Traveling with Kids
Planning a Successful Family Reunion - Part II

Planning a Successful Family Reunion - Part I

Congratulations, you've just volunteered - or been volunteered - to organize your next family reunion. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of your relatives are counting on you to plan a great event. Don't stress out. Follow these basic steps to ensure the family reunion is a wild success.

1. Start planning today. Family reunions can be particularly time consuming. So start early. Planning in advance will increase the odds that more people will be able to attend the reunion, which translates into more fun for everyone. By booking early, you can most likely secure better rates and/or reserve your preferred hotel or retreat site, flights and other travel arrangements.

2. Guest list size. Deciding which members of the family to invite and how far to extend the family tree can create stress and challenges. It's akin to planning a wedding invitation list. You don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and yet you have to draw the line somewhere. This is a personal family decision. While you can extend the invitation to more people over time, in order to begin the planning process it's critical to understand how big of an event you are planning and to have a rough sense of who will be attending.

3. Money matters. Your group's budget is perhaps the most important consideration to understand up-front. When estimating the expense for each attendee, consider the costs of transportation (by air or car), lodging, food and entertainment. With input from other family members, set a budget that will be comfortable for the vast majority of the family. If you will be collecting money from attendees to help cover the costs of special events and activities, keep detailed records of your expenses including any deposits for hotels, caterers or other service providers. Unfortunately, trip organizers are often left holding the bag with extra expenses. Don't be shy to ask for contributions. And, while you want to keep the event as affordable as possible, make sure you add some buffer to your budget. If there's extra money left over, splurge on a special treat for the group, or bank the funds for the next reunion. Most importantly, plan activities that can be enjoyed regardless of budget: potlucks, games, music, storytelling.

4. Choose the date. First of all, know in advance that you will not be able to accomodate everyone's schedule. With that in mind, here are hints to get the best date locked in:

  • If you're scheduling the reunion around a particular event (i.e., a grandparent's birthday or 50th wedding anniversary), holiday or school break then your options may be limited. If you're not date constrained, and if there are particular family members who absolutely must be there, speak with them first.
  • Next, talk to key family members (i.e., Uncle Bob who keeps in close contact with many people in and beyond his branch of the family tree) to determine if there are other events that might create a conflict for a number of possible attendees.
  • Then select 3-4 dates that provide sufficient planning time, and send these dates to the family.
  • Ask people to let you know which dates work best for them of the 3-4 options you provide, but make sure to emphasize that the majority rules so no one feels singled out if they are not able to attend.
  • Many people may not be able to fully commit six or more months in advance so you may need to request guesstimates. To increase your response rate and make decision making easier, give people a deadline and ask them to rank their date preferences.
  • Finally, stick to your decision. Changing dates mid-stream can create a phenomenal amount of additional work.

Give us feedback and your lessons learned by posting a comment. Read Part 2.


Hey!! these are some really good tips on planning a family reunion... and yes... deciding upon the budget is extremely critical... as sometimes... this even raises conflicts... and yup!! include only those members in the guest list whom u are sure off attending the celebrations... coz...mostly at reunions people tend to promise and then they don't turn up...

We were looking for options this summer as everyone seems to be strapped financially. I appreciate your time and service in compiling this for us. Thanks

Thanks for the tip. Planning these sort of things are really time consuming and I think you just made it that much easier :)

I think it is SO important to "plan games that can be enjoyed regardless of budget". I am continually amazed at families that charge $70- $130.00 per person to attend their reunion. I know I couldn't afford to attend.

Sometimes a reunion at a park or campground is more work than booking a hotel or cruise ship but isn't it worth having ALL your family attend- not just those that can afford the reunion fees?

I have a reunion planning web page that can help families plan their next family reunion or family get-together. Not just a "planner", but actual ideas, schedules and templates to make your next reunion memorable - meant to inspire and guide your reunion planning.

On my site, you can download a free reunion sing-a-long book, and instructions for building a "Human Foosball" court. Read my blog and find out how to add "silliness" to your meal with a "Wheel of Doom" and don't forget to check out the ice breaker games.

Good luck on your next family reunion!

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