Illinois Tourism & Travel

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9 Tips For Planning A Destination Family Reunion

It has been forever since you have gotten together with extended family; missed bear hugs from grandma, rosy cheeked smiles from toddlers, and a good old-fashioned embrace from a sibling. It is time for a family reunion! You want to make the gathering extra special by vacationing somewhere exciting and different. Planning a destination family reunion doesn’t have to be a tremendous amount of work. In fact, it can be easier than planning one in your home. Less cooking, less mess to deal with, and guests can have their own, personal space.

Multigenerational trips, including everyone from grandparents to toddlers, bring families together in a special way. Traveling as a clan allows for a deep bonding experience bridging generations and expanding core family units.

1. The Initial Discussion

Getting everyone on board is the first step in pulling off a fabulous destination reunion. The goal is for the whole family to agree on a location, time, and budget. Easier said than accomplished. However, those family members who want to participate will let you know right upfront. The ones that are on the fence or are definitely out; well maybe next time.

The conversation typically starts with a few people chatting and brainstorming ideas about getting away as a family. The perfect destination is a trip that will work for your entire clan. If you have seniors, small children, tweens, and teens, the destination needs to have fun options for every age and ability.

Once you have an idea in mind, it is time to approach other family members that might be interested in joining in on the reunion fun.

Sandi Barrett

2. Planning Committee

A destination family reunion should be about the entire family. A planning committee of one person is not the best way to share the planning and decisions. That one planner will end up stressed and overworked. Ideally, two or three individuals are perfect to spearhead a planning committee. Ask for volunteers! Budget can be a big hurdle for some family members, planning committee members can have an impact on where to draw the line when it comes to how much money each family will spend.

Everyone has an opinion, the planning committee should consider all options and present the one they are willing to put the time and work into making a reality.

3. Share Information

You don’t want any last-minute surprises to ruin your get together. Keep everyone up to date on decisions, timelines, payment due dates, etc.

There are a number of real-time sharing tools available to track plans, activities, accommodations, meals, etc. Google docs and sheets allow input from all participants, can be easily accessed and is a free tool. Another great planning option is Trello where each family can have their own card and can view all the others.

Pro Tip: Have one person responsible for keeping a secure file, or a backup, in case a not-so-savvy techie unintentionally wreaks havoc with your shared document. Think, grandpa trying to add a link to his favorite golf course and accidentally re-sorting the entire spreadsheet.

Man walks through tall forest, as rays of sunlight stream down.
Sandi Barrett

4. Decide Upfront On Finances

You don’t want to end up alone in the forest. Keep in mind, families operate on different budgets and you might need to plan out 6 months or a year to accommodate different financial situations.

This is where planning can get a little touchy, particularly if you have family groups that are unfamiliar with traveling. Setting a budget is key to keeping everyone included.

Items to discuss:

  • Length of stay — this can differ for each attendee
  • Airfare versus road trip
  • Accommodations — all inclusive, four-star hotel, condo, Vrbo, etc.
  • Food — eating out, cooking in
  • Activities — big bus tour vs hiring a private guide
  • Additional expectations — purchasing matching shirts, professional photographs, etc.

5. All Inclusive Getaways

One simple way to make the financial discussions easy is to book an all-inclusive getaway. It is also easier on the reunion planning committee since each family can craft their own amazing vacation while still being part of the family reunion. Another benefit of packaged deals is that from children to seniors, there are activities that suit every family member.

There are so many options for pre-planned package vacations. All-inclusive options allow members of your clan to explore on their own during the day and come together for dinner or dessert each night.

Cruising is one very good option. Cruise lines offer a variety of price points, allowing everyone in the family to travel the way they like and fits their budget. With excursions and meals included, cruising makes family travel easy and offers guests a variety of group activities that will help please the whole family.

All-inclusive resorts are another great destination family reunion option. Sun-kissed, beach-focused, family-friendly resorts are easy to plan. Take advantage of the ease in planning for many families by setting up a trip that is a one-stop-shop. It doesn’t just have to be the beach, there are other all-inclusive resorts like ranches, skiing, golf, and amusement parks where there is a central theme but activities for everyone.

Often, with group getaways, there are incentives when you have a large number of guests. These incentives range from free passage for the group leader or upgrades that can be spread across the entire group. The best way to take full advantage of any extra incentives is to book your all-inclusive package through your travel agent. It will not only save money, but for a large group, the agent will be able to get you the best upgrades.

Wendy Lee offers a few ideas about all-inclusive, multigen trips here.

Peek a boo canyon with three woman and dog.
Sandi Barrett

6. Consider Everyone’s Capabilities

Hiking through slot canyons may sound like an amazing trip for you, but not for an infant-toting dad. Try to have options available for every age and ability.

Multigenerational trips require a wide array of activities that appeal to kids, families, adults, and seniors. The goal is for everyone to have fun, and planning lots of options is key. Challenges may arise, it is good to tackle them head-on. Here are a few tips about multigenerational travel challenges. 

7. Have Two Or Three Group Events

Group events are the lynchpin of destination family reunions. Depending on your destination, your family activities could be as simple as a day at the beach with games, a picnic, and watersports. If you are at a dude ranch, dinner around a campfire complete with S’mores would be a fun, family-focused event. Heading to the slopes for your family getaway, plan an outing on a horse-drawn carriage or sled dog ride complete with hot chocolate and twinkling stars.

Advance planning of the events where all the families come together is an important detail. After all, getting everyone together is the major goal of a destination family reunion. If you are away for a long weekend, then one or two preplanned meals and/or activities are the perfect way to enjoy each other’s company. There will be lots of mini, last-minute gatherings, but having a master plan will avoid scrambling to muster the troops.

8. Let Family Members Plan Time For Themselves

Downtime is key to a happy and healthy destination reunion vacation. After all, it is not totally about family time, it is your vacation.

Sitting by the pool with a great book may be your idea of a perfect getaway. Others in your group may prefer hang gliding over a day in a lounge chair. That’s okay, let everyone have their own time that is not an all-hands-on-deck activity.

Getting to try new and different things away from the entire group leads to better dinner conversations. There is so much more to share and discuss.

Parade at Universal
Sandi Barrett

9. Have Fun

I think this is the thing the planners forget to do most often — Have Fun!

Planning a destination family reunion is stressful, but once the vacation has begun, it’s time to relax and enjoy the ride. If you have planned and communicated the details of the trip with everyone, then your job is done.

Aunt Susie doesn’t want to attend the beach bonfire — that’s okay, you are not in charge of everyone’s good time. Uncle Bob doesn’t like the view from his balcony — let him deal with the front desk, you are not his travel agent.

Take a deep breath and let the good times roll.

More On Planning A Family Reunion

Planning a destination family reunion is fun and rewarding. Getting many families together to reconnect, build family bonds, and have fun is rewarding. Knowing you were partly responsible for the gathering where family members had so much fun they are already planning the next destination is such a joy. Where is your next destination family reunion?

Here are some more tips for planning a multigenerational trip: