Perhaps your family does it every year. Or maybe it’s Grandma’s 80th birthday, or your parents’ 50th anniversary or hell, just summer. At one time or another, if we’re lucky, we all participate in a family reunion.
With so many people attending there’s bound to be some confusion, confrontation and hopefully, lots of hugs and laughter. It’s a family event after all. Everyone has “those” relatives that you hate to admit to or drunk, but lovable uncle, plus you have all ages to please. You’ll never make everyone happy but, keep the following suggestions in mind to minimize the angst.
Work as a family. No one person should do all the planning. Even if it’s the same trip to the lake cottage that you take every year, there’s a great deal of work to get done before the vacation begins. Divvy up the planning and make sure no one person gets overloaded. You sister can plan meals; you can be in charge of arriving early and airing out the cabin. Ask one cousin to plan kids’ activities and another to bring sporting equipment for horseshoes and softball games. The quickest way to ruin the trip is to have one exhausted person do it all.
Read Related: 7 Rules for Effective Family Bonding
Agree to a budget. No one wants to be left out of the fun due to their finances. And few want to admit they declined the invite because their budget was stretched too thin. Consider not only the ultimate destination but the cost to get there. Maybe you’re ready for the fantastic Caribbean cruise but, your brother and sister-in-law are putting two kids through college and are lucky to make it from paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes simple and laid back is a lot more fun than the ultra- expensive all-inclusive resort. And everyone will have a better time knowing they’re not blowing the monthly mortgage for a weekend get together.
The destination should be a group decision. Just like your family, there has to be something for everyone. You wouldn’t expect Great Aunt Joan to go horseback riding any more than you would expect 2 year olds to go surfing. Pick a destination that offers a variety of activities or a pleasant place to do nothing at all. There’s nothing wrong with sitting on the front porch talking with family members while the more active relatives head out for a hike. And be flexible with time. Not everyone can (or will want to) stay the entire time you’ve planned. If there’s a big party scheduled, plan it when the majority can attend.
Get plenty of space. Big vacation houses give everyone a chance to spread out and do their own thing, plus when the rental costs are divided between enough guests, they can be quite affordable. Families with young children have room for cribs and quiet time for naps. Teens have a place to play video games and sleep in. Above all, find a place with plenty of bathrooms! Agree to the care of shared space and learn to look away. If it’s your turn to clean the kitchen, clean it, likewise, if your brother waits until all the glasses are dirty before washing, take a deep breath and take a walk.
Get outside help. Let’s say you agree everyone will spring for the big amusement park trip or the family cruise. Contact a travel agent or a representative at the destination for help. They’ll be able to suggest activities, offer discounts for bulk rooms, help plan the big barbeque, and suggest extra fun activities that you might not have thought of.
Make it fun. Get t-shirts made for everyone, and make welcome signs. Do a little home publishing and give everyone a brochure of planned activities, facilities available and local maps. Set up a shared photo site where everyone can upload snapshots. Hand out one time use cameras to the kids and let them get creative. Computer savvy teens can build souvenir memory books for older family members who might not be computer literate.
Relax and have fun! It’s a family reunion not a family rebellion, after all! You can organize and plan and schedule and it’s never going to go exactly as you envisioned. Remember to take a deep breath and roll with the punches. Remember the old saying, “Hope for the best and plan for the worst.” Remember that kids will be kids and sometimes the adults will be kids, too. Remember your sister in law is a neat freak and your brother is a slob and in the end it won’t really matter
Most importantly, remember to take lots of pictures, including a group photo. Time marches on, generations pass on and your relatives all lead busy lives. You may not see all your family together in one place again, so treasure every moment.