Planning a family reunion can be stressful, annoying, and awful...but they typically lead to some great laughs and wonderful memories! Once the planning part is out of the way it's on to enjoying time with loved ones that you, typically, don't get to see very often.
In this day and age we all lead extremely busy lives and our family members move all over the place. That means you see much less of each other as time goes by--and no one wants that! Or maybe you do, I don't know you so who am I to say? But you have to see them at some point and with a family reunion you can get it all out of the way at once!
My History With Family Reunions
I was always in charge of organizing the large family reunion get-togethers of the year in my family so I understand how hard it is to plan a family reunion. And that exact reason is why I'm here to help! I want you to get past the planning part with as few hitches as possible and onto the enjoying part. That way you are ready to go down memory lane while simultaneously creating new memories with your family.
Family reunions can be the bane of our existence if we allow them to get the better of us, but that doesn't mean they are. From that one grumpy, crazy Uncle to Auntie OCD we have to juggle several balls just to spend time with these crazy people. And why? Why do we subject ourselves to such tortures? Because they are our family and that should be a good enough reason.
Reasons for Planning Family Reunions
But is it always a good enough reason? It should be, but maybe it isn't. You could be doing a will reading, settling legal disputes, or celebrating the family matriarch or patriarch. Maybe someone in your family is dying and they want to see everyone altogether one last time. Not all family reunions are created out of happiness. Unfortunately, we all fall on hard times but those hard times are the best reason to get together as a whole.
No matter what your reason is, you have made it a point to see your family--so make it enjoyable. Yeah, this could include chosen and un-chosen family, family you adore and family you don't really get along with... but nevertheless they are important people in your life. Take this time to mend old arguments, create new arguments, or just spend some sincere quality time with your loved ones.
Before I begin to list off all of the why's and how to's of planning a family reunion here is one of the most important things to keep in mind: add humor. And I mean add it often and whenever possible. You're there to enjoy each other! Not to have arguments, land disputes and will readings. Or maybe you are there for those things, in which case some lightheartedness will be much appreciated.
The Surprising Reason Why You Must Hold A Family Reunion
Love of course! Why else would we subject ourselves to spending time with our families? Familial love is a thing to be celebrated, cherished and enjoyed! Even with all of the crazies and loonies that we have in our families, and believe me that does not exclude yourself, we have to celebrate the love that is there! So get over yourself and your petty disputes and cherish one another. You only have one life to live so make it enjoyable and surround yourself with love.
Speaking of loonies and crazies... the women on my mothers side of the family, including my dear mother herself, believed that everyone in the world was weird--except them. They honestly believed that they were normal. HA! Yeah right! My family is filled with just as many wackadoos as any other and that includes the women!
Now, I'm pretty sure I convinced my mother otherwise but my grandmother, God rest her soul, carried that belief straight to her grave. Don't get me wrong she was an amazing woman but that does not exclude her from being a big ol' weirdo like the rest of us. And yes, us means you as well. Don't kid yourself like all of the loony women in my family--we're all weird! Besides, who wants to be normal? It sounds boring.
As I mentioned before there are plenty of reasons to bring your own Army of Maniacs together to party. We already went over the more sad or sentimental reasons so now we're on the fun ones! one main reason to plan a family reunion is to give all of the kids a chance to get to know their more distant relatives; aunts, uncles, cousins etc. Without this type of special bonding the kids might feel estranged from their family. Maybe they'll keep the tradition going because they'll have created such fond memories together! This could be your legacy!
The second reason is to mercilessly judge any new family members... no, no not the babies you monster! But spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, fiances, and maybe your third cousins yippie Pomeranian are awaiting your judgement. It's always exciting to welcome new family members to your clan and family reunions are great opportunities to do that. They can meet and fall in love with your family or you can decide you dislike them and promptly scare them off.
Once upon a time, I had a boyfriend visit my sister with me and we ate lobster, which he never had before, and it scarred him for life. My sister laughs about it to this day because he was so offended. Besides, how do you grow up in New England and never eat lobster? I digress...
To sum all of that up: family reunions are great for seeing relatives you never see, new relatives, potential new relatives or it's just for the kids. No matter what the reason is reunions make for good stories, memories and maybe a few solid migraines.
So, whether your family reunions are an annual gathering, a spontaneous venture, or to celebrate an important family members birthday or anniversary you are there because of love!
How Do I Even Begin to Plan a Family Reunion?
Step one is complete. You have your reason... or maybe you don't. Either way you've read all the way to step two so you are undoubtedly inspired and just like every good book character you desire something. And true to it's word, just like every good author, life makes your desire ridiculously difficult to attain--or they kill you. Authors love killing their beloved characters and as readers we all cry and throw our books at walls. Planning a family reunion might make you cry and throw things too but you can do it! I promise that it isn't impossible.
Step two is figuring out how exactly to organize the chaos--and I am here to help! Now step two is really a bunch of steps tied together so hold onto your hats.
1. First and foremost start early. Everyone and their mother, possibly including your own, will have conflicts and complaints. The earlier you begin to plan your family reunion the easier it will be for everyone to prepare both mentally and physically. It's easier to ask for work off and which soccer games the kids might miss if you give out potential dates early on. I suggest taking a poll and giving three options for dates to see how many people agree to which one.
2. Some are born to lead and some are born to follow. Find the Virgos, Leos and Aries in your group and dub them team captains! Try to make sure they are people who work well together because you don't want to deal with more arguments than you have to. So choose wisely and in the words of The Hunger Games, "May the odds be ever in your favor."
3. Pick the right destination for your reunion. This can be one of the more difficult decisions when it comes to planning large group getaways. You want everyone to be happy, the space/location to be enjoyable, and you want to make sure there is plenty of room for everyone.
Is your family full of outdoorsy people? Owners of RV's and state-of-the-art camping equipment? Does everyone love outdoor sports? Are they history fanatics, shoppers or foodies? Or even better, are they introverts who just want to read a book laying by the lake, sitting in a ski lodge, or just in any big comfy chair they can find? Say what you will but they are the easiest ones to accommodate.
Realistically, you'll have more than one type of person in your family--especially if you have a very large family. You have to find a destination that will suit the majority and you and your team captains (who should be decisive people) can work together to make the final decision.
4. Choose the right accommodations for your group. I've said it before and I'll say it more: family reunions are like herding cats. Even professionals get eaten! Laugh all you want but if your house cat was bigger it would've killed you already. Trust me, it's science!
Anyway, as you know, cats are impossible to herd. Just try it, I dare you! They're lone rangers, independent, and judgy creatures. Just Youtube people trying to walk their cats! You'll get sucked into a Youtube hole and be entertained for hours. Whether you waste time on Youtube or not, cats are impossible and so is your family... NOT.
You can herd your family if you're assertive and up to dealing with their BS. Finding accommodations for large groups is difficult--but not impossible. Once you pin down your location you have already made your job a little easier. Now you have to research and choose between the accommodations that are available in the area. You can pick camping, a hotel, an airbnb, or a vacation rental.
A great thing to weigh-in when you're choosing a spot to stay is meals. How close do you need to be to restaurants? Who has different diets and allergies that you need to be aware of? Are you trying to cook throughout your reunion? Plan now! Don't be lazy and wait until the last minute. Planning your food options beforehand will help you decide what type of accommodations you might need.
If you plan on cooking you'll know to get a spot with a large kitchen or grilling area. If you plan on eating out for every meal than a hotel can easily suffice your needs. Camping means you need solid equipment and food prepared way beforehand--and for such a large group that is a whole other step. Is that something you want to deal with? Who would be in charge of meals? It all needs to be weighed in while you're figuring out where you want to stay.
5. Consider childcare options. Do you need to keep the gremlins fed well before midnight and under constant supervision? Or are their older kids and grandparents who are perfectly capable of babysitting? Although, grandparents may feed them after midnight because they're trying to spoil them... so be careful! Luckily, you will most likely have an adult/teenager that doesn't want to partake in an activity because they're too cool for it. If that's not the case (because they're trying to enjoy themselves too) then do preliminary research on your outside-of-the-family options.
Don't be that rude planner who just leaves the kids in the parents arms. They deserve a break!
6. Be the Leslie Knope (from the brilliant show Parks and Recreation) of the trip and have color-coded binder that hold your itinerary. Take a poll from your family or ask them what they'd like to do and give them a deadline. Or just ask the team captains! OR be a control freak, ask no one anything, and decide what the family itinerary is.
Personally, I pick control freak just because it seems the easiest. Then the others can complain and try to add stuff and you can bulldozer over them and ignore everyone. No, I'm joking. Next-to-no-one is ever happy if you choose this option. Be inclusive but organized and decisive.
7. Don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness! Be assertive, decisive and maybe a little OCD but remember that it is of utmost importance to be mindful of others. Make decisions but remember to ask for forgiveness and forgive others. Don't create any unnecessary hostility during your family reunion. There's already going to be a potential for drama--rivalries, kids getting in trouble, in-laws, new boyfriends/girlfriends, you name it! Be forgiving.
8. How long should you be cooped up with a ton of people you don't always get to see? What a tough question to answer. Personally, I believe the shorter the better. I mean, not less than 24 hours because you still need to enjoy each other, but don't overdue it. Your overzealous need for some down time should not cloud your judgement. I know you want to dedicate your entire week to your family but it isn't recommended. The best amount of time to be cooped up in "crazy-ville" is about three days. That's not just my own advice. Ninkovich says that "your next reunion will benefit if you leave them wanting more."
9. Last but not least, on our ninth step of step two is figuring out what to do! Things to do during a family reunion are the toughest things to plan. The ultimate question besides why am I related to these lovely wackos is what can we all do together to create wonderful memories for years to come?
Talk about pressure. I don't know about you put I'm a sucker for team games. It's me and my husband against the world and we love winning! Pictionary, Taboo, Cranium, Family Feud--all of these games are great options to beat your annoyingly competitive cousins from North Carolina.
Whenever no one wanted to play games my cousin and I would play a card game called Spit. It's a great thing to do when killing time during awkward family visits. We could play an entire game in 2 minutes flat and leave with some red palms from slapping the cards to hard...but it was always worth it. Spit is a great game to have a tournament for or to play while everyone else is being poopy. All you need are two decks of cards and one willing opponent.
Another great thing to do is create a family trivia game. Send a questionnaire to all of your family members to gather intel. During the reunion split everyone into groups and play the game! Get creative and make it fun. You might learn something new about your beloved family members--but that doesn't mean you will like the information, so be wary!
How To Get People Off Their Phones And Talking With Each Other
I'll let you in on a secret here, if you're vacationing at Four Seasons Lodge there's an easy way to have everyone looking up instead of down. Flip our hidden switch to turn off the WiFi and you'll have your kids or partner engaging in fun becasue they cannot get on Facebook! When I check the Lodge after folks check-out, the WiFi switch is usually turned off. Go figure. HA!
If you've picked a gorgeous location like North Conway, NH to host your family reunion, plan ahead so you have activities planned that even the "gamers" will enjoy.
Is it beautiful outside? Put on some comfy boots, pack a lunch, and go for a hike. If your gang isn't in the best physical shape, plan ahead and research hikes that are on the flatter and shorter side or just go for a walk. Bring a camera and take lots of photos because cousin Emma may never accept a hiking invite again!
Do you have some water rats on your invite list? See if there's anywhere to rent tubes or kayaks and plan a lazy day on a river somewhere. I'll be you'll find a rope swing along your journey - challenge grumpy Uncle Ed to try it out. Get that camera ready!
Family reunioning in a winter wonderland? Take a poll to see if folks would rather snowshoe, ski, snowmobile or ice skate. Usually you can get group rates with a group size starting at 10 folks. That's a great way to save money so you can all have a beverage or two after you work your flabby muscles past the point of no return.
If your gang is into team sports, get out there and play ball! Kickball, dodge ball, volleyball, soccer, whatever! Get outdoors and sweat. Burn off those calories from your moms famous brownies. If ball games aren't your favorite and you're trying way too hard to be the "cool uncle" then make a slight shift to water balloons.
A good old fashioned water balloon fight is way better when you add teams and super soakers and believe me, as the "cool aunt", I'm just speaking from experience. It's more of a water war than a water balloon fight in my family and it is worth it on a hot summer day! Have buckets of "ammo" on each side of the playing field and have everyone start in the middle. If you have trees and obstacles to hide behind it just elevates the fun.
Another great outdoor activity to do is a scavenger hunt. You can be an overachiever, like me, and make it super difficult but highly rewarding by stashing a hundred dollar bill somewhere and whoever finds it keeps it! Or if only the adults are playing then you can hide little alcohol bottles (nips as we call them here in New England), or candy if it's the kids. You can make a scavenger hunt as basic or intricate as you wish. You can have everyone work individually or in teams but no matter what make sure there is a fun prize at the end! Incentive boosts morale.
You could even make it native to the area like having them find a type of leaf, fire wood, or wild mushrooms. And if you're like me than you can stash riddles everywhere. Just tell them their first clue and they're off!
Do you have a family full of talent? Or at least a group that's overly-confident? Put on a talent show! Your own crazy uncle can sing an inappropriate song, your cousin can dance and you can enjoy a bunch of stand up comedy full of dad jokes by you-know-who. It doesn't matter if there is genuine talent, no talent, or a mix of both. A family talent show will create memories to last a lifetime. Plus, maybe you'll create a tradition to embarrass the young ones for years to come. I live for embarrassing the young ones!
If you want more equally embarrassing, but equally fun games to play, then invest in Speak Out. You've probably seen it on Ellen. It's the game with the funny mouth pieces and it's hilarious!
Another great awkward game is one you can make at home. The Banana Game is an absolute riot! Have the willing victims make a line, tie a string around their waist with a banana tied to it (make sure the string is long enough for it to almost touch the ground) and the players have to use the bananas to hit the ball across the finish line. It'll give you memories to last a lifetime!
A good old fashioned egg race is another great homemade game! Pick partners and give them two spoons and an egg. The first runner puts the egg on their spoon, puts the spoon in their mouth and runs to their teammate without dropping the egg. Once they reach their partner they have to transfer the egg to their teammates spoon before they run to the finish line. The first one across it wins!
I once played it more like a relay race but on horseback. You had to go around a barrel and, thankfully, the spoon was just in your hand. Another great way is to blindfold one person and then you have to guide them with your voice.
Love is Love is Love is Love is Love -Lin Manuel Miranda
3 Reasons To Host a Family Reunion In A Single Lodge
I know you've been to reunions where everyone has their own hotel/motel room or cabin but I'm going to explain the benefits of renting a huge lodge or vacation rental and having the whole place to yourself.
Yes, I said it. A Kitchen. You don't know me but I am a terrible cook, don't care much about food, but love to watch people cook.
When I'm part of a family reunion, I'm the one sitting there chatting with those that are sequestered to the kitchen to whip up something delicious. I'm at the ready if they need someone to hold a strainer so they can pour in the spaghetti or chop a veggie or two so they can attend to the stir fry.
I love watching people do things they are skilled at. I could NEVER take a few veggies and a dob of meat and present my hungry family with a stir fry creation!
That's really not the most important reason to rent a venue with a kitchen. In no particular order, here are my thoughts:
2. Save Money
Yes, save money! Add up 10 or so rooms in a resort and I know you can find a great vacation rental for much less.
Book directly with the owner of that vacation rental so you don't have pay Airbnb/VRBO/TripAdvisor/etc their huge service fees.
Eat most meals at the venue rather than dropping hundreds a day on meals.
3. More Bonding, Memories, Pictures, and Laughs
Last but certainly not least, the best memories are made at the end of the day reminiscing about the day's adventures! Gather round the fireplace or cuddle up on the couches and tell stories, reminisce, listen to Grandma's stories, and get to know new and old relatives!
If you all head back to a hotel room every night because there's no place where the whole family (including infants) to gather and relax, you are missing out on some special memories.
Lastly, all the awesome games I described above won't get played. I'm NOT a game person but when someone coerces me to play, I always have a fantastic time!
I bought Four Seasons Lodge as the result of planning a family reunion. I know the headaches, the joys, and the fruits of hard labor that come with getting your entire family into one place. Look what came out of mine? I found our prime location and bought it! But I still want to share it with others who may be struggling to find their space like me and that's how I came to have the business I have today.
It's not for sale, but it may be the perfect place for your family vacation. The showpiece of the entire Lodge is our heated INDOOR pool! It's heated to 81 degrees year-round and even grumpy old Uncle Ed will enjoy a swim after dinner.
Everyone wants their own private space? Perfect, we have 10 bedrooms with sleeping for the 20 fun relatives you plan to invite to your family reunion!
Located in North Conway, NH, Four Seasons Lodge is set in a perfect location (in my opinion anyway). It's tucked in a private spot off a scenic byway, minutes to world class outlet shopping, great restaurants, 7 awesome ski resorts, and great hiking.
We are locals and live, work, and play in the White Mountains. Hit us up if you need suggestions of things to do in North Conway or check out our blogs.
I love to say to folks that are tearing their hair out trying to please everyone in their family by choosing the BEST possible venue for their family reunion - RELAX! Memories that last a lifetime will be made by everyone and they have you to thank for bringing all of them together!
Come by and we'll do all we can to make your family reunion as smooth and painless as possible!
Feel free to contact me for more information about hosting a family reunion at Four Seasons Lodge.
Four Seasons Lodge, 31 Whiskiers Lane, North Conway, NH 03860, 603-662-5391, https://www.FourSeasonsLodge.com
We are locals and know the ins and outs of North Conway.