How To Plan The Perfect Reunion
Family reunions can be just as fun to plan and prepare for as they are to enjoy and experience. Here are some tips for planning the perfect small family reunion in NC!
1. Location, Location, Location!
Think about the time of year you’re planning for, and the age and geography of the people who are attending. For example, if you’re holding the reunion in August and people are coming from Florida or Texas, they might really appreciate the cooler weather in the NC mountains that time of year. Visitors from up north or from landlocked areas are guaranteed to love North Carolina’s beaches and coastal towns. Racing fans will be in hog heaven in the Piedmont somewhere between Charlotte and Winston-Salem. There are so many different settings in NC, it will be easy to find the perfect one for your group.
2. Ideal Accommodations
Now that you’ve chosen the area of the state where you’ll be vacationing, it’s time to think about the perfect rental property. Make sure there’s enough room for everyone, and think about things like whether you’ll want a big kitchen/dining area for group meals, whether there’s accessible bedrooms and bathrooms for those with disabilities, and if the property has the amenities (barbecue grill, pool, hot tub, DVD player) that everyone will enjoy. Also, consider the road conditions and proximity to shopping, dining and nightlife that your group will want: a family of outdoor enthusiasts might enjoy a remote mountaintop cabin or island beach house, but others might want to be close to a town or major city.
3. Do A Little Research
After you’ve chosen your accommodations, go to VisitNC and local Convention and Visitors Bureau websites and print out as much information as you can find about nearby activities and attractions such as zip lines, float trips, festivals & events, restaurants, historic sites, wineries and sports team schedules, ski areas, aquariums, and museums. Stop off at an NC Welcome Center or a local Visitor’s Information Center and load up on brochures, then spread them out on the coffee table for your guests to go through when they arrive.
4. The Bare Necessities
OK. Time to pack. Depending on the location, time of year, and accommodations, you may need to bring linens, towels, swimsuits, sunscreen, bug spray, and a corkscrew. Be sure and also bring some in-house entertainment such as outdoor group games like bocce ball or beanbag toss, indoor family games like UNO, Phase Ten, or Apples To Apples, a few good books or magazines, and perhaps some DVDs and music. Some of your best times of the trip will be just enjoying each other’s company.
5. Backup Your GPS
It may be stating the obvious to say “get directions to your accommodations,” but it can be very important. Don’t put all your faith in your GPS, because those devices aren’t always 100% accurate, especially in rural and mountainous areas. Get directions from your property owner or online, then print them out and carry them with you. Have all your guests do the same. You’ll be glad you did.
6. Location Scouting
If you’re the “planner” of the trip, arrive a little early and scout out the locations of the closest grocery store, ATM, local diner, and liquor store (if you’re so inclined). If the grocery store has a customer loyalty card (as most do these days), take the time to sign up for one and leave the card in the kitchen for all your guests to use. It’s a great way to save some money during your trip.
7. Cat Herding
So you’ve all arrived safely, and you’re ready for the first big group “day trip” of the week. Take my advice: tell everyone to gather AT LEAST fifteen minutes before you actually want to leave. Between searches for keys and sunglasses, last minute bathroom trips, and “vacation mindset” dawdling, I guarantee you’ll feel as though you’re trying to herd cats (the bigger the group, the more time you’ll need). Allow yourself some extra time, and avoid the stress of trying to rush everyone out the door.
8. Plan To Relax
You’re not a cruise director. Don’t feel as if you need to plan everyone’s activities for every hour of every day of the trip. Remember that your guests are on vacation, and they may enjoy a nice long walk, reading a good book, taking a nap in a beach hammock, or doing absolutely nothing for a few hours. Schedule some "down time" for everyone. Your guests will appreciate it, and you’ll have less work. It’s a classic “win-win” situation.
9. Division Of Labor
One of my favorite things about these group trips are the big, home-cooked, family-style meals, but no one person should be saddled with all the kitchen duties. A tradition on our family trips is to assign two-person teams with one big meal during the vacation, giving them the rest of the week off. Usually, the "big meal" is a dinner, but we’ve also had some amazing Sunday brunches as well. Be sure to also leave some meals open for exploring your area’s great restaurants.
10. Keep The Memories Alive
When you get back home, set up a site on one of the web’s photo sharing sites (Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, etc) and have everyone upload their pictures from the trip. If you have video, put it on YouTube for everyone to see. If you’re feeling really ambitious, there’s TravelPod, where you can even blog about your experiences while also sharing photos and video. It’s a great way to keep the memories fresh and help plan for your next big group adventure in North Carolina!
If you are having a once-a-decade reunion or an all-of-the-extended-family-is-invited reunion or just a big family reunion, here are some ways to make all of the aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, nieces and nephews feel excited and involved.
11. Survey Says
Once you have your guest list and a few locations and dates in mind, send a short, simple survey to everyone attending. Narrow your choices to around three and give your family options for dates, locations and activities. Everyone will love contributing and you’ll love the input. You can also use this as an opportunity to ask for volunteers and find out how people want to help.
12. Strike A Deal
To get the best prices and upgrades, be prepared to negotiate. Ask for complimentary items, such as airport transportation, breakfasts, or a late check-out. Most services are negotiable and you might be pleasantly surprised at what you can get if you just ask.
13. You Are Cordially Invited
Invitations get everyone excited for the big event and should be fun to create. Play around with different ideas such as writing the invitation in the voice of the newest family member or printing the details on a magnet instead of paper. Once you have a great idea, send the invitations out far in advance and offer plenty of details about the reunion. The more information you include, the fewer phone calls you’ll receive.
14. Family Talent
Do you have family members who are movie buffs? Or maybe a cousin who loves to bake? Get people involved by having them share their hobbies and talents. For example, one family can be in charge of bringing the board games, puzzles and playing cards; another can bring brownie mixes and sundae toppings; and a different group can bring DVDs.
15. Getting To Know You
If your family hasn’t gotten together in a few years, icebreakers are a good way to get everyone reacquainted.
- Ask your family to send a specific type of picture (yearbook, baby, sports, bad hair day), create a collage and ask guest to guess who’s who.
- Get younger kids involved by asking them to draw pictures of family members. Put up a clothesline and hang the pictures for everyone to see.
- Have everyone bring a family object with a history. Display them and organize a story telling session.
16. Little Extras
These little extra touches will make people feel special and welcome whether you’re inviting 20 or 200.
- Put together welcome bags with maps, brochures and other souvenirs.
- Print programs to hand out at the beginning of the reunion. They will let everyone know when meals will be, what activities are being planned and what they should bring. A simple phone list might also be helpful.
- Hand out nametags, because the only thing worse than not remembering someone’s name is not remembering the name of someone who shares part of your DNA.
- Create t-shirts. This could be a fun souvenir or an easy fundraising idea.
- Give out local maps. Mark nearby bookshops, coffee shops and walking trails. People who like to rise early can go out and explore on their own.
- Have a laptop available so people can download their pictures and look at everyone else’s.
added: March 30, 2010
updated: April 1, 2010