Tips for Planning a Destination Family Reunion

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Here is a view of the Panama Canal, which I'm hoping to checkout on my family reunion this week! (photo courtesy of

This week I am actually enjoying and exploring the beautiful country of Panama. Am I alone? On the contrary! I am a small cog in the machine that is my husband’s family reunion. Yes, 70 of our closest relatives (how close can you be, right?) are touring the land that many of them grew up in, reminiscing and making new memories. This trip was a year in the making once the planning really got underway, and I am happy to report that on this one, I was a willing bystander to those who were in charge of the travel coordination.

Family Reunion trips are really special and well worth the effort to plan and attend such an event. However, planning is key so here are a few of my best tips for planning a destination family reunion.

1. Start early – The more time you have to plan the better and the more time your family has to make plans to attend. Not to mention that time = $avings.

2. Choose a date and length of the vacation – Summer is the most popular time for a family reunion because children are typically out of school, but there are many long weekends and holiday weeks throughout the school year that may work for your group. Ask potential reunion-goers via email about their interest in having a reunion as well as the dates and place.  Also, after gauging the initial interest, send 3-4 dates from that reunion-goers can choose the date that works best for them. Make it clear that the date with the most possible attendees will be the date selected. You don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable if they can’t make it.

INSIDER TIP: When dealing with communication to a large group, it’s better to give choices than to ask for suggestions.

3. Choose the location – Now that you know when you can go, where will you go? Perhaps, like my husband’s family, you want to return to or visit an area that the family hails from.  If your group has an interest in family history, exploring your roots can be a lot of fun for multiple generations. I know my children are really enjoying getting to see where Mimi grew up! Or, if ancestry isn’t the reason for the destination maybe recreation is. Beaches, mountains and amusement parks are also great locales for a gathering group. After all, you want the reunion to be about having fun together. Many attractions offer group rates and discounts so be sure to call them and inquire about those separately as prices are often dictated by your group size and not usually shared online. Celebratory reunions are a great reason to gather.  Is there a golden anniversary, birthday or special occasion that you can all get together to celebrate?  There are many destinations, resorts, and cruises that cater to just such get-togethers when location is merely the backdrop to all the great times that you will have together.

4. Facebook It! - Now that you know who is going, when the reunion trip will take place, and where you are going, create an event page on Facebook and invite all those attending as well as the potential attendees who might find themselves available at the last minute (Uncle Kenny). Where were we before Facebook?! Now you have a central location for your group to share their excitement, ideas, photos and old family stories AND all the details related to the actual reunion. Events can be made to be private so that only those that are invited to join the page can see and share its content. I recommend having more than one page administrator to share that responsibility. And, continue to use the event page post-trip to share photos, videos and your favorite reunion memories.

5. Make Accommodation Reservations – Having time to book rooms and secure great rates is pivotal to the success of your trip. Most hotels, big and small, including websites, such as, work with groups to help accommodate their needs. Even more reassuring is that they have dedicated personnel focused squarely on group business.  Here are the things that you need to know when booking accommodations:

  • Your group’s per night budget
  • Number of rooms required
  • Amenities (on-site restaurants, children’s programs, in-room kitchens etc.)
  • Nearby attractions
  • Meeting space, and catering services available (if required)
  • Shuttle service and parking

6. Plan Activities and Meals – Everything will run much more smoothly and your family will have a great time if you coordinate group activities and meals. After all, you are going on this trip to be together, right? Activities can range from site-seeing tours to group-bonding activities such as white water rafting, ropes courses and golf tournaments, visiting museums and cultural and historic landmarks, and of course, a few sit-down meals that you all enjoy together (And if you are like my mother-in-law, bring along a few silly reunion prizes to award on family dinner nights!).

So there you have a few tips to get you started planning that next great family reunion getaway! I look forward to sharing my experiences from the Panamanian family reunion with you. Have you planned or been on a recent family trip? I’d love to hear about it! Share it here! Also, if you aren’t sure about where to visit, remember you can checkout Virtual Vacation to explore some of the great destinations this country has to offer.



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2 Responses to “Tips for Planning a Destination Family Reunion”

  1. Sherri says:

    70 people? That’s quite the trip. Where are you staying?

    My only advice after reading this article is good luck. Logistically, destination reunions like this can get hectic. Stay in a vacation rental home.

  2. Nicole says:

    Thanks Sherri!

    We are having a fabulous time in Panama and I can’t wait to share my experience.I agree a vacation condo can be a wonderful solution to group travel.We have been staying in fantastic resorts around Panama as we are a group on the move. A few nights in Panama City at the Country Hearth Inn which is located along the Panama Canal and offers amazing views, a great pool and comfortable beds! Then we moved up the Pacific Coast to Decameron beach resort. It is all-inclusive and perfect for kids and 20-somethings in our group. I loved the mornings on the beach and the afternoons in the pool with my children. We still have a few days left and we are switching it up again to a family resort in Coronado.

    Viva Panama!


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