Planning a family reunion is the perfect way to maintain strong ties as your family grows and changes. Getting everyone together in one place helps family members build new relationships and keep old ones strong. Reunions also give everyone the chance to catch up on recent events and remember family members who’ve passed away.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Checklist or Itinerary for a Typical Family Reunion on a Budget
- Checklist or Itinerary for a Family Reunion Vacation
If you’re in charge of planning a family reunion, you might not know where to start. Below, we’ll provide a simple checklist for creating a memorable family reunion, whether you’re taking the family on vacation or hosting the event at home.
Checklist for a Typical Family Reunion on a Budget
Family reunions can end up being budget-busters if you’re not careful. Room and board for your immediate family plus dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins-once-removed can add up fast.
If you want to host a family reunion every year or two, you might not want to splurge on pricy vacations or venues. Instead, you can use the checklist below to plan a family reunion on a budget.
Set the date
The key to stress-free reunion planning is starting as early as possible. Set the date well in advance—preferably nine months to a year ahead of time. Busy families with children usually need to plan around their kids’ school schedules.
You can identify a few ideal dates that might work, and then ask each family to choose the one that works best. Or, you can ask each family to send in a list of their ideal family reunion dates.
Choose the location
The next key point to consider for your family reunion is the location. Even if you’re not taking everyone on a vacation, it’s important to consider your family members’ travel capabilities. You may need to hold the reunion closer to elderly loved ones who aren’t as capable of traveling long distances. Families with small children may need the same type of consideration.
If you have family scattered all across the country, you might have a reunion in a different family member’s home state each year.
Check out our guide on family reunion theme ideas if you decide on hosting a themed family get together.
Create a Facebook page
It can be hard to communicate with everyone in your family about the upcoming family reunion. And it can be even more difficult to safely set a date and location without confirming everyone’s schedule, first.
You can simplify the process by creating a Facebook Page that’s specifically dedicated to your family reunion. Make sure to invite everyone to the page who you plan to invite to the actual reunion.
Pick your point-people
Not every member of every family has to be involved in the planning of the family reunion. Instead, you can pick a point-person in each family unit. This person is the one you’ll go to if you have questions about the family’s availability, travel arrangements, and other variables.
Instead of trying to track down everyone each time you have a question, you should have one designated person for each family unit. This will leave you with much fewer people to corral and navigate with throughout the process. Just make sure your point-people are well-informed and capable of making decisions on behalf of their family unit.
Even if you get everyone on board with the family reunion Facebook Page, you should still try to send out paper invitations in advance of the reunion. Some family members won’t consider the date official unless they have it written down on paper.
In your invitation, be sure to include a “Please RSVP” line to encourage family members to let you know whether or not they plan to come.
Ask for help with the budget
You don’t have to pay for things like the venue and catering on your own just because you’re in charge of planning the family reunion. In fact, other members of the family will likely be willing to pitch in and cover your share since you’re putting in all the work.
On the Facebook Page, you can post a link to a fundraising page, where all of your family can contribute towards the target amount. Give a price-per-person that’s required to meet the reunion’s financial requirements.
Create an itinerary
At least a month before you and the family arrive on-site at the reunion, you should consider sending out a full itinerary. The itinerary is a detailed schedule that everyone can follow to make sure they’re in the same place at the same time.
Include travel and pickup times for each family, as well as when you’re meeting for activities and meals. Detail who’s in charge of transportation to each event, if needed, and list your point-persons’ contact information on a separate page.
You might even consider printing out map directions to different locations, especially if you have older relatives who don’t easily use GPS.
Checklist for a Family Reunion Vacation
A family reunion can be more exciting and provide even more bonding opportunities if you take the family on vacation. Whether you choose a snowy mountain lodge or a sunny seaside resort, a vacation reunion is even more complex than one you have at home.
Here are some additional steps that you’ll need to take if you’re having your family reunion be part vacation.
Plan the reunion around school holidays
If you want any families with children to come to the family reunion, and it’s going to be more than a few days, you’ll need to find a time like spring break or summer vacation.
If you’ve picked out your point-people for each family unit, you can start the planning process by asking them for the dates that will work for them. Begin with the families that have kids in school (including those in college or university), and go from there.
Pick the right destination
Choosing a destination for your family reunion vacation can be the most exciting part. You have the opportunity to check an amazing location off your bucket list while bonding with family at the same time.
But choosing the location can also be the most headache-inducing and time-consuming. If you already have a Facebook Page set up, or you’re communicating with your point-people as described above, you can quickly brainstorm a few options.
Ask each family unit leader for their top three to five destination picks. Then, compare everyone’s lists to see which locations appear the most. You’ll probably need to have a video conference call with your point-people to hash out the pros and cons of different destinations and come to your final decision.
If you’re going out of the country, everyone will need a passport. The last thing you want is to get the call that several of your guests can’t make it because their paperwork is expired or missing.
As soon as you select the location for your vacation family reunion, make sure everyone has the necessary travel documents. It can be helpful to create a spreadsheet listing each family, and each person’s name within each family.
As you get confirmation that people have up-to-date passports, check their names off the list. It may seem tedious to begin with, but creating an organized document will save you time in the long run.
Make reservations for accommodations and meals
A large group of people traveling to a distant destination requires as much planning ahead as possible. At many vacation destinations, you might be able to rent a larger vacation home that can house all or most of the family together under one roof. Alternatively, you’ll need to find a hotel, resort, or campsite that has room for everyone on your chosen dates.
The same goes for dining out. Restaurants won’t readily accept super-large parties, so you’ll need to make reservations for your family reunion well in advance. If your family is staying in a vacation home, you can supplement your dining out with home-cooked meals.
Refine your itinerary
With a destination reunion, the itinerary is even more essential. Make sure to include all of the information listed above, as well as the locations for accommodation and dining. If you’re planning to have home-cooked meals at your vacation home, list who’s in charge of the grocery shopping and cooking for each meal.
Depending on where you’re going for the vacation, you can pre-determine what your family will do each day during the vacation. Consider making a spreadsheet showing the different activities for morning, afternoon, and evening.
You can include activities for the whole family to do together, as well as some that are sectioned for just kids or only the older siblings, etc. There should be some optional activities which people can choose between, as well as time for one-on-one activities.
Review your budget
It’s important to make a budget for any family reunion, but it’s even more essential to create a detailed fiscal outline for a vacation reunion. Once you plan all of your activities, reservations, and lodging, make sure you have the budget to cover everything.
If you find the budget lacking, send out a notice and reactivate your fundraising goal to source more cash. You can also inform each family unit that they’ll need to bring a certain amount of spending money to cover things like activities and grocery trips.
Send out a reminder
About a month to six weeks before it’s time to head out for the family reunion, it’s a good idea to send out a written letter to each household. Include a quick reminder of the key reunion dates, and ask each family to inform you if any member of their household can’t make it.
You can also include the itinerary so that people can start thinking about what meals they want to prepare on their assigned nights, as well as what activities they’ll enjoy. The itinerary can also help each family unit refine their budget and know exactly what to pack in their suitcases.
Start Simple with Family Reunions
If you’ve never planned a family reunion before, it’s best to start out simple. In years to come, you can get more elaborate and plan adventurous outings out of state or country. But for now, you may want to stick to a simple gathering at a family member’s home, or at least nearby.
Starting simple with your family reunion will not only help you out as the planner, but it will also help everyone involved get used to the rituals and traditions of the family reunion. As you learn to navigate the event together, you’ll slowly but surely become more able to take that show on the road.