A reunion is a great way to gather family members, classmates, old friends, wedding parties or organizations with the same affinity, for a wonderful vacation.
Whether your group is large or small, consider getting help from the start by calling in the experts.
Travel agents can take care of details ranging from recommending appropriate destinations, to arranging for airline tickets and making hotel or car rental reservations.
For large groups, a travel agent can negotiate special group airfare and hotel rates that would be otherwise unavailable.
Start planning early
Planning a reunion can become complicated, especially a large reunion involving lots of people. Experienced reunion planners recommend that families begin planning up to two years in advance.
Give your group members enough advance notice to adjust their own schedules in order to attend. A reunion that involves traveling long distances, or an adventure such as a cruise or a trip out of the country, may require much more time for members to save money and make special arrangements for extended leave from work.
Be prepared for guests who require special consideration. Everyone has different needs, and it is important to the success of your event to be aware of those needs and have adequate time to plan accordingly. Even guests with disabilities should not be excluded as cruise companies, holiday resorts and all other vacation-related properties go out of their way to accommodate people with special needs.
Select a date and stick with it
Picking a date that works for everyone can be one of the most difficult - but one of the most important - steps in planning a family reunion.
If possible, avoid the busy times of the year. Try not to schedule your family reunion around major holidays, or during prom and graduation season, as prices may vary accordingly with the high demand.
Select a date that will come closest to working for everyone.
Communicate plans far enough in advance that attendees will be able to avoid conflicting events.
Avoid changing the date. Once you announce the date to family members, they will immediately begin planning other activities around it.
Communicate early, often
Communicate your plans early so that your group members will have adequate time to plan their participation in the event.
A reunion newsletter is an excellent way to keep the family up-to-date on the planning process, who will attend and what activities are planned.
E-mail is an inexpensive way to maintain communication with reunion guests and provides an easy way for guests to ask questions and provide feedback.
Let family members submit ideas for planned activities, venues and menus so you can make your final decision on what would please the majority.
Plan activities that everyone can enjoy
Reunions are unique in that they can involve people from all over the world, each with different interests. Your guests may span up to four generations and it is important to consider ages and physical limitations when planning activities.
Grandparents may not want to participate in activities such as scuba diving or water skiing. Likewise, children may not enjoy ballroom dancing.
Consider a cruise ship or an all-inclusive resort. Each offers entertainment options with different degrees of energy output for every generation and can take much of the stress out of planning.
Ask your guests what they enjoy doing and see if the venue comes close to their interests.
Choose a venue that is large and offers a variety of things to do for all concerned.
Be sure to enjoy your own party
Planning a reunion can be a stressful endeavor. Let your travel agent do as much of the following directly with your guests, so that you are not bogged down with those details and with the related accounting that automatically comes with each transaction. That will take a great load off your shoulders. Some agencies will even go so far as to prepare the flier with all pertinent details of the event. It's there for the asking, so use it. And, at the time of the event itself, ask for help so it does not become so burdensome that you are not able to spend time with your guests and enjoy the fruits of your labor . recruit helpers. But with proper planning that will be avoided, to be sure; that's almost a given.
Take advantage of holiday gatherings
The holiday season is a great time for doing some important reunion organizing, so use some of your time together to make decisions that can really move planning process along. Have a firm date. Notify group members. Choose a location.
Determine a budget and invite members to begin contributing to a reunion fund. Consider setting up a bank account.
Be well organized, but most of all don't forget to choose the best travel agent, to suit your needs.
Commit to committees
Appoint committees and regular schedule meetings if/when possible. Conference calling or computer sessions may work well for you when members of the group are spread apart.
Winter is a great time to prepare for summer trips
If your group has decided to produce a quilt or other reunion project (cookbook, family history, memory book or directory), starting early is very wise. Use holiday visits and correspondence to ask members for information or content. This is a great time of year to outline your expectations for next summer's reunion in a newsletter or broadcast e-mail.
If you are the family genealogist or historian, you'll need to prepare your materials for display and sharing at the reunion. Pictures of ancestors and their homes must be collected and organized, and visits to the places they lived have to be arranged ahead of time.
Collecting artifacts and labeling them to explain what they are/were used for and assembling tapes of oral history from family elders are just a few things you can complete this winter in preparation for your summer event.
Family history is the one thing everyone at the reunion has in common. Celebrate it.
Identify a reunion theme that connects all family members.
Shared experiences and memories are a powerful source of unity for any group. Organize your reunion around a theme that everyone in your group can relate to.
Plan activities that focus on the commonalties family members share.
Activities that reinvigorate cherished family moments strengthen bonds. Old family photographs, a night of swapping stories, photo albums, videos or games that require knowledge of the groups' prior activities.
Elicit input from everyone who is going to attend about time, place and activities. This gives all the family members a sense of ownership for the reunion rather than simply being an attendee.
Recognize that there may be some pre-reunion jitters, and take steps to help curtail them.
Plan activities that allow everyone to feel like an important part of the family and let people know beforehand about these plans.
Develop some activities that require family members to work together and depend on each other to complete a task.
Besides shared experiences, another way to build unity is through interdependence. Working together on any project creates a sense of accomplishment and togetherness.
Don't underestimate the importance of planning, organization and structure.
The research clearly indicates that successful family reunions don't just happen they are well planned, structured and organized.
Make important decisions, rules and boundaries prior to the reunion. Use everyone's input.
All of us have lifestyles and daily living patterns that make sense in our own adult lives and families, but these might be different from other adults in the group.
It's essential that rules for daily living are discussed and compromises reached prior to the reunion rather than during it.
After all is said and done, and after the great planning effort as delineated above, sit back, enjoy the great moments during the event from which you will return with precious memories.
Geraldine Blanchard is a travel consultant with Global Tours and Travel at 559 W. Eau Gallie Blvd. Melbourne. She can be reached at (321) 676-6040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information, visit www.globaltours.com.