Come on, admit it. Sometimes you take a vacation to get away from the extended family and all of the responsibilities that go along with it in your daily life, right? I own up to that one.
But sometimes you take a vacation for the sole purpose of reunion, re-connecting and actually enjoying the opportunity to hang out with extended family and loved ones. My family has been placing an emphasis on having regular family reunions for many generations now. When family reunions are a success, you’re left with memories and lessons that you treasure for a lifetime.
Getting Past the Stress
Recently my husband, two sons, and I had the opportunity to travel to visit with some beloved family members we hadn’t had the chance to see in a quite a while. We were a little nervous about this family gathering, because, as you know, people change. What if we didn’t really enjoy hanging out with each other anymore? What if our kids couldn’t stand each other? What if the cabin our family had been offered to use at our destination turned out to be a great location for the next Friday the 13th movie? You know how family members love to complain and blame one another when things go wrong, right? Not exactly a recipe for a successful reunion.
It turns out we had nothing to worry about. This reunion turned out to be everything we’d hoped and intended: beautiful setting, convenient location for activities, relaxing and fun, and most especially, an opportunity for the family to reconnect, catch up, and spend quality time together doing what families do best – talking, sharing, supporting, encouraging, praying, playing, and of course EATING!
Prioritizing + Planning = Success
Our family priorities are Faith, Family, and Friendships, and we’ve found that all three mesh together real well most of the time. You don’t choose your family, but you can take responsibility for strengthening those ties that bind, and destination reunions are a great way to achieve that. We’ve found that it’s important for us to build friendships with our family members during happy times like these so that we’ll all find support and love from one another during the tough times throughout our lives.
So how can you make the most of your family reunions? Well, committing it to prayer truly helps us to prepare our hearts and minds! Aside from that, it’s all about the planning! Here are my Top 7 Tips For Stress-Free & Successful Family Reunions:
1. Flexibility. Let everyone get involved in the planning, and provide choices. Also, realize that everyone is not going to want to be together 24/7, so give them space – both literally and figuratively.
2. Location. Find a spot that allows everyone, or at least each family unit, to have their own space to land, and yet provides at least one area with ample space for large groups, such as a huge dining room, or a large living area or outdoor space to gather for “family time.”
3. Budget. Remember, not everyone has the resources of Uncle Scrooge, so make sure that you consider this when choosing accommodations and activities, so that everyone can take part.
4. Meals. We like to ask each family member or family unit to take on the responsibility of planning at least one of the meals. This could mean they simply choose the location of a restaurant nearby and make the reservations, or they actually tie on the old apron and take over the kitchen! We found that crock pot meals were very handy and saved us lots of time and money.
5. Activities. You need to plan a few activities for the group, which could mean outings, events, or family game times. Also, remember the budget, and remember that not everyone will want to participate 100% of the time.
6. Memories. Take time to make memories and to reminisce. This is so important to strengthening those family ties. Share your hearts with one another. For our family, we make time to do family devotions and pray together, and this often leads to some wonderful discussions and learning experiences for the children, and for the adults. We also take lots of pictures and home movies, and someone usually offers to make sure that these are all collected and shared with everyone, either through a website, email, or even making a family reunion book to share. This is also an important time for sharing family traditions, and for telling the young ones about those who have gone on before us.
7. Silly Fun. We make time to just be silly. Play games, have contests, or have special t-shirts or hats for everyone to wear when we go out together.
Get creative! Make it memorable! Create an experience that will make everyone look forward to the next reunion!