Our family, like many families these days, is spread far and wide across the world. When we all come together, we really enjoy each others’ company, but it takes a bit of planning to make it happen. We range in age from 8-80, and who knows soon we may have babies in the family again. We have staged a couple of great, extended family reunions (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, kids) and a few with just my own family- grandparents, siblings and kids. So here are our tips to make a multigenerational family reunion successful based on experience.
Location, Location, Location
I put this one first, as I think deciding where to have the family reunion might be the most important decision!
If people are traveling from all over the country or the world, some considerations to keep in mind:
- Somewhere with easy airport connections is always a good choice.
- An airport shuttle so everyone doesn’t have to rent a car upon arrival and drive. This also accommodates people coming early or late as single arrivals.
- The venue should be walkable or have good, public transport.
A destination that is walkable once you arrive is perfect for teenagers and young adults so they can be independent. And everyone can come and go as they like rather than needing to coordinate cars and drivers.
We have had several multigenerational family reunions and good transport or walking, options which do not rely on the car, is one of the keys. People can do what interests them without having to coordinate everything!
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Set the date early, the earlier the better! A full year in advance is not too early.
- Everyone can plan well in advance!
- Super saver airfares can save folks who are traveling a lot of money by booking when these specials are available- sometimes hundreds of dollars per airfare. If a family is traveling this adds up quickly. (Hint: set an airfare alert and get notified of the specials!)
- If there are school age children in your family, keep in mind the school holidays.
Decide How Long
If you have people traveling, it is best to make the multigenerational family reunion last more than one day. The idea here is to spend some time together! Five to seven days works well for us and is a good length of time. Remember some people will arrive late or leave early due to other commitments. Aim for 3-4 days when everyone is there.
Have any family milestones? An 80th birthday, a 50th, a 35th wedding anniversary, a high school or college graduation or all of these? Make it part of the reason for the reunion and celebrate it together!
Plan a big night as the highlight of the reunion, try and make it in the middle of the dates, so everyone will be there.
One extended family reunion was for a 70th birthday, mid-way through the 5 days, while everyone was there, we had a full sit down dinner for everyone! The last extended multigenerational family reunion, we had Christmas, with everyone there.
Allow Some Free Time
Arranging some scheduled or group activities but also allowing free time to let people do their own thing is a good mix. A good group activity is something that takes advantage of where you are and lets the visitors explore the area.
This might be a walking tour, a trip to a local museum, a hike, a barbecue or picnic at a local park. Something your whole family will enjoy.
At one extended family reunion, in Park City Utah, there was an art festival on. We all attended together. We also made a trip to a local lake- some people hiked, some played Frisbee golf and some had a leisurely walk and a coffee around the lake. The teenagers and young adults organized a whitewater rafting trip and had a day they will always remember together.
This is an important aspect and one of the keys to your success, as the idea of the multigenerational family reunion is to spend some time together!
- A large private home (try VRBO)
- A small boutique hotel (where you can book the entire venue)
- A bed and breakfast (where you can book the entire venue)
Things to Look for in Accommodation
- The ability to cook and/or eat meals together as a family.
- Multiple leisure spaces- so people can gather in smaller groups at different times.
- Have activities you can do at your accommodation- a pool or hot tub, a pool table or ping-pong, room for outdoor games (cornhole or some other game you can all play together) or board games.
- Internet access for those wanting access!
- A shuttle providing local transport if you can’t walk.
- Access to local activities including shopping, bars and restaurant
Some Ideas for Location
We have had a few of these family reunions now, most have been in private homes, but we have also used a B & B, and a boutique hotel. (The B&B had the option to rent with services or without- so we rented without and made full use of the commercial kitchen. The 10 rooms with 11 bathrooms and a large dining room fitting us all at one table, made sure all 25 of us were very comfortable.)
Locations we have used for family reunions:
- Gatlinburg, TN
- Vail, CO
- Steamboat Springs, CO
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Antigua, Guatemala
Mountain ski towns make a great option for a multigenerational family reunions in the summer. They usually have:
- Great accommodation options (much cheaper than in the winter).
- Provide easy access from the airport.
- Have a town shuttle or you can walk everywhere.
- Numerous festivals or other activities in the summer months.
- Have great weather!
Eating and Meals
Yes- everyone needs to eat! Some things to consider:
- Breakfast- everyone will not wake-up at the same time. Something informal and casual where people can help themselves or a set time for those wanting a cooked breakfast. i.e. pancakes served at 9am or you can have cereal, toast, fruit, coffee and tea at your own schedule.
- Lunch- everyone won’t be around. Have some food available for those wanting lunch at your accommodation (salads and sandwiches) or people can eat lunch while they are out.
- Dinner- one big event and maybe each family has a night when they cook something, i.e. a large pasta dish one night. Ordering in- pizzas one evening, and maybe a night when everyone goes out or does their own thing. It will depend on your family and how many people cook and the facilities at your accommodation.
When we had the large commercial kitchen for 5 days- we catered for everyone by rotating breakfast and dinner cooking duties. We asked about dietary restrictions, what they wanted to cook, set a menu and did one large shop at Costco.
We posted the daily menu and people could then plan accordingly. The key is being organized!
At the boutique hotel, breakfast was provided every morning and we used a combination of local restaurants, take away food and cooking/catering for lunches and dinners.
Make sure you take a picture of the whole family. It doesn’t have to be a big production. We did this one afternoon while everyone was there, then had them printed at the local shop, framed and gave everyone one to take home. It makes a great memory of the trip!
Making Your Multigenerational Family Reunion a Success
Probably the one thing I didn’t say, is someone needs to organize the event. One person usually takes the lead and uses a small group- 2-3 people as advisors. Maybe someone from each family, or the person living closest to the reunion location that can assist. The advisors are the ones you can ask about venue, dates, etc. before you make a final decision and start booking things.
Hopefully our experiences with our family are useful. Start with these tips and adapt them to what will work for your family.
If you have any other suggestions or experiences of your own that might help someone else, please leave a comment below (a URL is not required to leave a comment)