So what exactly is an affinity group? Stay with me here because I think when you understand this concept, you’re going to want to start implementing some family affinity group travel into your travel bucket list. I get excited just thinking about the possibilities!
According to Merriam-Webster.com, an affinity group is:
What is Family Affinity Group Travel?
So what is family affinity group travel?
Have you ever attended a family reunion or a family wedding or funeral or graduation or…well, you get the picture. It’s a time that we use to reconnect with family members you haven’t seen in a while. And sometimes you even meet someone new you get along with because you’ve got a common interest. Sometimes, maybe it’s even more than an interest; it’s a passion.
My husband and my nephew both enjoy trains…especially steam trains…and can talk for hours on the subject. I connect with my mother-in-law over the Anne of Green Gables book series. My hubby and I both connect with any family member who loves Disney theme parks. We share an affinity with them.
With family affinity group travel, you take common interests of some of your family members and create activity around that interest. It may just require a day, a weekend, or maybe even a whole week. With today’s Millennials, Gen X’s, as well as Baby Boomers, you might be surprised at who is able to connect over a common interest.
How Does an Family Affinity Group Trip Differ from a Family Reunion?
Typically, in a family reunion a large gathering of family takes place with dozens to hundreds of extended family members coming together. It may happen one afternoon at a park or over a weekend at a campground or a rented facility. Many family reunions are steeped in traditions of how they are organized and what activities take place, where they take place, and when they take place. They have been doing things the same way for 40 years or more
Often, we see a family reunion as an opportunity to meet aunts, uncles, and cousins that maybe you’ve never met before…and reconnect with ones that you have.
With a family affinity group activity, you take the connection a little further. As you discover aunts, uncles, and cousins that have the same interests as you, you plan something special to strengthen those family relationships and build deeper friendships. It’s a win-win.
Often, that means that instead of doing the same traditional “reunion.” You choose a specific activity that people are interested in and plan an activity around it. It may require more flexibility in dates and where you will meet up than a regular reunion. The point is, after all, to enjoy an activity together that the group enjoys.
That doesn’t mean you need to exclude everyone else from the activity. If you like, invite everyone on your reunion list and let them know this particular activity is especially for people who enjoy an interest in “X”, but everyone is welcome to join.
Examples of Family Affinity Group Travel Activities:
Here are some examples of special activities we’ve done with members of our family who shared a common interest. Although everyone was invited, no one felt obligated to come, and those who participated had a great time.
STP (Seattle to Portland) Bike Ride
My hubby is the bike rider in this group and has organized several group family rides. This particular one included riders from both my side of the family and his. A special Facebook group was created to organize the event.
Because the STP is an organized two-day event held every July, the dates weren’t flexible. Those who were available and wanted to came. Even though I’m not a big bike rider, I was able to participate by organizing a carb loading meal at Olive Garden the night before as well as ride along in the sag wagon to meet up with the riders along the route.
There were a number of training rides throughout the spring and summer, so even people weren’t able to go on the big ride, they were still able to train along with the group. At the end, there were lots of fun and funny stories to tell. I was so excited to cheer everyone on as they crossed the finish line.
Mount Rainier Steam Train Ride
Since my nephew and hubby are both big steam train enthusiasts, several summers ago we decided to meet up for a day trip to ride the Mount Rainier Steam Train. It was a fun afternoon riding the train and visiting the little museum.
The whimsical sound of a steam whistle from a steam train was distinct. Those who are the real train aficionados got downright giddy when they heard the train pulling up to the station. Again, lots of fantastic memories from that afternoon and family bonds were strengthened.
Anne of Green Gables Cruise
My mother-in-law and I both have a love of the Anne of Green Gables book series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. They hold a tender place in my heart for a number of very personal reasons dating back to my childhood.
My mother-in-law had made an attempt to take a cruise that stopped there several years ago. Due to mechanical issues, her cruise was cancelled. We were talking one Christmas and she had mentioned that this was one of the few items left unchecked on her bucket list. I was determined to make that happen. As a travel agent, I did a deep dive into the different cruise lines to find one that stopped there…and we booked.
Why a cruise? Because I knew a cruise would interest other family members who might not necessarily be interested in visiting Green Gables. We let other members of the family know about our plans and soon had a small group going. The cruise has been booked and we are anxiously awaiting the date for next fall. Those of us who want to visit Green Gables will experience it, and those that don’t should be able to find an excursion that suits their interests. It’s a win-win.
How to Organize a Family Affinity Group Trip
Organizing a family affinity group trip isn’t all that different from organizing any other group vacation or activity. It just takes a little extra finesse to make this work.
1. Clarify what it is you’re trying to do
Any Harry Potter fans want to gather and play for a weekend at Universal Orlando? You can drink some butterbeer and ride the Hogwart’s Express.
What is the affinity you’re all interested in? Is there a way to tweak the idea to interest more people if you want to include more or would you rather it be a little more intimate? Do you want it to be just a short afternoon activity? Or are you more interested in making it a long weekend trip?
2. Select the activity you’re interested in
If your group is interested in jazz, is there a jazz festival where you can meet up at? Or maybe just a jazz club to meet at one evening enjoy a dinner or snacks? How about a themed cruise that brings famous jazz players on board (yes, cruise lines actually have themed cruises)?
Do you have a group interested in quilting? How about a weekend trip to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, Oregon? Visit the show and do some shopping…or maybe volunteer as a group to help out during the day. How about renting a large house to share and sewing some quilts after a visit to the show?
3. Begin publicizing your activity
Now that you know what you want to do and when, it’s time to let people know that it’s happening. You can let your group know through email or a Facebook group. Both my family and my husband’s family have private Facebook groups with fun names where we can organize activities.
Facebook groups are a great way to stay connected with your extended family. It offers people the opportunity to share what’s going on in their lives. As people share, you’ll be surprised what you can find out about people…as well as those who share your interests.
Put a date or set of possible dates out there and see what the response is. Maybe people will share alternative ideas that are even better than what you came up with.
4. Create an estimated budget or cost for the trip
Most people will want an estimate for how much the trip will cost. If you’re working with a travel advisor, this is a great opportunity to get them involved in creating an itinerary for your trip with different options and costs for each option. I know I try to give my clients several options so they can compare the costs and what they getting for their money.
5. Get a head count and begin making reservations
Once you have an estimated cost, now is the time to get people to commit to your trip. You need a head count so you can begin making reservations. To obtain group rates, you often need to meet a minimum number of people in your group. See if you have enough people attending to meet that minimum.
After you’ve got commitments from people, go ahead and make reservations. If nonrefundable deposits are required, be sure that your group knows that up front.
6. Guidebooks, documentation, and registration procedures
Communication is key to making sure everything goes smoothly. Be sure everyone has a copy of the documentation they need such as reservation numbers, times the group is meeting up, where the group is meeting up, etc.
If you have people visiting from out of town for the activity, recommend some guidebooks to get them acquainted with the area. I also like to have a list of local restaurants recommendations.
7. Hold your activity or take that trip
Now is the time to sit back and enjoy the company of your family and your shared interests. Bond with your family. Enjoy that activity you’ve been wanting to do. If there are a few bumps in the road (and there almost always are) then take note of them because these are the things that makes these trips even more endearing and gives us stories to talk about in the future.
8. Gather Feedback
Gathering feedback from those who went on the trip is so essential if you want to keep doing them. Find out what people liked and didn’t like. What went well and didn’t go so well? This is how you learn and make things better. And for those times when someone says something that hurts your feelings, just let it go.
Begin thinking about other trips or activities that people might enjoy. Do you want to do them yearly, quarterly…you are only limited by your imagination (and your checkbook depending on what you like to do).
Why Travel as a Family Affinity Group?
So you’re asking yourself: Why do I want to do a family affinity trip? After having coordinated quite a few of them myself, I will tell you why I keep organizing them. I love being able to bond with family on a different level than at a traditional family reunion. We have stories to share about our shared interests and activities.
Please note that I am NOT anti-family reunions. They have their place and are great at keeping contacts up and reliving memories from the past. But I never feel like I come away from them as having deepened those family relationships the same way I do with a family affinity trip. I even know a few families that have begun to switch up their family reunions to add a few affinity activities either before, during or after their regular reunions.
The blunt truth is that Millennials and Gen Z’s as well as even some Gen X’s, really don’t have an interest in the old traditional family reunions. They value experiences over things. Providing them with opportunities to share experiences helps build those generational bonds that people are seeking.
If you want help planning or coordinating a family affinity group trip, please feel free to use the “Contact” page to let me know. I’d love to talk to you and see how I can help.
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