if they are not able to attend.
- Many people may not be able to fully commit six or more months in advance so you may need to request guesstimates. To increase your response rate and make decision making easier, give people a deadline and ask them to rank their date preferences.
- Finally, stick to your decision. Changing dates mid-stream can create a phenomenal amount of additional work.
Continue reading Part 2.
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.
Is being able to walk to nearby restaurants, bars, coffee shops and shopping important to your attendees? What about access to public transportation?
There's a lot of talk about "green" events these days and the best way to make your event fun and green is to choose a location with convenient access to the amenities and activities your attendees want and that doesn't require them to drive long distances or wait in endless cab lines to get around.
The folks at Walk Score, which measures the walkability of any address, just ranked the most walkable covention centers. Here's the top 5:
Visit Walk Score and know the walkability of your next event location.
That reunion you're planning, or thinking of planning, is coming up more quickly than you might think. Studies show that while most reunions take place in summer, reunion planning goes on year-round. In a recent article for Leisure Group Travel, Edith Wagner of Reunions Magazine writes that accommodations for summer reunions are typically locked in by March so that members can plan ahead. She adds that planning and activities are becoming more organized as well, with programs often including golf tournaments or city tours in addition to the classic group picnic.
Because planning a reunion can be a daunting undertaking, Wagner urges planners to delegate and use all the help they can get. Getting others involved in planning generates "ownership" in the event's success and spreads around the gratification, as well as the workload. See our Family Reunion Guide for more tips and suggestions on planning your reunion. Have fun!
Organizing a large family reunion, destination wedding or meeting is a lot of work, and the process can quickly become overwhelming. Where to hold the event? How much space is needed? Which facilities can accommodate the group? Who are the good caterers and other service providers in the area? What should be on the menu?
Corporate meeting and event planners do this every day for the most demanding customers in the travel business. And thanks to MiMegasite you can benefit from many of their tips and tools, even if your budget doesn’t include professional planning help.
Read articles on food and beverage planning. Gain insight on new and improved facilities and activities in their destination guides. Use the meeting space planner to determine your square footage requirements. Looking for space options in San Francisco? The facility search tool has information and links for over 900 options, which you can narrow down based on room requirements. Photographers in Phoenix? The supplier search tool has contact and other information for 54 of them as well as recommendations in 46 other supplier categories.
Getting started is often the hardest part, and MiMegasite lowers that hurdle so you can focus on making the right choices for your group.
Planning a wedding, a milestone birthday, anniversary party, or any other organized group event? Scope out potential locations on a site specializing in helping you find event venues. Eventective is a searchable with Google maps per U.S. city flagged with event locations. Full addresses and basic overview information about each venue is also available.
Do your own digging around the site and find the ideal location for your next group event.
By guest blogger Jacquelin Carnegie
When planning a family reunion or wedding, taking over a small resort for your exclusive use works wonders. Certain criteria apply to site selection: The resort (or villa or hacienda or block of rental homes) should be a superior facility, offer sumptuous food, non-intrusive service, first class accommodations, and a secluded setting away from distractions.
There are a number of properties around the country (and the world) that exemplify such high standards. Here are tips on how to research your group's idyllic casa away from casa:
- Look for places that have the feel of a private estate, an ambience of another time and place and are so well run that you (the planner) can relax and enjoy yourself as well.
- Pick a spot with a distinct change of atmosphere to reinforce the concept of getting away from it all. Also, make sure it's the type of place where guests are pampered and made to feel special. You can feel the difference in the level of relaxation for guests when a resort is reserved for your group's exclusive use.
- Small resorts with a residential feel and hotel amenities work best for groups of friends and/or family. The sense of being on a private estate helps people let their guard down and unwind, fostering camaraderie—the reason you all wanted to get together in the first place!
Prep Steps Before You Go
- Before your group arrives, send the property a detailed list of a) The names of all the people in your party, b) The names of people sharing rooms and c) Of those sharing rooms, which ones require a double bed or two single beds.
- Charm also has its downside. In a hotel, most rooms are uniform but in an estate or hacienda, every room is unique, both in size and decoration. Make your guests aware of this beforehand so cousins don't get miffed because one has a nicer, larger room.
- If the property offers activities (such as horseback riding or tennis) or has a spa facility (with facials and massages), check if these services need to be booked in advance. If so, let your guests know and provide a way to tally who wants what when - before you arrive!
- If you are going to a resort outside the U.S., make sure everyone has a valid passport (and remembers to bring it).
Recommended Haciendas in Chile and Mexico
Hacienda Los Lingues in Chile:
Hacienda Los Lingues is about an hour south of Santiago in the heart of the wine-producing Cachapoal Valley. It's one of Chile's oldest and best-preserved estates and the same family, whose home it's been since 1599, now runs it as a hotel. The debonair Don German Claro Lyon and his family are your delightful hosts.
If you're looking for old-world, South American charm, the Hacienda Los Lingues is the spot. Shaded verandas lead to 18 rooms and suites furnished with heirloom antiques, family photos and memorabilia.
Activities for groups: a) wine tasting - there's a lovely vineyard on the property and day trips to local wineries; b) horseback riding - the stable of "Aculeo" horses, related to the famed Lipizzanas, is world-renowned.
And, if looking for a destination wedding spot, you can get married in the estate's beautiful, traditional Chilean chapel. You'll feel as if you're on the set of some fantastic South American movie.
Hacienda Temozón in Yucatan, Mexico:
In the early 1990's, abandoned (and formerly luxurious) haciendas from the economic heyday of the Yucatan region around Merida, were restored and converted into luxury hotels. Hacienda Temozón, about a half hour from Merida, is the grandest of three newly-restored properties, now part of The Luxury Collection of Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
As a result, you get the best of both worlds: a sense of the affluent lifestyle enjoyed during the economic boom and lovely, modern amenities. Much of the original décor, such as intricately-decorated floor tiles and beamed ceilings, has been preserved in the 28 elegantly-furnished rooms and guest quarters.
Spacious gardens, a spectacular swimming pool, and spa make this an ideal place to relax. It's also an excellent base for exploring the rich cultural heritage of the Yucatan peninsula and the surrounding Mayan architectural sites.
There is also a 17th-century church on the property, ideal for weddings.
Jacquelin Carnegie is a Contributing Travel Editor to Accent magazine. For the past 15 years, she has covered international travel destinations for both consumer and business publications.
My family has been having reunions since I was little girl with goldilocks. For the third in a row, we've gotten together on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. Over the years, I've discovered a few myths that I hope will help any reunion planner in preparing for that next family reunion.
Myth 1: I won't drink too much
Be honest. Unless you're making a conscious effort to not drink at all, chances are you'll drink more than usual.
Myth 2: I won't eat too much
Family reunions are all about the food. Obviously, the reason to get together is to reconnect. But more effort goes into meals for this occasion than most other parties. Here are summertime recipes for family reunions.
Myth 3: I won't get a sunburn
Chances are you will, unless you're extra careful to apply sunblock throughout the day, and stay out of the sun during peak midday hours.
Myth 4: I will get ample sleep
It always seems that something is disrupting a perfect night's sleep: varying hours of going to bed, staying up late, getting up early for scheduled activities, kids over-excited, etc.
Myth 5: I will visit with everyone
Chances are slim that you'll have meaningful conversations with all attendees. But the connections you make are important, a link to your past, and a way to keep in touch with extended family. Make a mental list of the top three people you really want to reconnect with and make an effort to do so. You'll thank yourself.
Myth 6: Like other vacations, I'll relax as much as I want
There's an air of formality in a family reunion that is unlike friends traveling together or immediate family taking a vacation. Relatives come together who are genetically similar, but often live very different lives, in different places. You may feel the need to connect with select (extended) family members, while others are interested in visiting with you. This can be tiring, albeit rewarding.
Myth 7: Recycling will take care of itself
People tend to be much more lax about following recycling rules when at a big gathering like a family reunion. A mini tragedy of the commons. Luckily for my family, I have one highly type A uncle who takes big plastic garbage bins, labels them each with his neat hand writing ("plastics," "trash," "glass"), and strategically places them around the main eating/gathering area. We tease him, but appreciate his orderly tendencies.
Myth 8: Injuries are avoidable when family gathersAs for all other vacations (and life in general), safety is important. Have a first-aid kit and phone handy for emergencies. If you have any doctors in your family, the trip organizer may want to locate that person ahead of time and ask if they could wear a cell phone during the reunion just in case.
Myth 9: All the in-laws will fit inAll in-laws are not created equal. Pay attention to spouses or significant others who aren't socializing as much as others and make an effort to include them in conversations. Ask them about their family reunions, family dynamics, family heritage. Or learn more about what they enjoy doing in their free time. Family reunions can be intimidating for the non-genetically related.
Myth 10: My kids (grandkids, nieces/nephews) are the cutestAll kids are adorable in their own quirky or beautiful ways! Careful of becoming that obsessive family member who talks only of your kids (grandkids or nieces/nephews) and has no interest in any other subjects, or continually draws conversations back to your kids. It's wonderful to see such love and devotion to the kids, but even the kids (if they could speak up for themselves) would blush at all the gush.
What are other family reunion myths? Share your stories.
By guest blogger Andrea Turk
It's official, you're old. You just received an email from a former classmate that it is time to start planning your next high school reunion. Once the shock wears off, the next question settles in. Where do we begin? Fortunately, I have assembled a to-do list that will help you organize a successful reunion (sorry, I can't do anything about your age).
Don't panic. Planning a high school reunion is a lot of work, but if you follow these simple steps, the process can be a lot of fun and virtually painless.
- Plan early for your reunion. Begin at least 9 months or more in advance. (Trust me, you will wish you had started a year ago!) Planning a reunion is a big production; make sure that you have ample time to complete all the important tasks.
- Enlist classmates to help. The more help you have, the less stressed you will be. Make sure that the committee is a diverse group from your class. You don't want the reunion to be focused on one group of people with one set of interests. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
- Budget wisely. When setting your ticket price include all the costs of the reunion, not just the meal. This includes the cost of entertainment, venue rental, tax, gratuity, postage, printing, decorations, Web site hosting, long-distance phone calls, etc. Be conservative when estimating attendance. You don't want to be stuck footing the bill because an item was omitted from your budget or fewer classmates attended than expected. Set up a bank account to deposit payments and pay bills.
- Pick a location and date early. Weekends fill up quickly with weddings and social events, so availability can be hard to find if you wait to book the event. Make sure to ask about deposits, caterers' food and beverage minimums and extra costs. Pick a menu with variety.
- Assemble and manage the guest list. Put a complete list of your classmates together using your commencement program, senior annual and information from previous reunions. This list should be in a database or spreadsheet that is easy to update and manage throughout the process. Include a method to track RSVPs, orders, payments, meal choice, etc.
- Start locating your classmates now. I cannot stress this enough. This is a huge, time-consuming process. You may have to call parents, siblings, old roommates, etc. to track them down. Use the Internet. Online phone books, alumni Web sites, and community Web sites are all beneficial.
- Create a fun, simple, and easy-to-read invitation. Make sure to list all the essential information (date/time, location, ticket price and attire). Also, include contact information of the committee member in charge of answering questions and responding to complaints. Don't forget to let your classmates know where to return the reservations and make their checks payable to. Include payment deadlines to encourage early registration.
- Get the word out early. People are busy during the summer months, so make sure your event is number one on their calendar and get the invitation out at least 4-6 months in advance.
- Make time for the "extras." The memorabilia displays, event program, name tags, memory books and table decorations are the things that people will remember years down the road. This will help make your reunion special, giving it character or charm (depending on theme, setting, decorations).
- Collect personal information on your classmates. You can compile it into a memory book for each alum to take home as a memento of the reunion.
- Remember, this is your reunion. Don't get so caught up in the details that you lose sight of what is really important. Reunions are about reconnecting with old friends, reminiscing about the good ol' days and looking forward to the future.
If all this prep work isn't up your alley, consider the alternative of hiring a professional reunion planner. Many companies provide reunion management services, handling all the behind-the-scenes details such as coordinating with vendors, locating your classmates and managing the database, paying bills, covering liability insurance for the event, staffing the event, and more. You can find a professional reunion planner at the National Association of Reunion Managers. Happy reunion planning!
Andrea Turk works with Reunions with Class, Inc., has been in reunion planning since 2001, and has helped more than 400 reunion committees organize successful reunions.
By guest blogger Jacquelin Carnegie
Cruises offer a unique opportunity to spend quality time with family. You can get pampered, take part in your favorite activities and try new feats, all while visiting some of the most beautiful or exotic destinations in the world.
Here's what you have to look forward to:
1. Quality Time: A wonderful aspect of being on a cruise is the opportunity to spend quality time with the family. Cruises slow down the rush of day to day life. While floating at sea, there's plenty of time to lounge on the deck, visiting like there's no tomorrow.
Cruise ships provide a unique environment for families. The varied activities allow you to spend time together (and apart!) making this kind of trip ideal for a special occasion (birthday, anniversary or family reunion). You'll get to be together in a way you never had time for before.
2. Total Relaxation: Bliss. Utter bliss. Nothing gives you the sense of being away from it all as a cruise. You can walk onto the ship a frazzled heap of nerves; and, after a week of sun, relaxation, a little exercise, and a few spa treatments, emerge a new person.
A cruise ship is a floating resort with all the things a fine resort has to offer and more. While you can just relax and do nothing, today's ships are well-equipped to keep sports oriented travelers busy from sunrise to sunset.
3. Built-In Value: The ticket price includes all of your meals and in between snacks onboard; your stateroom, activities, parties and entertainment; plus, an exciting voyage to interesting places.
Since you pay for almost everything up front, you'll know pretty much what the trip will end up costing before you go. (Your only extra expenses will be drinks, optional shore excursions, and personal services such as a massage or a new hairdo.)
4. Divine Destinations: One of the many benefits of the cruising experience is the ability to visit more than one place during a trip. Some of the most popular cruise destinations are: the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Canada/New England, Europe and the Mediterranean. But, with over 1,800 ports-of-call around the world, there are plenty of choices.
On a cruise, you don't really notice the traveling because you spend the day exploring an interesting port and, while you sleep, the ship takes you to the next day's destination.
5. Enriching Experiences: As well as the discoveries you'll make in the various ports-of-call, many cruise lines feature seminars hosted by distinguished, guest speakers. Along with lectures on the sights you’ll be visiting, you can attend presentations on topics ranging from Renaissance art to financial planning to the secrets of French cooking.
6. Theme Cruises: Do you and your family have a particular interest or hobby such as golf, photography or architecture? You can go on a cruise filled with other enthusiasts and experts offering seminars and demonstrations on your favorite topic. Whether your passion is for gardening, wine tasting or 50's music, there's a theme cruise that suits your interest(s).
7. Activities for Kids: If you bring your children along, you can truly relax while the kiddies have a blast because all the activities for children are specially supervised. These fun and educational activities are designed with specific age groups in mind.
8. Food, Glorious Food: Cruises are known for their elaborate meals from bountiful buffets to midnight menus. You'll have the opportunity to "taste test" new specialties or enjoy some favorites such as roast beef and lobster. Each meal is a savory, multi-course affair.
For those with special dietary requirements, there are spa-cuisine offerings, low-sodium, low-cholesterol, kosher and vegetarian meals. There are even special children's menus to suit the tastes of the pickiest eater in the family.
9. Entertainment: On a cruise, the entertainment is practically non-stop. There's dancing, cabaret shows, feature films and parties. After dinner, there's often dancing to Big Band sounds and, for the night owls onboard, there’s entertainment in the nightclubs and lounges. Many ships also have casinos.
10. The Art of Sitting Still: Besides the food, the entertainment, and various on-board activities, one of the best things about being on a boat is just sitting still and looking out at the horizon. With the sun glistening on the water and the work-a-day world far away, there is something deeply soothing about it.
With the busy lives we all lead, it's difficult to make the time to connect with family (and friends). However, cruises make connecting with people natural. And that's what makes it perfect for a family reunion or any kind of group trip.
Jacquelin Carnegie is a contributing travel editor to Accent magazine. For the past 15 years, she has covered international travel destinations for both consumer and business publications.
Gathering the generations together at one time is challenging. So many siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-laws.
But family bonds grow stronger, stories accumulate, shared activities unite all age groups, and celebratory occasions (Uncle Bob's 50th birthday, etc.) entertain, making family reunions worth every ounce of effort.
Simplify the planning process with these family reunion tips and free the planning guru within.
Family Reunion Checklist 101: Budget, Guest List, Dates
Congratulations, you've just volunteered - or been volunteered - to organize your next family reunion. Dozens of relatives are counting on you. Don't stress out. Early essential steps will lead you to success (and peace of mind).
Checklist 102: Location, Accommodations, Activities
Location. Location. Location. And all other critical considerations you simply can't forget. Where will guests stay? What will the main events or activities be? These big ticket items set the pace, timeline, structure (and budget) for any family reunion.
The Art of Delegation
Delegate projects, tasks, "to do" lists with pizzaz and be an expert family reunion project manager by sharing the responsibility. No one is an island.
Make Every Communiqué Count
He said. She said. Who's on first? Communication is vital for a family reunion to succeed and that starts the very first day of planning. Here are tips to avoid over or under-communicating.
More Family Travel Tips:
What was your first vacation memory? Visiting grandparents in a distant city? Building sand castles on the beach with siblings and parents? How did the family vacation memories changes as you aged and now as you're an adult - perhaps with kids and/or nieces and nephews of your own? Is there an ideal age to travel with kids?
Family Travel Files offers some insights into making the family getaway stress free for parents, depending on the age of the kids. Infants, toddlers, teens all have different needs and interests. Here are some quick tips (below) from Family Travel Files's article on family travel phases and how to plan ahead to optimize the fun for everyone.
In general, less is more. Jam-packing too much into a travel schedule can ruin an otherwise lovely trip. Build in plenty of free time between activities, meals, group gatherings, and family reunions to walk around, soak in the scenery, relax, nap, read, and so forth.
Traveling with kids 6 weeks to 5 years old
- Baby-proofing kit: Think about socket plugs, corner tabs, plastic glasses, room guards, nightlights and other typical portable protection devices.
- Keep familiar scents: Resist the temptation to wash everything just before leaving home. Babies and toddlers are particularly comfortable with the smell of their things. They are also sensitive and often cranky when their own things, complete with odors, seem to be missing.
Traveling with kids ages 6 to 12
- Pack a surprise: In case the plane is delayed or a child becomes ill along the way, pack a couple of vacation surprises well suited to alleviating boredom. Audiotapes from www.boomkids.com meet the boredom challenge for this age group.
- Do less: One of the biggest challenges for vacationing families is learning to do less and enjoy it more. Often parents return to work feeling just like they need a vacation. They intended to relax and catch up on sleep. They intended to enjoy free time with the kids. Instead they found themselves over scheduled and in a self-created time crunch. Anyone in charge?
Traveling with teens
- Pack less: This is a reality check. Teens want to be seen as cool by their peer group, yet not look obvious as they do so. The result is over packing. Why take one pair when six will do? Over packing comes from a lack of information about what is needed. Every family with teens should invoke the rule of all seasoned globetrotters: “Ye shall carry what you pack…all of what you pack.” Given the security concerns that now exist, less is will be less hassle.
- Determine who is in charge: Power struggles result when guidelines are not clear. Communicate expectations before buying tickets or making deposits. If sleeping until noon is not option say so early. If every one gets to choose a favorite activity say so early. If in reality grandpa is in charge then do not keep it a secret.
Read full article from familytravelfiles.com here.
What do you think? Is there an ideal age to travel with kids? Was there an ideal age of travel for you? My favorite childhood vacations were spent at a lake with white sandy shores and tons of relatives for our family reunions. Lots of cousins to play with and plenty of munchies and scrumptious food to boot.
Remember the man or woman at your last family holiday party who sat quietly in the corner, eyes glazed or buried in a book or their phone? Is this person you?
Family gatherings and celebrations are great events. They're an opportunity to reconnect with extended family members, visit with cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.
But for your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or significant other, attending family events may come with its own set of challenges.
If you're the in-law, partner or special friend attending the event, here are some helpful suggestions to make the experience smooth and enjoyable for everyone:
1. Be Respectful and Polite: Always show respect to all family members. Remember to use polite manners, say "please" and "thank you," and be considerate of everyone's feelings.
2. Dress Appropriately: Find out the dress code in advance and dress accordingly. Whether it's casual or formal, showing that you've made an effort can create a positive impression.
3. Offer to Help: Be proactive in offering assistance, whether it's helping to set up, cook, or clean up after the event. This shows that you're willing to be part of the team.
4. Engage in Conversations: Show interest in family members by engaging in conversations. Ask questions, listen actively, and share appropriate stories about yourself. The bigger the gathering, the more likely you are to find someone with tastes and interests similar to yours.
5. Avoid Controversial Topics: Steer clear of sensitive subjects like politics, religion, or personal finances. Focus on neutral and positive topics instead.
6. Bring a Gift: It's a nice gesture to bring a small gift for the host or the family, such as a bottle of wine, an appetizer, dessert, or a flower arrangement.
7. Be Mindful of Traditions: Every family has its own traditions and customs. Be respectful of these and participate where appropriate.
8. Know Your Limits with Alcohol: If alcohol is being served, be mindful of your intake. It's important to stay in control and make a good impression.
9. Support Your Partner: Stay attuned to your partner's needs and provide support. This might mean being by their side during conversations or giving them space if they need it.
10. Express Gratitude: Before leaving, thank everyone who contributed to the party and express your appreciation for being included in their celebration.
Have a spouse or partner who might benefit from these tips? Pass them along. After all, as the saying goes, "a happy spouse is a happy life."
Article updated November 2023.
Everyone has a favorite high school movie. To fully prep for your next reunion, or just for kicks, rent a flick that conjures up the sentiments of high school – whatever they may be. From gag reflexes about your former hairdo, to fond memories of your first love, take a couple hours to watch a film or two that gets you in the reunion mood before you slap that "Hello, my name is" sticker on your shirt.
Were you the class geek? Class clown? Most likely to succeed? Least likely to get married? My guess is we can all relate to at least one character in one of these movies.
- American Graffiti
- Breakfast Club
- Ferris Beuller's Day Off
- Karate Kid
- The Outsiders
- Rock 'n' Roll High School
- Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
- Say Anything
Update: Thanks to Eric for suggesting "Can't Hardly Wait" which he added "should be #1 on the list." Let us know what other classics we missed?
p.s., Looking for other movie recommendations? Learn how to create a personalized list of book, movie, tv and podcast recommendations for your next trip or group event.
Family reunions often require more than a single notice. Reunion planners commonly communicate with their families frequently throughout the planning process. That’s a lotta family! Even before you reunite. Here’s how to make every communiqué count:
1. Include family in early decisions about date and location. By including more family members in the early, pivotal decisions of location and date, other details become secondary. Any decision you make about transportation, food, activities, etc. become part of the bigger decisions they helped select. It also builds interest and momentum. Plus, the bigger the consensus on location and date, the more people you’re likely to get by giving them a chance to plan their travel schedules well in advance. Points for you!
2. Send a "save the date" reminder. Once the key decisions of date, location and budget are made (via the first, exploratory communications), send out a "save the date" email with the reunion dates, location and, if known, lodging info.
At this point, you can also ask people whether they plan to attend to get an estimated head count.
"Save the date" emails are also great opportunities for enlisting volunteers to help with planning. See The Art of Delegation for ways to get the most out of your volunteers.
3. Lost in email translation. Spam, work and personal emails all create mounds of information that can be overwhelming. In group planning, I’ve found sending details out in bulk after key decisions have been made mitigates questions and headache for you, the organizer.
4. Written invitations. While email works well for many communications, a written invitation for a family reunion can do wonders - something colorful, eye-catching and postcard-sized that can easily be put on your fridge or bulletin board. This also helps for great-grandparents or others less likely to use email regularly.
What to include on your invitation:
- Times of scheduled events or activities
- Location (with full address or map)
- Lodging options (including phone numbers and room block details)
- Overall trip agenda (if confirmed) so attendees can plan their free time accordingly
5. Highlight volunteers. You might want to highlight volunteers who are helping to plan particular activities. This increases visibility to those helping, shows appreciation and stirs interest in the reunion by alerting the family of fun that will be had by all. This also gives you a way to steer communication to the volunteers in charge of them, freeing up your time to focus on other projects.
6. Get RSVPs back on time. Whether using the "save the date" or written invitation to get RSVPs, give your group a specific deadline. Provide both an email and phone number for people to RSVP. I also recommend picking one key contact per nuclear family to get their family’s RSVPs back on time. This simplifies things and leaves the burden of communication to a head of household or ultra-organized family member (anyone come to mind?).
7. Final family reunion reminder. Send a final reminder email several weeks before the reunion. This is your opportunity to communicate any updates or changes and to reconfirm key details. This email can also serve as a "last call" to those who have not yet confirmed their plans. This will get people excited and give them a chance to schedule their own "side events" (i.e., golfing with Uncle Bill). Other helpful items to include are maps, destination information, important numbers (one cell phone number per nuclear family, etc.) and a "what to bring" list.
8. Post-reunion wrap-up. Finally, you can send a wrap-up letter/email to the whole family (everyone who was invited, not only those who attended) with your favorite stories, pictures from the reunion, and a family contact list. A family Web site is great for this as well.
You shouldn’t have to plan a family reunion or wedding all alone. Here are 10 tips for delegating with panache, keeping your finger on the pulse, and stepping aside for others to share the planning responsibilities.
Since weddings often turn into family reunions, many of these planning principles will also work for brides and grooms.
Tip 1: Make a checklist. Create a checklist of everything that needs to get done including deadlines and who is responsible for given tasks. Check this list often. As you get closer to the event, be sure to confirm the details with your service providers.
Tip 2: Start a chain reaction. When individuals get involved, they’ll become event champions who will promote the reunion to their respective branches of the family tree.
Tip 3: Enlist volunteers early. Right from the start, enlist volunteers to help with everything from creating and distributing "welcome kits" to planning specific events and activities. It lightens your load and allows you to tap into the creativity of your group. If planning a destination wedding, early help is critical.
Tip 4: Choose help wisely. You know your family. You know the flakes and leaders. The dreamers and doers. The bakers and candlestick makers. While everyone has talents and skills, I recommend choosing people with some planning experience for bigger projects. Those less likely to tackle bigger projects well would be perfect for a smaller, specific task (find and bring a cake for grandma’s birthday dinner). Match tasks delegated to those best suited for the task to create the most efficient use of everyone’s time.
Tip 5: Connections count. But use them carefully and don’t impose on anyone. Always ask. Never assume. Does Aunt Betty work in catering? Ask if she can find a good caterer. If a wedding or family reunion is in a major U.S. metropolitan area such as Seattle, Washington, D.C. or Chicago and Uncle Fred’s best friend can score a deal in baseball tickets, ask Fred if block of seats are possible to get.
Tip 6: Tap the creativity of your family. You’d be surprised what talents lay dormant in your family’s gene pool. Get help on projects or tasks where others have expertise such as building an up-to-date family contact list, designing a family Web site (for the graphically-inclined), organizing entertainment for an evening (use a family musician, perhaps), negotiating the best rate at hotels (think sales skills), chefs in the family can provide a "guest meal" one night (mmm… Uncle Bob's barbequed Asian salmon special), and so forth.
Tip 7: Avoid getting spammed. To avoid getting "cc'd" on every email communiqué, encourage the volunteers to make decisions on their own with the group and communicate that you just need to know the final details of their particular task(s). If they have problems/questions along the way, they can contact you. But giving them authority saves you time and gently ensures they’re held accountable, increasing chances they’ll complete the task(s).
Tip 8: Give credit where credit is due. Someone once told me that many who succeed "Delegate and take credit." While this was half-truth and half-joke, you should always give credit to those who help or lead a project. You may be organizing, orchestrating or rallying the troops, but many make it a success. Thank the academy.
Tip 9: Solicit ideas from those helping plan. There is a fine line between directing and delegating. I’ve learned people respond better when their own ideas are heard and carried out. They become invested and feel a personal sense of pride and accomplishment. That said, pay attention to quality and don’t be afraid to guide the process. Your feedback is helpful, as is theirs. Incorporate the best ideas from others and know when to (carefully) suggest alternatives to other ideas.
Brides, you have your ideas and your fiancé has his. So do your families. Use the best ideas, but ultimately the call is yours (and his).
Tip 10: Stay tuned and connected. You're still the leader of the group so once a task is assigned, it's important to follow up regularly to make sure everything's getting done. Schedule a weekly check-in with yourself and/or others to get a status of tasks completed and things that need a follow-up. The more organized you are, the more smoothly things will run.
Have any of your own tips or lessons learned? Care to add to any of the tips listed above? Your thoughts and feedback are welcome.
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