Congratulations! You’re booking a vacation home for your family reunion and are counting down the days. Take advantage of your excitement and momentum right now by getting a plan together for the memories you want to make while setting clear expectations to keep your gathering running smoothly.
Pick a Date for Your Family Reunion
Find dates that work for your family before selecting a vacation home. Available vacation homes should line up with your predetermined reunion dates. How do you pick a date? Here are some parameters you can follow.
You can choose vacation dates based on:
Rate ranges or a Specific date because of an event
- If you’re looking to save money or need a specific date, it’s easy to use filters on Lake.com to find vacation homes that meet your budget and are available on the dates you want to rent.
- Thanksgiving, family reunions, Fourth of July, etc… Maybe there’s a special birthday, wedding anniversary, or you’ve always dreamed of having Christmas at a mountain lodge that fits your whole family.
- Many people plan trips and vacations around annual events like boat shows, air shows, and arts festivals. One example of a special event is Bonhomme Carnaval in Quebec City.
Invite Your Family to the Reunion
As the family event organizer, you’re in charge of many things, including the guest list and making sure that the vacation home you book is one everyone attending can enjoy.
The first step is determining who will be coming to the family reunion. Is this a small gathering, a medium-sized gathering, or a large gathering?
Depending on the number of guests, you’ll likely find yourself renting a very different vacation home; your reunion might be on the smaller side with a handful of relatives, or you may be hosting everyone on one side of your family tree.
The larger your gathering, the larger the vacation home and the more generous its living space needs to be.
Once you know who is coming, some practical considerations include:
Budget for the vacation rental home
Will you be covering the entire expense, or are you splitting the cost with other family members? Factors that influence rates include the size of a vacation home, nights spent, number of bedrooms, seasonality, amenities, etc.
Number of bedrooms and beds required
Who needs their own room versus who can share? To save money, some families opt to have siblings or cousins share rooms. If someone needs their own room, make sure they have it and that everyone is accounted for.
Number of bathrooms required
This may go without saying, but you’re going to want to have more bathrooms than you think, especially if you are hosting a larger party. Consider whether or not you need a bathtub for younger children or if showers are enough.
Do you dream of a roaring fire in a cozy living room? Will you be making meals as a family in the kitchen? Do you need large tables to gather around for special meals? A quiet space to be alone? Book a home that will meet your family’s needs.
Is air conditioning important to you? How about wifi, a TV, a hammock, hot tub or sauna? Maybe you want to go kayaking and also need life jackets. The sky is the limit amenities-wise.
Do you need a ramp for wheelchair access? Are stairs an issue? Factor in the needs of your dear ones when seeking accommodations to help them have an even better vacation.
Find Out What Your Family Wants To Eat
Much of cottage life revolves around eating.
When you’re hosting a family reunion, it’s important to map out the role food plays in your gathering, including:
- How many meals a day
- When will food be served
- Who’s cooking and whether or not people are taking turns
- Appliances available to you and knowing how to use them (cooktop, oven, microwave, toaster, kettle, coffee maker, barbeque, etc.)
- Catering if and when you need it
- Availability of healthy (and not so healthy) snacks
- Food allergies, intolerances and dietary restrictions
Not everyone eats the same foods all the time! Check with your guests well in advance to learn of any dietary restrictions so that you know how to approach cooking and the role-specific family members may play in preparing their own food. You will need to do a grocery run (at least once!) during your vacation home stay. Keeping dietary restrictions in mind honors your guests, makes them more comfortable at meal time, and prevents accidental ingestion of known allergens.
If someone in your family is Celiac (people with this autoimmune disease cannot eat food or drinks containing gluten), you will need to take extra precautions to keep gluten out of the main dishes and avoid cross-contamination. There are several people in our family who are Celiac, so we have a toaster that is exclusively used for gluten-free bread on the opposite side of the kitchen and another toaster closer to the coffee maker that can be used for gluten bread. If you know there is someone in your family (or many people, as Celiac disease is herditary), it may be safer for everyone to eat gluten-free during group meals to keep those family members and their digestive tracks safe.
Plan Your Meals and Divide Up The Dinners
People wake up at different times and your coffee maker and tea kettle are sure to get a workout.
Easy foods like yogurt, fruit, bagels, toast, and if someone is ambitious, pancakes and French toast with bacon and maple syrup would be a special treat! Be sure to clothe those carbs with fat, fiber, or protein to avoid a sugar spike.
For those who appreciate The Lord of the Rings, there is always time for ‘second breakfast.’ Food in the mornings should be readily available and easy for even a child to prepare on their own.
As much as you can, try to eat leftovers from the previous night’s dinner for lunch to keep things simple. If you don’t have enough leftovers for everyone, simple comfort foods are quick wins for lunch, like sandwiches, meat, cheese and veggie trays.
Take turns making meals. Food is a family affair! Assign a night for couples to cook and also ask the younger generation to pitch in with their own special meal. When you think that grandparents have been cooking for others for north of 30 years, it might be nice to give Grandma and Grandpa a break!
That said, many people find joy in cooking and making a meal is an excellent way to create memories cooking with their grandchildren. However you organize meal prep, cooking and cleanup (we’re getting to that!), many hands make light work and everyone walks away with a sense that they have contributed.
Set Expectations About Roles and Responsibilities
Part of your role as host and organizer of the family reunion is to set clear expectations with each family member about their role at the gathering. Without setting expectations early on, misunderstandings and chaos are sure to ensue! Everyone has a role to play be it on an individual responsibility level or a family responsibility.
Doing so also gives your family members the opportunity to take on responsibilities with the desire to serve and add value by using their gifts or special talent.
When doling out responsibilities, don’t forget the cleanup crew! Dishwashing, loading and unloading the dishwasher, setting the table, clearing the table, and so on are all important tasks that need to be done multiple times a day.
Expectation setting also affects group activities and time spent on individual pursuits. Generally, one group activity a day works well to provide together-time while not overwhelming the introverts in your family.
Some relatives will want to sleep in while others will be up with the sun. If you allow mornings to go by leisurely, planning for afternoon activities is a good way to allow for rest, relaxation, and some fun later in the day.
Pick Some Fun Activities for Your Family Reunion
Planning Outdoor Activities
While indoor games and pastimes are pretty easy and accessible, the great outdoors presents a wide variety of activities that will appeal to some family members more than others.
Depending on your surroundings (and how adventurous the fam is), you need to prepare a variety of experiences to choose from.
For those eager to get the full vacation experience more on the athletic side, consider the following summer activities:
- Jet Skiing
- Cliff jumping (if it is safe to do so)
Some gentler activities for the whole family include:
- Spending time on the beach
- Fishing (be sure everyone over 12 years old is licensed!)
- Campfires or bonfires (when permitted by the township)
Planning Indoor Activities
On vacation, people have the time to do fun things that they rarely give themselves an opportunity to do at home. Take advantage of that!
Living with your extended family under the same roof gives you tremendous opportunities to bond, reminisce and share some laughs.
Many family reunions involve spending time talking, relaxing by an open fire, reading or playing board games. This is especially true when the weather is not cooperating and you’re desperate for some rainy day activities!
Bearing that in mind, check to see if your vacation home is equipped with classic board games and be sure to bring your family favorites to avoid disappointment.
Most vacation homes have:
- Playing cards
- Board games
Seeing a Sample Schedule for a Family Reunion
To give you an idea of what a gathering at your vacation home could look like, we’ve provided guidance and designed a template for you to work from. For example, if you plan to spend four days at your vacation home for a holiday or long weekend, your gathering itinerary might look like this:
|Day 1: Arrival||Afternoon: Settle in and explore the vacation rental and surroundings.|
Evening: Welcome dinner followed by a family movie night.
|Day 2: Water Fun||Morning: Breakfast|
Afternoon: Swimming and boating on the lake.
Evening: Dinner followed by a board game night.
|Day 3: Adventure Day||Morning: Breakfast|
Afternoon: Hiking in the nearby trails.
Evening: Dinner followed by charades.
|Day 4: On the Lake||Morning: Breakfast|
Afternoon: Kayaking and wakeboarding.
Evening: Dinner followed by a movie night.
|Day 5: Leisure Day||Morning: Breakfast|
Afternoon: Free time for relaxation or personal activities.
Evening: Farewell dinner followed by a family talent show or karaoke session.
|Day 6: Departure||Morning: Breakfast and packing|
Afternoon: Family photo and departure
Capturing Group Pictures
No vacation is complete without the quintessential group photo. These photos do not take themselves! Plan when and where the official family reunion photo could happen and organize people when they are in the spot.
Because some people don’t like having their photo taken, you might even want to inform the group that you’d like to get a group photo at the lake this afternoon or one around the campfire this evening. That gives everyone an opportunity to freshen up for family photos.
Plan, but Leave Room for Spontaneity
There are so many things to think about when planning a gathering for your family at a vacation home. We’ve touched on many of them here, and there’s always room for more ideas!
Discover helpful articles on Lake to inspire your family’s vacation with great ideas for food, leisure activities, and memory making.