Advice: Planning a Family Reunion Can Be Stressful and Daunting or Fun and Easy.
Staying connected isn't as easy as it used to be. As the geographic distances grow between family members the need to schedule time to get together to have becomes a bigger deal than three decades ago.
Here's the scoop.
The idea, while worthy, will take time, effort and patience. Basically it comes down to this. Keep it simple and communicate, communicate, communicate. If it is not going to be fun, why do it? When to start?
Now is a good time. Give yourself at least a year. Most families who participate in annual reunions work with a 24-month calendar. Using that kind of schedule allows for more flexibility and the best deals for everyone. Where to start?
That really depends on your family because there are many destinations as well as tour companies and cruise lines that may be of assistance. There are often discounts extended to groups so the larger the reunion the more affordable the reunion. The best places offer both time and space for all generations. The best places are flexible to the needs of all ages. Location, location, location.
The first decision is where or exactly how far do you wish to travel to a reunion? This is probably the most important decision because it takes advance planning and a general agreement from all participants. The toughest part of the process is reaching a consensus on when, where and how much? There are advantages to selecting a unique destination to experience together just as there are reasons to keep it simple making the family members the focus. Either way reunions provide links between generations and provide the opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime. Who will be the seeker?
The second decision is who will do the research and planning? I spoke with Frank and Marni Welsh veterans of more than a decade of reunion planning. They agreed with the old adage "Too many cooks spoil the soup." Marni said their family they take turns among the siblings. That way everyone gets a chance to pursue his or her own idea for a reunion. Although they meet each year in August it is alternating years that get the most attendance. On alternating years they select a cruise or a resort and everyone gets a rest. Need to know:
Many destinations as well as resorts employ staff to facilitate family reunion planning. There is no cost to you for the planning and many times the consultant can find savings for your group. Two popular places which offer this service are Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Virginia Beach, Virginia. KOA also has a reunion planning kit. What kind of reunion holiday fits your family?
If your family enjoys the whole process of cooking and cleaning and everyone wants to bond with the children, try self-catering. If the idea is for all members to be free of household duties then a cruise, tour or a resort destination may fit the bill. For example Generations Touring Company has created several mini family reunions through their tour network. And cruise lines have similar benefits worth considering. It’s all in the planning.
The fact remains that the key to a successful family reunion is planning ahead, in most cases twelve to fifteen months will ensure more cooperation and participation. I have assembled a list of ideas for multiple generations wishing to getaway together. It will serve as a starting point for interesting conversation with your family. Two paper resources.
My best discovery is Tom Ninkovich, a family reunion research specialist. He is the author of two books on reunions. Family Reunion Handbook
and Fun Games for Family Reunions
will cover just about every question. If these two books are not enough his website provides a long list of resources and additional information all necessary in order to keep it simple. According to Tom there are only three things to keep in mind.
1. Start early.
He believes that everyone has the right to attend their own reunion, but arranging the logistics of doing so always takes time. Early means at least a year but more is helpful.
2. Have fun for all.
The challenge for adult organizers is to make sure the youngest generation enjoys the experience. The idea of family continuation is at the base of the reunion concept. In the planning process adults must remember that for a kid, it's not a reunion, it's a party.
3. Tell the family story.
This is the most important element of a family reunion. The family story process can be helped along by memorabilia, home movies, scrapbooks, old photos, ethnic food and dress, ethnic music and decorations or just attempting to graph the family tree together.
To continue this planning process a look at his website may be useful. Tom Ninkovich has devoted years to finding resources to make reunions of all types successful. He has all of the details organized at a non-commercial website called www.reuniontips.com.
Once you have your travel plans set the best thing to do is go to his site and order his book.
Another paper resource: The Book of New Family Traditions
by Meg Cox. Need a little inspiration? This book is a solution. Cozy and clever it is a nice companion resource for anyone planning special family days. The format is user-friendly giving the appearance of a light read. But the result is a rich menu of useful ideas to enrich daily life and make memories. My favorite clever ideas include celebrating the birthdays of favorite authors. Suggestions include January 18, A.A. Milne famous for Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh and June 2 for Dr. Suess. Meg has highlighted vacation rituals that may raise the fun level of travel time. There are many inspirational examples that make entertaining reading and several additional resources to close the loop. Meg Cox is a journalist, author and expert on family traditions. She is a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, who is the author of The Heart of a Family: Searching America for New Traditions That Fulfill Us.
Meg Cox produces a free monthly newsletter. To subscribe to this informative communication or send her examples of unique family rituals use firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to her publisher. Running Press, 125 South 22nd St. Philadelphia, PA 19103. Researched and created by FTF staff and images from Family Travel Files. Copyright 2012.