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Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Quick Introduction to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Let’s face it, 1969 was a pretty awesome year. It was a year of a lot of milestones for the United States and the world as a whole. It was the year that is most famously remembered for man’s first step on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. It was the year that The Beatles made their last public performance. It was the year that PBS was established and the first episode of Sesame Street aired.

In the travel industry, 1969 was the year that the first Boeing 747 jumbo jet took its first flight. It was also the year that the Concorde jet took its first flight. And who can forget that large gathering of over 350,000 rock-n-roll fans held on a dairy farm…a little something called Woodstock.

For Royal Caribbean Cruise International, it was the year that they were formally organized. Royal Caribbean was the product of combining three separate Norwegian shipping companies. It’s first ship was named Song of Norway. Through the past 50+ years, Royal Caribbean has grown and blossomed into the largest cruise line in the world.

Fun Facts About Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

  • Founded in 1969
  • Biggest cruise brand throughout the world
  • Employs more than 40,000 people from over 60 different countries
  • Headquartered in Miami, Florida
  • Nine offices around the world
  • In 2019 Royal Caribbean Cruise Line hosted more than 5.4 million guests
  • Currently, Royal Caribbean has 27 ships that visit over 250 destinations worldwide
  • Four more cruise ships are on order and scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2024

How Does Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Distinguish Themselves?

Let’s face it, there are a lot of cruise lines of all sizes to choose from. Some people look for a cruise low-budget cruise, while other people are shopping for a luxury experience. So how does Royal Caribbean distinguish themselves among all of these cruise lines?

The video below courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line shows some of the offerings that distinguishes them from other cruise lines.

Creating a brand different than any other cruise line

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is proud of all the experiences that make them different than other cruise lines. They pride themselves on offering unique experiences that no other cruise lines offer. They continuously innovate and are not satisfied with the status quo of their offerings.

While other cruise lines offer some unique experiences, too, they often cost extra for the passenger to enjoy. On Royal Caribbean, these experiences are covered in your cruise fare. You can participate as much as you like.

My family’s top three unique activities aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships are:

  • Flow Rider: On a Flow Rider, water is pumped at a speed that simulates rushing water in waves. It is meant to mimic the action of a wave. The depth of the water is only about 3 inches. On the Flow Rider you can try your hand at surfing or body boarding. There are crew members nearby to help you with tips. If you want to get really good and impress your family, private lessons are available for an additional fee.
  • Zipline: While many cruise lines offer the opportunity to zipline while in port, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line offers the you the opportunity to zipline across the top of their Oasis-class ships. It’s a great way to try ziplining to see if it’s something you’re interested in. The zipline itself is short and a great way to sample the experience. You are safely harnessed in and crew members walk you through the process.
  • iFly Experience: The iFly experience is a skydiving simulation experience. You go through a safety training and learning the basics in a small group. You put on flight suits and goggles and head up to “fly” in a wind machine. An experienced instructor and crew member is in the wind tunnel with you at all times. Each person gets at least 60 seconds in the wind tunnel…although my hubby tells me it feels significantly longer than that.

Sparking the inspiration to adventure

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines offers a wide variety adventures for everyone. Whether it’s a relaxing weekend visiting beaches in the Bahamas or Caribbean or taking a gondola ride in the canals of Venice, they’ve got you covered. They strive to offer a variety of excursions. Excursions may be geared towards the high-adventure hiker, those who have limited physical abilities, or families with young kids.

Creating their own brand of cruising

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is trying to introduce cruising to a whole new generation of travelers. They are trying to distance themselves from some of the old cliches about cruising. Instead of an aging population on their ships, you often find multi-generational families and cruisers irregardless of age…Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials, and Gen Z’ers. There is something offered aboard that will appeal to everyone.

Amazing destinations offered just about everywhere in the world

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines sails all over the globe. They visit a wide variety destinations in over 250 ports. There is adventure, beaches, cities, culture, snow or sunshine…wherever you dream about going, they probably cruise there.

Royal Caribbean is my family’s favorite cruise line. We’ve cruised over half a dozen cruise lines to date and never had a bad cruise. But Royal fits the bill for our multi-generational family. The activities, ports, dining options, and entertainment offer something for everyone, which is why we keep going back to Royal whenever we can.

If you want more information on how you can book a Royal Caribbean Cruise, please feel free to fill out the “Contact” form at the top of the page.

Uncategorized

A Phased Reopening of Disney Springs is Scheduled for May 20

I am cautiously optimistic and excited to hear this news coming from out from Disney. Our family enjoys exploring all the dining and entertainment that can be found at Disney Springs. Whenever we can, we try to stay in a resort that is within walking distance or a short boat ride to it. We are scheduled to visit in October and have our fingers crossed that things will be open…even if it means with restrictions in place for the safety of cast members and guests.

Photo Credit: Disney Destinations

Disney has announced that they will begin reopening Disney Springs in phases beginning May 20, 2020. They are looking to health and government officials for guidance on the best way to reopen. There will be a limited volume of dining and shopping businesses operated by third-party operators allowed to open during this first phase. The remainder of Walt Disney World (including hotels and theme parks) will continue to be shut down.

Disney announced:

As we continue to monitor conditions, and with the health of Guests and Disney Cast Members at the forefront of our planning, we are making several operational changes. Disney Springs will begin to reopen in a way that incorporates enhanced safety measures, including increased cleaning procedures, the use of appropriate face coverings by both Cast Members and Guests, limited-contact Guest services and additional safety training for cast members.

Disney Parks Blog

Disney says they will continue to listen to and apply what they learn from the leaders in both the travel and health industries. They are also working with the unions to prepare some Cast Members to return to work at Walt Disney World.

For the time being, there will be limited capacity, hours of operation, and parking at Disney Springs. Disney gave their thanks and appreciation during this time as they try to open in a responsible manner. They also noted that there may be further protocols and procedures announced once we get closer to the opening date. I look forward to hearing what they may be as they may be seen as a standard for travel throughout the theme park industry.

Alaska, Cruises, Destinations

Discover Alaska’s Inside Passage as a Family

I remember not long after we got married, my hubby and I often talked about the places we wanted to travel to in our lifetime. Destinations were often categorized as ones we would do as a family and others where we would wait to have an empty nest. Honestly, Alaska was one of the places that neither of us were very interested in. Living in the Pacific Northwest, the pictures of Alaska all seemed similar to what we saw almost every day. Then one day…

…after our son was grown and moved out, my parents suggested taking a family cruise to Alaska. As they were aging, they were having trouble getting around on their own and appreciated the thought of having their grown kids along with them. We all coordinated a trip that included my parents, two of my siblings and their spouses, as well as a couple of friends that we consider family. Even if I wasn’t excited about the destination, I knew I’d enjoy the time with them.

Getting on the ship in Seattle, I started to get a little cranky. My hubby and I seemed to be the youngest ones on the ship…(although I think we found one couple who were younger than us). We were traveling on Princess Cruise Lines which does tend to have a slightly older clientele and cruising in September after all the kids were back in school definitely changes the demographic. But…

…can I just say how much I loved cruising the Inside Passage!!! Being able to sit on my balcony and watch the scenery and wildlife float by was an amazing experience. Having naturalists onboard the ship explaining what we were seeing and teaching us how to spot whales was phenomenal.

Where is Alaska’s Inside Passage?

Alaska’s Inside Passage is a coastal water route that travels from the Puget Sound region in Washington state, up the west coast of Canada, and reaching all the way to Alaska weaving in and out of islands. It is popular by ships (and passengers) who wish to stay out of the rougher waters of the open ocean.

A bonus is the stunning scenery you encounter as you wind your way through the passage. It is true northwest frontier with unspoiled forests and beaches. You view glaciers, waters abundant with icebergs, cascading waterfalls, fjords enshrouded by mist and fog…all from the deck of the ship or your cabin’s balcony. You can watch eagles soaring above, orca and humpback whales playing and eating in the waters, white mountain goats perched along the cliffs, and occasionally a bear down by the water trying to catch a meal.

What is the Best Way to Experience Alaska’s Inside Passage?

There are three ways to experience Alaska’s Inside passage. You can see it via car travel stopping and staying in small hotels or campgrounds along the way. Some areas of the Inside Passage are not accessible by car, so this makes it the least desirable way to see it.

You can travel via Alaska Marine Highway System ferries. These passenger and cargo ferries are colored in blue and yellow. You can catch a ferry out of Bellingham, Washington. You can look at the schedules and choose where you will stop along the route and plan how long you wish to stay in each. The Alaska Marine Highway System has a helpful website for planning if you want to go this route.

My preferred method for seeing Alaska’s Inside passage is via cruise ship. One of the things I enjoy about cruising the Inside Passage is that many cruise lines offer something for everyone no matter your age or what you enjoy doing. People who enjoy adventure can go zip lining or hike on a glacier. Those who are interested in culture can enjoy a salmon bake and some traditional Native American dancing. If you want to sit back and enjoy a scenic train ride, they’ve got you covered too. And at the end of the day, you can all gather back for dinner and share your experiences.

Princess Cruise Lines has been rated the #1 cruise line for Alaska for a number of years. But Royal Caribbean’s Anthem class ships are definitely giving them a run for their money. The ability to experience the Alaskan scenery suspended 300 feet in the air on the North Star 360-degree glass capsule (exclusive to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line) can’t be beat.

Also highly recommended for Alaska is the Norwegian Cruise Line ship the Bliss. This ship was specifically designed with Alaska in mind and includes a two-story indoor observation area on the front of the ship. A good travel advisor can help you find the cruise ship and cruise line that best fits you or your group’s wants and needs.

Where You Can Expect to Stop on an Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

Most Alaska Inside Passage cruises start their round trip voyages in ports at either Seattle, Washington, or Vancouver, British Columbia. Typically these cruises last seven nights but could be longer or shorter depending on the cruise line and time of year.

Typically, cruises stop in the ports of Juneau and Skagway. You also usually have several days of just cruising the inside passage or along an iceberg-filled fjord.

Juneau is Alaska’s state capital. It lies between a waterway that never freezes over and ice fields that never melt. Some of the top things to do in Juneau include taking a seaplane ride over Mendenhall Glacier…or maybe even a helicopter that stops on the top of the glacier. Visit a summer sled dog camp where you will be taken on a ride via a wheeled sled led a team of huskies. Another popular favorite is a whale watching trip and salmon bake. Again, there is pretty much something for everyone’s age and level of adventure.

Skagway also has some unique excursions to enjoy. You can ride the White Pass Train along the mountainside and enjoy some breathtaking scenery while you learn about the miners heading to the gold rush in Alaska. Their stories are intriguing and often tragic. You can visit the Liarsville Gold Rush Camp and enjoy some fun entertainment and try your hand at panning for gold. If you’re up for some real adventure, try zip lining over the Alaskan wilderness.

How to Save a Little Money on Your Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

There is no way around it…cruising can be expensive. But when you take into consideration all that a cruise includes, it doesn’t cost significantly more than taking the Alaska Marine Highway System and piecing everything together yourself. There are also a few ways to try to keep your costs on a cruise reasonable.

Some of my top tips for keeping cruise costs down are:

  • If possible, travel during May or September. May is the start of the cruising season into Alaska. Since the kids aren’t out of school yet, you will find the ships not as full and less children running around. The same holds true for September after the kids have all gone back to school. This makes for a great opportunity for families traveling without school-age kids or families that home school.
  • Avoid the “specialty dining.” The food on an Alaska cruise offers lots of fresh and local foods in the dining rooms. There really isn’t much need to pay extra for the “specialty dining.”
  • Compare cruise lines. Some cruise lines offer better rates but lack some of the amenities offered by the more expensive cruise lines. If the main attraction of this cruise is experiencing Alaska, these amenities probably won’t be important to you and makes it easier to forego them.
  • Don’t book your port excursions through the cruise line. There are lots of useful websites like Shore Excursions Group where you can book the same excursions offered by cruise lines at a lower price. Most offer money-back guarantees in case a ship is unable make a port. Always check the fine print to be sure you understand terms and conditions. However, I’ve had nothing but excellent feedback for Shore Excursions Group from my clients.
  • Understand the factors of how a cruise is priced. This article titled Beginner’s Guide to Cruise Prices continues to be one of my most popular blog articles of all time.
  • Use a travel advisor to help you watch for and apply any promotions to the cruise you’re interested in. A trained travel advisor is worth their weight in gold.

How Can I Learn More About Alaska’s Inside Passage?

One of the best ways to find more information about Alaska’s Inside Passage is to contact your travel advisor for more information. A good travel advisor will be able to find the answers to your questions and make recommendations to you based on your travel preferences. If you are getting serious about booking, many travel advisors will send you information and brochures that you can go through.

I always recommend doing a little research at home, too. I find one of most informative and unbiased ways to find out about destinations is by searching for and checking out books, magazines, and videos through my local library.

Alaska’s Inside Passage Offers Something For Everyone

If you had told me 15 years ago that Alaska is a great destination for everyone, I would have given you the stink eye…seriously. I thought Alaska was for the person who enjoyed rustic camping and adventure that required a person to be in tip-top shape physically. I was so wrong.

I absolutely love Alaska’s Inside Passage for all that it offers. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 5, 35, 65, or 95, there is something that will inspire you and take your breath away. The food, the nature, and the activities provide something for every member of your family to enjoy, remember and talk about.

I always say that the family that plays together, stays together. Alaska is the playground of the last frontier. It is best experienced with your family and friends.

Vacation Planning

Discover the Benefits of Using a Travel Advisor

For many travelers, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of having a travel advisor working for you. As the pandemic emerged, travel restrictions were changing day by day and, often, minute by minute. Many travelers were finding themselves on hold with airlines and cruise lines trying to figure out what was allowed and what wasn’t…and in some cases, some of the online travel websites went bankrupt in a matter of just a few weeks and travelers lost their money.

For several weeks in March of 2020, I spent 8 to 10 hours a day just on hold with various travel suppliers. I got created when needed and sometimes using two different phones and two different lines trying to ensure the most efficient use of my time. In the end, I was able to get every single one of my clients either a refund or vacation rescheduled just like they wanted. Some travelers were not so lucky.

I kept my clients apprised of what was happening and every change and update that affected their individual reservations. Those were such grueling days for me, but my clients were able to sit back and handle other things that were more pressing in their lives at the time…and dream ahead to when they would finally be able to take their trips.

There are a lot of advantages to using a travel advisor. Following are some of the most useful benefits:

Travel Advisors Advocate and Fight for You If Something Goes Wrong

People don’t always realize that a travel advisor can (and should) advocate for you if something unexpected happens on your trip. Maybe you paid for an ocean view room at a swanky resort, but the resort says they are overbooked puts you in a room with a view of the parking lot. You can contact your travel advisor. Often a call from a travel advisor can find a way to make things right.

Sometimes an oversight or confusion of a detail can occur before or even during your trip. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen that often, but sometimes a mistake will happen that is not your fault. A travel advisor will take the time to go through the information and sort it out for you so that you can get back on track with your vacation. Travel advisors can also be great proponent of getting you compensated with cash or future credit when the fault belongs with the travel supplier whether that be a cruise, hotel, or tour operator.

You Get to Work With the Same Person Every Time You Call

Let’s face it, it can be very frustrating to make a call to a customer service line…any customer service line. Every time you get transferred, you need to explain your situation all over again.

When using a travel advisor, you get to talk to the same advisor every single time you call. They work with you from the early planning stages of your trip until you return home. They get to know you and what you need. They remember why you made the choices you did in hotels or destinations. They are committed to assisting you with your vacation plans.

Travel Advisors are Continuously Training and Getting Educated

A lot of people think to themselves, “Can’t I just plan this trip myself?” You absolutely can! But travel advisors are continuously training with tour operators and cruise lines and theme parks…as well as staying up-to-date and educated on the travel industry as a whole. I personally average one to two hours per day participating in educational opportunities, certifications and trainings.

But it’s more than being educated about the general basics of the travel industry. Travel advisors also take advantage of familiarization trips (also known as fam trips) to experience and inspect hotels, restaurants, cruise lines, as well as being able to sample area attractions and services. Contrary to popular opinion, these trips are often long days and are not relaxing trips for a travel advisor.

Many Travel Advisors are Free to Use

Many people don’t realize this, but most travel advisors cost the traveler absolutely nothing. They don’t need to charge a fee because they are paid via commission by the travel supplier. I do not charge a fee for my travel advisor services.

For example, Disney may pay the travel advisor a set rate commission for booking a package that includes hotel, tickets, and dining. This costs the traveler absolutely nothing extra. The travel advisor looks for special promotions that may be available if you change your check-in date, etc., that the individual may not be aware of. Disney pays the travel advisor a commission because they are specially trained to work with the travelers on putting together a dream family vacation. This benefits Disney because the traveler is calling their travel advisor instead of Disney.

Several things the traveler should take note of:

  • If using a travel advisor to do research for a trip, please use them to book it. It would be unethical to use up hours of their time only to turn around and book it directly yourself.
  • If you see something that appears to be priced less expensively on an online site such as Expedia, 9 times out of 10 you are not looking at an apples-to-apples comparison. Please let your travel advisor know so that they can try to price match or see if there are restrictions to the lower rate you are seeing that you are not aware of or don’t want.
  • Some travel agencies do charge fees to their clients…especially for specialty vacations like destination weddings. Be sure to inquire about any fees a travel advisor may charge prior to working with them.

Travel Advisors Can Help Choose Excursions and Activities Suited to You

Often when we think of travel advisors, we think that they sit around all day just booking the reservations via a computer. While that is certainly one aspect of their job, they are also fantastic resources for helping choose activities and excursions relevant to your vacation.

Are you an active traveler? They can suggest activities and suppliers that can take you zip lining or give you private surf lessons. They can help plan a romantic sunset cruise on a catamaran in Hawaii. As a travel advisor gets to know you better, they can make suggestions catered specifically to you and your family.

Because travel advisors get opportunities to experience travel themselves (and receive feedback from other clients’ travel experiences), they are familiar with many destinations. They are not just aware of the most popular and familiar things to do at a destination, but they can also do additional research and help you pick out the perfect plans.

For example, I recently had a client traveling to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. She wanted to take her daughter for dinner with a princess. There are actually half a dozen different places to have a meal with a princess there, but some of these dining experiences aren’t known to most travelers. I asked her who her daughter’s favorite princess was. She let me know it was Rapunzel. I was able to arrange a breakfast with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. They were one of only a handful of tables at this breakfast so the interaction time with Rapunzel and Flynn was phenomenal. That’s the type of experience a travel advisor can put together for you.

A Travel Advisor Gets to Know You and What You Like

A good travel advisor will work with you vacation after vacation. As they do so, they get to know you and what you prefer on a vacation. Do you prefer first class flights or economy? Do you prefer an upper floor room? A room close to the elevator? A cruise versus an all-inclusive resort? They get to know your likes and dislikes and what is important to you.

The benefit here is that it makes it quicker and simpler to book and work with you each trip. When you call a cruise line’s call center, you have to explain everything to them again and again…every time you call you get someone different. Your travel advisor knows you already. The result is time saved and value and advantages for you!

Travel Advisors Sit on Hold So You Can Spend Your Time Doing Something You Enjoy

Want to catch up and binge watch your favorite TV show? If you’ve ever spent hours on hold with a cruise line, you’ll know how frustrating it can be to lose that time…and they always seem to pick up at the most inopportune time like when you’re trying to get the kids to bed.

Seriously though, one of the best benefits of using a travel advisor is they will save you time. They are the ones to sit on hold with the cruise line and work with them to sort out any problems, errors or questions relating to your reservation.

The best thing about this is that you don’t have to. That means you have more to do something else…just about anything else!

Gifts of Appreciation

Travel advisors enjoy showing their appreciation for your business…and often that will come in the form of a gift.

Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you.

–Ralph Marston

I love that quote. I value my clients and wish to show my appreciation for their loyalty and business.

Who doesn’t like walking into your hotel room and find a thank you note with a little something extra like chocolate-covered strawberries or a gift basket…or onboard credit for a cruise. Travel advisors want you not to just book one vacation with them but many more. They put in a lot of work to help you have a great trip and want you to know they appreciate your business.

Travel Advisors Specialize and Focus on Certain Types of Vacations

Travel advisors spend a lot of time being educated and certified. This means many travel advisors have specialties that they focus on. My specialty and focus is on family travel…whether it’s a family of 2 or a family reunion of 200. As a result, I have taken the time to get certified in popular family destinations and types of travel such as group travel, Disney vacations and cruise lines.

Because of this additional training, a travel advisor often continues to watch for price changes and work with their clients to get them the best deals possible. Sometimes that means getting clients a free upgrade or financial savings.

But What If I Like Doing the Planning Myself?

Most travel advisors allow you to do as much or as little planning as you want. Some people enjoy planning the details of their trip. A travel advisor can still add value by making suggestions you might not be aware of. They can handle the general booking of the trip while allowing you to keep control of the particular details you want control of.

A travel advisor can also add the benefit of making you aware of new opportunities and offering up savings like onboard credit on a cruise ship. If something goes wrong, they are there to advocate for you…and spend hours on hold so you don’t have to.

If you’ve never used a travel advisor to help you book your trip, I highly recommend you try it. You just might be surprised at how much less stressful a trip can become when using a trained travel advisor.

If you want more information on how I can benefit you in planning your next trip, please feel free to use the “Contact” page to let me know.

Family Affinity Travel, Types of Groups

Quick Guide to Affinity Family Group Travel

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 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

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

For example:

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 Do a Family Affinity Group Trip?

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.