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How (and Where) to Plan a Family Reunion

Let’s face it; family reunions are a great idea… in theory. But, when the rubber hits the road, family reunions can require a crazy amount of work, especially for first-timer organizers. Yet, with a solid plan, some team effort, and a cooperative attitude, a successful weekend filled with cherished, lifelong memories ─ and maybe a new annual tradition ─ is definitely doable and, most importantly, worth it.

Planning Tips

  • Start early. Well-organized family reunions are planned months, or even a year, in advance so that all loved ones have enough time to work the gathering into their busy schedules and ample notice in regards to the decision-making process.
  • Create a guest list. Choose the side of your family tree to invite and begin (with help!) making an initial list of possible attendees. This will get you started with a rough head count which is essential to have as you begin to explore venues.
  • Form a committee. Ideally, select a point person from each family to fill out an informal survey to decipher timing, budget, and destination preferences. Once the location is booked, divide the committee into sub-categories to simplify the remainder of planning, such as: food, games, prizes, etc.
  • Set a date and stick to it. Once the date is chosen, consider it confirmed! Let everyone know that if something comes up ─ and something inevitably does ─ the date won’t be changing. Otherwise the reunion date will flip-flop for months or never come to be.
  • Make it affordable. The best chance for great participation ─ and the least amount of squabbling ─ will happen if costs are reasonable. Remember that the goal is to get the family together to enjoy memorable, quality time, and not to plan the vacation of a lifetime.
  • Love your location. Opt for a place that maximizes time spent together. A hotel might not be the ideal spot, but perhaps a campground, set of cottages, or other accommodations with communal space would be a better choice to foster family bonding.
  • Start a private Facebook page. A private, invitation-only forum, like a Facebook page, is great for correspondence and allows many family members to share ideas and details. Plus, pictures can be posted before, during, and after the event.

Locations Suggestions

Glamping

Ready for a wild family adventure? Glamping, aka glamorous camping, is a new trend focused on experiencing the great outdoors without sacrificing luxury. Westgate River Ranch & Rodeo (Westgateresorts.com/river-ranch), located about 90 minutes south of Orlando, offers traditional hotel-style accommodations, but families traveling in large groups often opt for the resort’s fun glamping option, which can accommodate up to 80 people at 20 tent sites. Far from roughing it, these tents are set on raised platforms and include deluxe interiors, screened-in porches with rocking chairs, mini refrigerators, microwaves, air conditioning, electrical outlets, and ceiling fans.

For meals, breakfast starts each day with hot cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit, and coffee delivered to the tents. Then, throughout the day, families can cook on the propane grill located at each site or head to the onsite Smoke House Grill. Catered meals, such as a full pig roast, are another resort option. In between family dining, the resort offers a slew of delightful diversions including a Saturday night rodeo and dance party, swamp buggy tours, evening hayrides, horseback riding, cowboy-themed challenges, and an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt. At night, everyone can gather around multiple campfire pits, which are lit and maintained by a glamping concierge.

Cruise

Looking for a smooth sailing choice? An all-inclusive trip can be the right fit for families seeking minimal planning and maximum fun. Several cruise lines, such as Carnival Cruise Lines (Carnival.com), offer special services for family reunions, including private lounges and dining spaces where groups can congregate in between docking ports. Reunion planners can request an advance list of the ship’s entertainment line-up, off-shore excursions, and amenities, which can include everything from rock climbing walls and ropes courses, to zip-lining and ice skating. Then, set up the family itinerary accordingly to keep loved ones together and preserve the reunion feel. Keep in mind that everyone will need a passport so, again, advanced planning should allow at least six months’ notice for acquiring the required documentation.

Mountain Getaway

Looking to dig into family roots? Loved ones can enjoy an authentic ‘getting away from it all’ vibe at The Camp (TheCampNC.com). This sprawling vacation resort, located about 40 minutes from Asheville, North Carolina, was recognized by VRBO as “the most kid-friendly vacation rental property on earth.” Three luxurious vacation homes and one cottage, accommodating a total of 60 people, are the perfect place to settle into for a few days with all the comforts of home, including a fully-equipped kitchen, wireless internet access, flat-screen TVs (with satellite programming), and tons of space for family bonding. From hiking nearby trails and shooting hoops in the 90-year-old gymnasium (the oldest open-air gym in America), to game nights in the 5000 square-foot arcade (no quarters needed) and pool tournaments, the space offers a ton of family-friendly fun. The perk that will likely resonate the most is the heated 160-foot long waterslide, a ridiculously fun source of merriment. Lots of firewood is available for nights gathered around the fire where sing-alongs and gooey S’mores under a starlit sky will provide memories to last a lifetime.

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