For many people, attending a family reunion has been a part of their summer traditions. As a travel advisor, I have helped families plan destination reunions on a cruise ship, at a destination like Hawaii, and visiting Disney World. Each reunion is just as unique as each family. When gathering physically isn’t possible, hosting an online family reunion can be just the cure.
Has Your Family Reunion Been Cancelled Due to COVID-19?
Let’s face it. The year 2020 has been one for the books due to COVID-19. So many family activities have been cancelled due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions. But let me tell you a secret…it doesn’t have to spoil the fun! Even if we can’t be together physically, we can still have plenty of fun together as a family.
Our family recently finished a week-long family reunion online with a Hawaiian theme. It was complete with cooking, trivia game, photo scavenger hunt, other activities, and lots of humor.
Everyone enjoyed their time and the feedback was so positive that we are already planning another Harry Potter-themed one for October.
I believe there are a number of reasons why our virtual family gathering was so successful…and yours can be too.
Reason #1 – Online Family Reunions are Fun
I have to admit that when I began planning our online reunion that I wasn’t sure how it would go over. My family agreed to be my guinea pigs. I wanted to give my clients who couldn’t travel with their families this year a way to still enjoy time with their loved ones. Would it work? I had no idea.
The week began with a Hawaiian-themed live trivia game. People came to the Zoom event dressed with their Hawaiian shirts, leis, and with sunglasses on. That was a good sign that they had decided to embrace the virtual nature of this reunion.
I organized our reunion through a private Facebook group, and the result exceeded my greatest expectations tenfold. There were dozens of SPAM-filled recipes with pictures of all the great creations–and a SPAM carving or two. My sister-in-law reported that when she went to the grocery store towards the end of the week that the store manager reported a “shortage of SPAM.” I am pretty sure that wasn’t our fault…
When I made a final post to the group on Friday announcing the “official” ending to the reunion, here is one many of the comments I received back:
“Thanks, Andrea! So much fun, awesome bonding, and I bought SPAM (before the sellout of 2020)…and macadamia nuts for the first time in my life!”
Reason #2 – Connect With Family Far Away
With a traditional family reunion, people sometimes have to travel from distances. Sometimes one of the things we enjoy about a reunion is the adventure of leaving home to go someplace new.
In the past, it has been difficult for our entire family to get everyone together for a reunion. People’s can’t get vacation time during the date chosen. Or a health issue comes up and someone can’t travel.
But with our virtual family reunion, everyone who wanted to participate could. You didn’t need vacation time to join in the fun. If you had a broken leg or undergoing treatment for an illness, as long as you could turn on your computer (or tablet or smartphone) and log on to Facebook, you were good to go. And even if you lived on the opposite side of the U.S., no problem. They have Facebook there, too!
Reason #3: Virtual Family Reunions Cost a Lot Less Money
As someone who has worked on past family reunions…or attended reunions…or helped families plan destination reunions…I know one thing is true: Reunions can cost a whole lot of money to put together or attend.
The nice thing about a virtual family reunion, is that it costs relatively little to plan. There are no venues to rent or caterers to pay or hotel rooms to reserve or gas to put in the car. A Facebook group is free to set up and get to.
We did use Zoom to host our Family trivia night. Zoom offers free accounts (with some restrictions). But if needed, Zoom also has plans ranging from $14.99 to $19.99 a month (as of day of writing). Simply cancel your Zoom before the end of the month you hold your reunion…$14.99 is the cheapest venue rental I have seen. (It’s free for family members to participate in a hosted Zoom event.)
Fortunately for our group, several members already had Zoom accounts and set it up for us. So no extra cost for our family.
While activities did not require anyone to spend money, we did have a number of people who spent their own money to purchase a few supplies for cooking or to create a piece of art. But it was a choice and no one felt any pressure. Many people worked with what they already had around the house. And we had some fun-tastic submissions to our reunion.
Reason #4 – Families Can Gather at a Time That is Convenient for Them
As I’ve mentioned before, we held one live event for our online family reunion. This was sort of the kick-off to the big event that was held all week. We tried to find a time that wasn’t too early for the folks on the west coast but not too late for the folks on the east coast. We settled on 5:30 p.m.
The rest of the week we had daily activities in a dedicated thread on Facebook. For example, one day was a Hawaiian-themed scavenger hunt. People had all day to find and upload pictures of the items on the dedicated Facebook thread.
We had one activity that ran all week. I released a list of Hawaiian-themed secret ingredients. People posted pictures of their finished dishes and posted the recipes. There was some real creativity going on there.
#5 – Memories of Your Online Family Reunion are Automatically Preserved
This was one of the reasons that really stuck out to me at the end of our family reunion. The pictures and stories and videos and food were all automatically preserved on Facebook. Anyone can go back at any time and look at them.
At the 2016 RootsTech conference, presenter Joseph Richardson said:
One of the powerful advantages of a virtual family reunion, or this kind of virtual event, is that you can re-experience it over time. When I have a normal on-the-ground, traditional reunion, we experience it. We’re done. If we’re lucky, somebody remembered to take a picture or two, and we can share the picture. But it’s over, and we can only remember.Joseph Richardson, RootsTech 2016 conference
And since I promised to put together a recipe book book for my family, I’ve got all the pictures and recipes right there. Voila! Easy-peasy to put the recipe book together. SPAM fries anyone?
Reason #6 – Celebrate a Special Occasion
A lot of what my family did during our online reunion was meant to substitute for a traditional family reunion. But it would be just as easy to adapt what we did to a lot of family celebrations.
Grandma and Grandma celebrating their 50th anniversary? Why not put together an online celebration. Where did they go on their honeymoon? This could be used as a theme for the virtual family gathering.
Someone getting married? Drive-by shower or reception? How about an week of online activities where people can share recipes, stories, hints and tips. It’s all there for the bride and groom to look at whenever they want. Much better than the book of signatures that will probably only get looked at a couple of times after the wedding.
Final Thoughts: We are Already Planning Another Online Family Gathering
Our family had such a fun time! There were many who expressed disappointment when the week was over.
The feedback I heard was that in many ways the interactions we had were much more genuine, upbeat, and supportive of each other. Everyone who wanted to participate was able to irregardless of where they lived, what time zone they were in, and whatever other limitations might have made it difficult for them to travel.
I chose the Hawaiian theme for our reunion because several of the families attending have had to cancel or postpone family trips to Hawaii this year. It seemed natural for me as a travel advisor to try to provide them with some sort of Hawaiian virtual vacation alternative.
While a Hawaiian-themed reunion may need to be all online, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy island time.
Have you or your family done a fun online get-together lately? Please feel free to share in the comments below. I’d love to hear all about it.