Where many activities are concerned, there is an easy way to do things, which is usually expensive, and a cheap way to do things, which usually is not easy. Family reunions are no exception. You can spend a lot of money and not much effort, or you can expend a lot of effort but not so much money. Thank goodness there are also some in-between options. Best suited for gatherings of less than a hundred people, these ideas for planning a family reunion are tailored to fit those who want something easy, something economical or something in between.
Where to Meet
Easy: Choose a resort, dude ranch or cruise, and you won’t have to worry about arranging lodging, food or entertainment. Children’s programs allow the adults to have some grown-up time. One possible drawback is that family members may be drawn in too many different directions by the entertainment options, and bonding may suffer.
A hotel is the other easy choice. A hotel location is likely to be pricey, but unlikely to offer a lot of amenities, although there may be lots of entertainment and dining options nearby. A hotel is considerably more work if you are going to leave for meals and entertainment. Schedules will have to be planned, and transportation arranged.
Cheap: A camping family reunion is a truly economical choice. Camping, of course, can mean anything from tents to RVs, which is nice for mixed groups where some folks may not be fond of roughing it. Campgrounds, however, often have separate campgrounds for tents and RVs, so you may sacrifice some closeness if you choose different styles of camping. A similar option is to choose the rustic cabins or shelters offered in some parks. You have a bit more protection if the weather turns vile, and it’s easier to pack for a cabin stay.
Another cheap choice involves using one of the family member’s homes. If someone in the family has some acreage, choose that home as the headquarters. Some people can be accommodated in the home, and some pitch their tents or park their RVs on the property.
In-between: If you are looking for something in a middle cost range, consider renting adjacent condos, a large beach or vacation home, or several houses or cottages grouped closely together. Lodging costs will still be fairly high, but you’ll be able to prepare meals, which is a huge savings.
Another in-between option is for everyone to stay in an inexpensive motel and rent a community center or church recreation hall for the actual reunion.
What to Eat
Easy: Let someone else do the cooking. If you opt for a cruise or resort, the only problem you’re likely to have is not gaining too much weight. If staying in a hotel and eating in hotel restaurants or nearby restaurants, the most hassle-free method is to let people eat one or two meals a day on their own schedules and to arrange one or two meals for the whole group.
Cheap: Those going for camping or cabin reunions will have the option of preparing their own meals, but it’s much more fun to eat together. Your meals can be potluck, where everyone brings a contribution, but these sometimes result in strange combinations. A better choice is to assign a meal to each family or branch of the family. The meal preparers can choose a menu that suits their budget and food-preparation skills. It’s nice if menus are announced ahead of time so that those on special diets will know if they need to bring their own food. Parents will also know whether they need to bring special foods for picky eaters.
In-between: If you have chosen a venue where you can prepare your own food, splurge on one meal out. If there are older children who are trustworthy enough to babysit the younger children, the adults can have a special dinner on their own.
What to Do
Easy: If you are staying at a resort or going on a cruise, you’ll have a wide choice of activities. If staying in a hotel, an easy solution is to go to a water park or amusement center for a few hours, or simply make the hotel pool the center of activities.
Cheap: Bring sports equipment and games, and let attendees choose their own recreation. Washers, ladder ball and bocce are games that can be played by those of all ages. After dinner, have a sing-along, or listen to the musically talented ones in the family play or sing. Tell stories or jokes, or play charades.
In-between: A choice that’s still cheap but not quite so easy is to organize family games and competitions. A balloon or egg toss will be a hit. Musical chairs is fun for all ages. A family trivia game can be a learning experience for all, but such games do require a bit of preparation. Board games are a good choice when it's time to wind down. No matter which games are chosen, someone will need to be in charge of buying small prizes for the winners. A fun alternate to prizes is to award ribbons that can be worn proudly for the rest of the gathering.