Getting It Right– Choosing A Family Reunion Location

This is a freelance article authored by Sally Fain

family reunion location blog

Getting It Right – Picking A Family Reunion Location

A family reunion can be great fun, but it can also be fraught with difficulties. Every family is different, and therefore likely to react differently to different situations. While some family reunions may work best if the family remains closely grouped and in proximity to one another at all times, other families may understandably feel that being around one another 24/7 is a high-speed route to irrevocable family breakdown! Choosing the right location for your reunion is therefore crucial to ensure that everything goes according to plan. Luckily, there’s an ideal place out there for everyone!

Reunion Locations- Consider The Kids

hotel

One major factor to take into consideration is how many children will be attending your reunion. If it’s not very many, or those that are attending are older teens, then finding somewhere with child-friendly activities is not so much of an issue. However, if a lot of attendees have young kids, then it is crucial to make sure that you book a place which will give the kids plenty to do.

While chatting, reminiscing, and catching up over a few beverages can keep adults occupied for hours, the same is not necessarily true of children. While many kids will, to a certain extent, play together and keep each other entertained, relying solely on the capacity of your children and the children of your relatives to play nicely together can be a recipe for disaster.

You don’t want to spend the whole of your reunion breaking up fights over toys etc, and dealing with bored, grizzly kids. You also would like your offspring to enjoy the reunion as much as you will. As such, it’s probably a good idea to plan ahead and book a place which gives the kids plenty of scope to run around, enjoy themselves, and be nicely tired out by the time the grown-ups retire to the bar for that all-important gossip. Many theme parks like Walt Disney World family reunion packages which are sure to delight both adults and children. If this is perhaps a little too child-centric, try picking a venue with a play-park, a crèche, or a toy-room attached.

Relaxation

cruise ship

Ideally, many people want to combine their family reunion with a vacation. Meeting up with the relatives can be stressful, so many people try and choose a relaxing location in order to ease the pressure a bit. There are plenty of spas and country retreat which offer a relaxing family reunion package, but smaller families could do a lot worse than to book themselves onto a cruise. While some may quail at the thought of being stuck on a boat with their extended family for days, others will be surprised at just how much scope for family fun and gentle, solo relaxation is provided by cruise lines these days. Even the kids will be happy, as plenty of cruise lines offer a considerable amount of child-centric activity. Most cruises make plenty of shore stops in diverse locations, meaning that you can cement your family bonds by experiencing new places and cultures together, or escape from them all in a foreign port for a couple of hours – whatever floats your boat (excuse the pun).

Accommodation Without Compromise

suitcase 2

Most families, of course, do not fall neatly into any particular category. They are made up of diverse elements, all of which want different things out of a family reunion. Ideally, therefore, a family reunion venue should provide the opportunity both for teenagers (for example) to be alone with their phones, and for grandparents to spend a reasonable degree of time with their grandchildren without compromising either party too much. Parents will probably need a certain amount of space in which to corral their children and recover from familial overload, while at the same time having lots of facetime with relatives they’ve not seen for years.

A cabin vacation can accommodate a variety of such needs, without too much compromise. Retiring to individual cabins (or the beautiful countryside in which many such cabin facilities reside) gives those who need it some alone time, while those who wish to can gather and chat in one of the other cabins. Family can gather together at mealtimes, thus ensuring that time for connection and catch-up is given to everyone. A cabin vacation (or similar) gives individuals a degree of independence while ensuring that family connection still remains at the forefront of the reunion. Perfect for large groups with diverse needs!

Plan a Caroling Party for Family and Friends

caroling party

Gathering your family and friends together for Christmas caroling or a family sing-a-long is an easy party to plan.  Consider these helpful tips when planning your family caroling party.

Tips for Successful Christmas Caroling

image

Choose Your Music

Choose songs that are short, easy to sing, and fun. You should plan on singing 1 or 2 songs per house and end with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. 

To build your song list you can type and print your own caroling sheets or make copies of the free family reunion helper caroling book by clicking here- free Christmas caroling book.  The book is designed so that you only have to print off the music that you will use for your caroling such as- Santa songs, snow songs or spiritual songs etc.  Once you have your music you can plan the other elements of your caroling party.

Choose your caroling route

Caroling was a favorite family tradition when I was growing up. We weren’t the most talented group of singers but we were enthusiastic.

My Mom would choose 3 or 4 families that she knew would enjoy a caroling visit and she always made a few goodies to give them.  (Perhaps as payment for listening to us sing off key) We would end our caroling at a local nursing home.  Many of the children were reluctant to sing at the nursing home but as the years have gone by caroling at the nursing home has become one of their most talked about memories of the season.  HINT: If you visit a hospital or a nursing home, ask for permission ahead of time to make sure your visit comes at a good time and that they can accommodate a large group.

Consider Using a Variety of Instruments

image

Jingle bells, cymbals and drum sticks are an easy way to make your caroling fun.  Carolers that are too shy or just don’t want to sing can participate by keeping the beat with drum sticks or shaking the bells to the beat.

Dress for the Weather

If caroling outside dress for the weather.  When sending out invitations for your caroling party be sure and let your guests know that you’ll be caroling outdoors so they can bring their hats, gloves and scarves.  A fun party favor for your party could be hand and toe warmers. You can dress things up by asking everyone to wear a fun Santa hat or reindeer antlers.

Light up the night

Ask carolers to bring flashlight to the party or purchase inexpensive lights to help with reading the sheet music.   A flashlight will also help as you navigate sidewalks, stairs and uneven ground.  If you will be caroling with children give them glow in the  dark sticks and necklaces. 

Christmas caroling Water Bottles

Give carolers a water bottle to keep their throats lubricated. You can even customize your bottles with personalized labels.

Plan Refreshments for Your Carolers

At the end of your caroling party meet back at your house or rec hall and provide your carolers with bowls of chili and mugs of hot chocolate and marshmallows or cider.  You can keep your refreshments warm in slow cookers while you’re caroling.

image

5 Gallon Bucket Seats For Your Camping Reunion

Making and decorating their own 5 gallon bucket seat is a great ice breaker activity for your family reunion.

4th of july 2014 042

5 Gallon Bucket Seats for Your Family Reunion

If your family reunion is held at a campground you might find these 5 gallon bucket seats a fun and useful addition to your reunion. They’re easy to make and handy for storing anything you might want to access quickly such as flashlights, sunscreen, bug  spray, gloves etc.

What you’ll need:

4th of july 2014 028

5 gallon bucket (Have everyone bring their own bucket.  If you have family that will be traveling long distances to attend your reunion, purchase their buckets for them.)

Fabric-I like using bandanas

Polyethylene foam or quilt batting for the cushy part of your seat.

Particle board or for a more economic solution use cardboard.

Scissors

Sharpies

Staple guns

NOTE: Be sure and have plenty of scissors and staple guns so that people are not standing around waiting to use them.

Step 1. Cut the circles out of particle board or plywood scraps

Trace the lid for your pattern then use a jigsaw to cut circles from particle board or any scrap wood you may have.  You will want to have these cut in advance if you are camping.  Of course,if you are using cardboard they can be cut at the campsite.

Step 2:  Add The Padding.

For the first buckets we made we used very thick (2- 3 inch) foam but we found that any padding at all makes the bucket more comfortable- even a couple of layers of quilt batting works well.  Our best buckets were made with  1/2 inch Polyethylene Foam.

Place the wood circles on the foam and trace them. Cut the foam to fit.

NOTE: Be sure the handle of your bucket can move up and down. If your foam is too thick the handle won’t be able to move.

Step 3: Attach the fabric

4th of july 2014 031

Lay the wood piece on top of your fabric and add three inches to the circle. Cut out the fabric and then  using staple guns attach the batting and  fabric to the wood circle. Pull the fabric tight before stapling it on the board.

Step 4: Decorating Your 5 Gallon Bucket

4th of july 2014 036

Here’s the fun part!  If someone in your family has a vinyl cutting machine such as a silhouette, ask them to cut a variety of shapes and designs that can be used to personalize buckets.  Supply alphabet stickers, glitter glue, sticky jewels, buttons, ribbon  and permanent markers so family members can decorate their buckets in their own personal style.

4th of july 2014 035

4th of july 2014 038

How to Pay For Your Family Reunion

title paying for your family reunion2

We’re blaming it on the economy but whatever the reason, our family reunion fund raising auction last year was not as productive as in years past so we are faced with some new money challenges this year.  How are we going to pay for our family reunion?  We always joke about plugging our “money tree into the “currant” bush but this year I think we’re going to need some new ideas.

clip_image002[12]

To find a solution to our money concerns, I  talked to everyone I knew and did a lot of research on the internet and these are the ways I found that you are paying for your family reunions:

DSC_0987_thumb5

Hold a Family Auction

A family auction is a pretty typical way that families pay for their reunions. We’ve been holding reunion auctions for about 15 years now. Everyone brings something to donate to the auction. Some family members work all year to make a quilt or other special item for the reunion, some offer services such as haircuts and some bake cookies, brownies or bring produce from their garden. The best sellers at our reunion are always the crocheted dishtowels Grandma makes ($40.00- $80.00) and the hand-stitched heirloom quilts that Grandpa makes ($200.00- $400.00). Other popular items are restored and framed photos of ancestors and photo memory books- anything with sentimental value. No one counts the items someone brings or judges them on how much they bid, everyone does the best they can, sometimes more, sometimes less.

Divide Up the Costs

Divide all expenses equally (save receipts), or have everyone pay individually for expenses as they incur.

  clip_image002_thumb

Family Recipe Book

Collecting recipes and producing cookbooks and many other publishing projects such as directories, scrapbooks, and history books to sell at the reunion.  Many will purchase family recipe books to give as gifts to neighbors and friends during the holidays.

Pass The Hat

Pass the hat- let family members donate what they can to your reunion fund.

Fund Raising Sale

Food, beverage and white elephant sales. Food sales can net a nice profit if you consider carefully your reunion customers. A bake sale could feature desserts to eat right there as well as whole bakery specialties to take home.

Reunion Yard Sale

Family yard sale- hold a yard sale either individually or collectively, perhaps as part of your reunion.  Money raised goes in the family fund.

Personalized Family Products

Order personalized (imprinted) products such as t-shirts, caps, coffee mugs, pens, pencils…and many more items to sell.

Charge a Reunion Registration Fee

Charge a traditional registration fee to families. Some families charge per family unit and others charge different prices based on age and family size. Average cost families are charging for their reunions are adults (ages 13 and over)- $70.00, children- $40.00. Pay electronically or elect to pay with a bank check or money order.

Provide A Services Alternative

If some families can’t afford to pay then give them opportunities to provide service in exchange for paying fees- for instance could type in recipes for a family cookbook, maintain a family website or do family history research.

Cut Back on Reunion Time

The easiest way to reduce reunion expenses is to cut back on the time your reunion lasts. If you normally have a three day reunion cut back to two or just get together for a Saturday afternoon and evening. Make your meals potluck and enjoy the time, however short, that you have with each other. With finances in mind, some families opt not to have reunions every year.

Family Reunion Dues

Ask for reunion dues and ask family members to send a portion of their dues on a quarterly basis so that it isn’t a one-time large payment.

COUPON 6

Reunion Raffle

Hold a raffle of donated items from companies or family members during the reunion. Plane tickets or electronics are good money generating items.


Donations

Collect corporate donations or pledges for a fundraising event like a bike or 5K race. Corporations sometimes donate to large reunions where knowledge of the company’s name and contribution reaches many people.

clip_image002[10]

Family Reunion Pocket Change

Ask family members to save their pocket change during the year and bring it to the reunion. Count money by hand or take to a counting machine. Announce the grand total at your reunion.

Reunion Gifts

We are fortunate that we are able to go camping for our Stewart reunions and on the Wells’ side of the family we stay at the family condo. Location can be a huge expense but even that can be taken care of creatively.  My parents rent condos or motel rooms for family members instead of buying Christmas gifts- they’re giving the gift of family.

Punch Board Game

causey 003

Punch Board For Your Family Reunion

You’ve seen punch boards on the popular TV game show, The Price is Right, but a punch board can be a fun addition to your family reunion.  A punch board can be an exciting way to award prizes at your family reunion.  You can use a punch board to make assignments or choose what activity you will do next.

A larger board can also be a fair way to divide into teams- for example- write families names on slips of paper (Aunt Geri’s family or Uncle Dan’s family etc.)  Punch two or more holes- those families join  together to make a tug a war, softball or family skit group.  You can use the same strategy to assign seating for meals to mix things up a bit.

Creating Your Punch Board

To create your punch board you will need:

  • sturdy poster board or a piece of cardboard
  • tissue paper
  • Plastic disposable  bowls, lunch sacks or sandwich bags
  • prizes
  • tape & hot glue
  • causey 001
  • The first  punch board we created we used one  sheet  of tissue paper to cover the entire back of the board.  Since then we have found that covering each hole with individual squares seems to work best as  punching one hole may pull the paper from around other holes.  Tape each square securely around individual  holes.

  • Behind the Punch Board

There are several  options for hiding prizes behind your punch board.  My favorite option is plastic bowls. Carefully run a line of hot glue around the rim of your bowl and attach it to the inside of the tissue covered holes, with the prize inside.  Be sure and put your prize or secret message inside the bowl before attaching it to the board. Other options include taping a lunch sack to the back of each hole or plastic sandwich bags.

punch board use

Punch boards also make fun advent calendars.  Create yours with 24 holes and 24 prizes.  Punch out one prize each day to help count down days until Christmas or your favorite holiday.

Giant Activities for Your Family Reunion

Miscellaneous” Activities for Your Family Reunion

I considered calling this post ”Miscellaneous” activities for your family reunion because they aren’t theme driven but have proven to be great time fillers for small groups of people during our family reunions.

Giant Checkers Rug

camp 2014 mom's house 003

I have had this giant Checkers Rug for more than 20 years.  We set it out at every family reunion and you will always find two people playing Checkers no matter what time of day it is, usually with a small crowd gathered around cheering for the underdog to win.

Giant Coloring Pages

camp 2014 mom's house 004

Giant coloring pages are always a huge hit at our  family reunions. Of course, there isn’t room for a lot of people to sit around coloring, but it’s a great activities for someone looking for a little down  time.  Coloring pages come in different themes that would go along with your reunion theme- jungle, circus, Medieval etc.  Some pages come with markers for coloring but you’ll need to bring extra.  When your page is complete, roll it up carefully and then enter in your county fair or have it framed for Grandma.

The giant Checker rug and giant coloring pages are both available at the family reunion helper  store  for under twenty dollars.

Remote Control Car Racing for Your Family Reunion

race car with flames

We attended a party sponsored by my husbands company this summer and when we walked into the huge warehouse all the boys faces, young and old, lit up with excitement at what they saw.  A simple remote control race track had been set up in the warehouse and party goers were able to organize their own races against family and friends.  What a great party idea and what a fun idea for a family reunion!  Here’s how it works-

.20140628_101702

The Cars

If your reunion committee has the funds, purchase a few cars and at the end of your reunion auction them off  or have a prize drawing.  Another option is to invite family members to bring their own remote control cars to the reunion. If you’re planning in advance, a good time to purchase remote control cars in during the Thanksgiving Black Friday sales.

4th of july 2014 266

The RC Track

First you have to decide if you want a dirt track or an inside track. As far as size goes, you won’t need more than a 20-foot by 20-foot area. You can chart out the obvious oval course or focus on hard turns to make it more challenging. If you are racing on a hard surface, you can easily chart out the borders of the track using chalk or tape. Use 2x4s to make a sturdy track. A garden hose may also be a solution to keep the RC cars on the track. Depending on how many cars and racers you have the track should be within 5 to 7 feet wide.

20140628_093123

A barrier in the center of your track helps keep cars roaring around the track and may help keep younger racers from getting stuck in the center.  It can also be used as a control central for racers.

20140628_093127  4th of july 2014 333

RC Jumps and Obstacles

Now it’s time to have some fun adding obstacles and jumps. If your car is a cheaper model, add only slight jumps but medium cost remote control cars can fly right over jumps without being damaged. You can use 2 liter bottles that you spray paint bright orange as obstacles. Put a little sand in each bottle and use them for obstacles to weave in and out  off.  (You can use orange cones but the smaller ones get pushed out of place.) Another fun obstacle for your track is a tunnel made from plastic or metal that a remote control car can fit through.  If you are creating a dirt track the pipe can also double as the base for a jump if dirt is piled around it.  You will have to experiment to get the dirt at the right angle.  Tunnels can also be made out of cardboard boxes.

Race Day!

Have your track set up when reunion goers arrive.  Invite them to practice racing cars around the track then choose a few cars to race for prizes at the end of the day. Gift bags of “Hot Wheel” and “Cars” goodies are fun awards.

Race Day Party

  • You can find race day printable invitations, decoration ideas,printable Pit Passes, water bottle (fuel) labels and award certificates in the familyreunionhelper store at Race Day Party.
  • Whether for a family reunion or birthday party it’s a great party theme with plenty of ZOOM!

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Brain Games For Your Family Reunion

Planning Activities For Everyone

I always plan lots of physical activities for our family reunions- there’s no sitting around when  I  plan a reunion.  However; not  everyone is able to join in on a game of “Whiffle Ball” or run an obstacle course so I like to plan some “brain games” for them. 

You  can incorporate brain games into every reunion theme- Boot Camp, All Sport and Olympic themes are perfect themes for brain games.   If you are giving awards for your activities be sure to include awards for your “brain  games”.

Listed below is a one of my favorite brain games –

Brain Game

clip_image002

1. How many outs are in an inning of baseball? (6)

2. We celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July in the United States. Is there a 4th of July in England. (Yes, there is a 4th of July everywhere.)

3. Some months have 31 days, some have 30, how many have 28? (They all do)

4. You have become lost in the woods at night. It is winter and getting very cold. Spotting an abandoned cabin, you go inside. By the moonlight you see an oil lamp, an oil heater and some kindling wood in a fireplace. But you discover you only have one match. What do you light first? (the match)

5. Your doctor gives you three pills and tells you to take one every half hour. How long do they last? (One hour. Example: 12:00, 12:30, 1:00)

6. In the state of Mississippi, is it legal for a man to marry his widow’s sister? (He can’t; he’s dead)

7. Take two apples from three apples. How many do you get? (Two, you took two)

8. You’re a school bus driver. At the first stop in the morning, you pick up an eight year old and a six year old. At the second stop you pick up a third grader and two fourth graders. At the third stop you pick up the Gibson twins who are 11 and one five year old. At the fourth stop you pick up one 12 year old and three children who are seven. How old is the bus driver? (Your age, you are the school bus driver.)

9. Divide 30 by ½ and add 10. What do you get? (70)

10. How many animals did Moses take onto the ark? (None, Moses wasn’t on the ark, Noah was)

11. You build a house with four southern exposures. A bear walks by your living room window. What color is the bear? (white, it is a Polar Bear. You are at the north pole.)

12. You have two coins that total 55 cents. One of them is not a nickel. What are they? (Half dollar and a nickel)

13. Billy’s mom has three kids. One is Penny and one is Nickel. What is the name of her third kid? (Billy)

The Family That Eats Together Stays Together

 

Or Forcing Your Family to Mingle

One difficult part of a family reunion or party can be getting your family to mingle during meal time.  We usually have each family group sitting together- the Maddox family, the Wynnes and the Stewarts all sitting in their own little group.  It’s not that we don’t like each other or don’t get along-we just gravitate to our  own family group.

Camp oz 345

Here’s a fun way to mix things up.  Put a pieces of colored tape or ribbon on each chair or seating space (if you’re dealing with picnic benches)  When everyone has begun eating announce that everyone sitting on a yellow space must switch places with another yellow.  A few minutes later have pinks switch and so on.

DO NOT make it too complicated!  If you have green switch with pink and yellow with red, nothing will happen- everyone will remain in their original seat.  If you’re family is compliant and seems to enjoy the mixing up you could try switching two colors at a time but for the most part it’s best  to focus on one color at a time.  You don’t have to mix people up all in one meal- keep the colors on during your entire reunion and only do a couple of swaps per meal.

Towards the end of the meal you can announce “Rainbow Mixup” and everyone has to switch places.

HINT:  Choose a meal that doesn’t have a lot of plates and silverware etc. to be moved.

Party Games 411

  • Party Games 411

  • What Game Should We Play?

If you’re looking for a game to play you should check out this new game site- Party Games 411.  It’s a very simple site to use and a marvelous resource  for party planners.

I plan a lot of  parties and family reunions and I am always looking  for a new game or activity.  I search the web trying to find ideas but this site is the easiest way I’ve found.

kory's still photos 332

Search for a Game

There are several ways to search for a game at Party Games 411. You can:

1. Enter the number of players and the location (inside or outside) that the game will be played.  For instance, I searched for an indoor or outdoor game for  80 people and it gave me 40 possible games we could  play.

2. You can also search for games alphabetically.

3. You can search for particular game by entering the name of it. 

Each game gives you recommended ages and game requirements and easy to understand rules and instructions.

Games, Games, Games

school 484

You will find ideas for card games, team building games, tag games, mind games,  party games, large group games and so much more.  So next time you ask, “What game should we  play?” check out Party Games 411.