Travel reunions — travel that brings your family together — are one of the best ways to strengthen family ties and have some great fun. Although planning is required to make it come together smoothly, it is worth it. What do you need to do to have a successful travel reunion? Keep reading to see how we planned a family travel reunion with my four adult children, three spouses, and five grandchildren…
Choose a date and a location
Choose a date for your reunion that gives everyone enough time to save money, make arrangements to get work off, and make preparations for travel (see my article: ‘How to Plan a Trip‘ if you need specifics). Now you just need to choose a location! We recently had a family reunion during the week of Thanksgiving. You’ll need to consider the weather, distance that family members will be required to travel, and the cost of traveling there. In our case, we had family in the San Francisco area, San Diego, and in central Utah. Our family members in Utah had less flexibility in their schedules, so we chose a date that required very little time off of work/college and a location they could get to within a few hours of driving time. We chose St. George, Utah — sunny with 60-degree highs during November, close to historic sites, Zion National Park, hiking, and the Tuacahn amphitheater–and only about 3 1/2 hours drive from BYU, where my son was attending college.
Choose your lodging
This was, by far, the most fun part for me! My favorite website to use is Homeaway.com. They have a large variety of housing options to choose from, and the prices are reasonable. In the past, we’ve booked cabins, homes, apartments, and studios through Homeaway. This time, we would need a large house with a good-sized kitchen for our Thanksgiving dinner. Any time you can use a well-equipped kitchen to prepare your own meals, you’ll save a lot of money compared to dining out! There were other things to consider, too. We had four married couples among us and 5 young grandchildren (some who still required naps). Family privacy as well as a large area where we could gather for games and meals was important. For these reasons, I chose the Thompson Mansion. I loved the fact that it was divided into four separate suites, each with a bedroom, living room, bathroom, and kitchen. But we could easily pass from one suite to another when doors were unlocked. Can you imagine how nice it was to have four kitchens available for preparing our Thanksgiving meal?! It was also a treat to have found a beautifully restored historic home. I’m a bit of a history buff, so it had more meaning and character. It didn’t hurt that it was across the street from another historic pioneer mansion with free tours.
Plan activities/divide responsibilities
Many hands make for light work, so it really helps to divide responsibilities. You can assign different meals to different family members…or assign the same part of meal preparation for every meal. For example, the gals prepare meals and the guys clean up afterwards. Choose meals that are not to difficult to prepare. You don’t want to spend your entire getaway in the kitchen! You can bring groceries with you or purchase all your supplies after arriving, from a local store. (Be sure to check what kind of resources are available where you’ve chosen to stay). Find out what is available where you’re staying. The Thompson Mansion had laundry facilities but not much laundry detergent. We also needed to buy napkins, paper towels, dish soap, and sponges. Be sure to have a plan for dividing expenses.
Part of our planning included finding fun activities in the area. I like to use Tripadvisor.com to find the top attractions in an area. We made a list of all the things that sounded interesting to us. In some cases, you may want to buy tickets in advance or make reservations for tours, etc. We decided we didn’t want to be tied down to a schedule, especially with young children that would need to fit in naps. Our list of activities included hiking in Zion National Park, touring the historic Brigham Young home, watching a live nativity at the Tuacahn amphitheater, touring the tabernacle, taking family pictures, checking out a thrift store, and watching football games–we were happy to find the home had a large-screen TV! Not everyone did everything, but we did have plenty of together time.
Create memories and take lots of pictures
I think the most important thing is just having fun together. This is a reunion you want to remember for a long time to come! We played lots of games, played with our grandchildren, went for walks together, enjoyed some great meals, and even played in the fall leaves together. We took lots of pictures, including some family portraits, so we’d have something to remind us of all the fun.
“If you build it, they will come”
Remember the movie, Field of Dreams, with Kevin Costner? He was told if he would build a baseball field, the ghosts of past players would come to play. If you “build” (plan) a family travel reunion, your family will come. And you might be surprised to see who else comes too! I’m telling you it can be contagious. As soon as our extended family members learned we were headed to Utah, this is what happened: my in-laws decided to drive down, stay at a hotel down the street, and join us for Thanksgiving dinner plus our family games and outings. Then, my husband’s sister decided she would fly in from Minnesota with her family and stay at a friend’s home in St. George, too. Finally, my brother-in-law decided to drive up from Las Vegas with his family to join us. Do you know we ended up with 26 people for our Thanksgiving dinner? And it was amazing! It was so fun to see everyone again and now we have some great shared experiences to help us feel closer to all these family members.
As I’ve always said, travel strengthens families. And this is why I say it. Traveling away from home gets you away from your everyday routine. It makes you more conducive to reaching out to others and connecting. It takes you away from regular distractions that can make family connections difficult. I hope I’ve convinced you to plan a travel reunion for your family!
Please share your family travel reunion tips or experiences — I’d love to hear what you’ve done!