En español | A family reunion is like a multigenerational trip on steroids. Mounting the perfect reunion is a big task — but one that's in no way insurmountable. If you start early, you'll have plenty of time to research, plan and delegate so that your event is as stress-free as possible.
Let the emailing begin!
As soon as you know you want to plan a reunion, get the get-together word out! Throw out some dates, paying close attention to school holidays, summer programs and already-scheduled family vacations.
Obviously, you'll want to contact each and every member of the family. So at the same time you start spreading the word, begin the all-important "are we forgetting anyone?" list (in fact, make that the subject line for your email), and send it to everyone.
Where the heck can we do this?
Budget is a key issue for family reunions, as the various generations are sure to represent various financial situations. And you definitely don't want to leave people out by driving costs too high.
The best bet for an affordable family reunion is your house. Did I just say that? I did. Consider this if you live in or near the family's historic hometown — and especially if you live in an old family home where relatives grew up or gathered for holidays. Just breathe and delegate. And consider hiring a helper. I'm not saying to have the whole event catered, which can run up the cost considerably. But you might consider hiring local businesses that help with parties: setup, preparing food, serving, bartending and cleanup.
Forget the house. Why not the YMCA?
For the budget-conscious, it doesn't get better than YMCA family camps. Not just for 8-year-olds anymore, YMCA family camps can be found all over the United States — from Lake George, New York, to Estes Park, Colorado. They offer affordable accommodations, from camping grounds and lodges to cabins. These camps are extremely popular with the multigenerational traveling set because they offer activities ranging from horseback riding and fishing to canoeing and rival-family tug-of-war games. It's the type of stuff with that yesteryear allure — perfect for reconnecting with the whole family. A word to the wise: The most popular camps fill up at least a year in advance.
How about a hotel?
Take a look at hotels chains like Hilton and Marriott, where business travelers meet for conferences. Rates are cheaper on the weekends when the poor road warriors finally get to go home.
You might also consider concierge- or club-level floors. Those floors carry considerable upcharges, but you can make that money back. You'll generally find food presentations all day — breakfast, snacks, afternoon tea, cocktail hour, late-night cordials. You'll have an exclusive lobby where everyone can congregate at their leisure for greeting and grazing. Also, almost every concierge level I've seen has a cappuccino machine, which can save you lots on those expensive lattes.
The big beach house
I once stayed in a beach house that slept 24 people comfortably. It had five floors with two massive kitchens on separate floors, and every one of the 10 bathrooms had a large basket overflowing with rolls of toilet paper.
Yep, that's a perfect place for a reunion, with long, unrushed days on the beach, then evenings for eating, watching movies, playing cards and talking. Look for large and affordable properties, starting on the North Carolina coast and continuing all the way to the Florida Panhandle.
Delegating such chores as shopping, cooking, cleanup and laundry is a must. Also a must: a large grill, which cuts way down on cleanup. Call rental home companies, or look online at vrbo.com, homeaway.com and airbnb.com.
Last but not least, you can have someone else do it all for you — preparing meals, making beds and organizing activities. And in fact, cruising is the most popular choice for destination reunions. Now that there are ports all around the U.S., the ease of driving to the ship gives the cruise another major advantage. The cruise, like the all-inclusive resort, will have activities and kids' clubs to keep everyone occupied. Plus, you'll know the bulk of your travel expenses upfront.
Cruise lines begin to throw in serious perks and amenities once you hit the eight-cabin mark or have 16 in your party: upgraded cabins, private shore excursions and shipboard credits toward free spa treatments. It's a good idea to compare many different lines to see what they offer, or you could always use a travel agent who will know how to make the most of your group leverage.
Preserve your memories
Wherever you decide to go and whatever you decide to do, think about booking a professional photographer to preserve this great moment in your family's history. And don't forget to order T-shirts, reunion-style, all in the same color and with the name of your family or the theme of the reunion. How about: "I had to go on a cruise with 31 members of my family and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!"