personal organizer and pink flowers on desk
Family Travel and Reunions

Planning the Time and Location of Your Virtual Family Reunion

Planning for anything in life, including a virtual family reunion, can be extremely valuable.

A few weeks ago my hubby came across a recipe he wanted to try for dinner. We share the duty of making dinners, and it was my turn to cook dinner. He told me the recipe said it only took 10 minutes to prepare. Had I taken the time to read the recipe and plan ahead, we might have eaten dinner at a normal dinner time.

My first clue should have been the pure number of vegetables he purchased for the dinner. When it came time to prepare dinner, I noticed the “Preparation Time” had assumed that you had cut up all the veges and pre-cooked the pasta to al dente and a number of other steps. Wait a minute! It took me a l…o…n…g… time just to get to the point where the 10-minute preparation began.

Fortunately for me, my hubby was understanding and even a little apologetic when he realized why dinner was so late. And me, lesson learned (again) to always read a recipe fully ahead of time to make sure you have all the ingredients and take into consideration any prep work that needs to be done.

Importance of Virtual Family Reunion Planning

It is easy to fall into the trap that thinking just because a family reunion is virtual, or online, that it won’t take much planning. And, honestly, it won’t take nearly as much planning as an in-person family reunion. But there are a few things you can do to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.

Planning a date and where to meet up online is essential for your virtual family reunion.   Planner with flowers. /

There are many reasons to hold a family reunion online. For example, maybe there is a world pandemic and no one can travel. Sometimes we just want to connect and celebrate a special occasion like an anniversary or the expected birth of a child. We may also want to just get together to enjoy an online family game night. Knowing your why can help you in your planning.

Not doing some simple planning can cause a lot of confusion. The three most important things that need to be planned are the who to invite, when the reunion will be held, and where you will hold your online family reunion.

Planning Who to Invite to Your Virtual Family Reunion

Hint for figuring out who to invite: Make your list of invitees based on the reason that you are having the reunion. Having a reason and/or a theme makes the reunion more entertaining because everyone experiences something special.

Maybe you may want to have an all-girls’ teddy bear themed baby shower. Or, just maybe, you want to play a Harry Potter-themed trivia night for fun for the Harry Potter fans in the family. For our family’s 2020 Hawaiian-themed virtual reunion, everyone was invited. When planning how many people to invite, my personal opinion is: the more the merrier.

Know the limits of the technology you will be using. On the date I am writing this post, the free Zoom account limits you to 100 participant log-ins. For most people, that may be plenty of log-ins, but if you need more you need to plan accordingly.

Planning Where to Hold Your Online Family Reunion

At a traditional family reunion you need to find a physical location…like a campground, a hotel conference center, or even someone’s back yard. But with a virtual family reunion, planning a location means finding somewhere online to hold your reunion.

Mother and child at computer joining in the virtual family reunion.

There are lots of virtual places to gather online. Some are more user-friendly than others. The following are the two our family uses most often:

Here are some additional places I have heard of people gathering. While I have tried a few of these, some offer limitations or were not really built for family use but more for business use:

Make Sure Everyone Know How to Use the Technology

Make sure everyone knows ahead of time what technology you have chosen. If possible give them some basic instructions on how to use the technology. Alternatively, you can send them the link to the site’s instructions on how to use the technology. Not everyone is comfortable using new technology, so maybe have a volunteer ready to walk them through it ahead of time.

Planning When to Hold Your Virtual Family Reunion

As mentioned before, knowing your “why” or your purpose can help you in planning a date. Celebrating grandma’s and grandpa’s 50th anniversary? It is best to hold it some time near or around the date of their anniversary not six months later.

But if you aren’t celebrating anything in particular (except your family!), the dates are a lot easier to plan for a virtual family reunion. My family’s online reunion took place for one full week during the month of July. Other than our live trivia night kick-off, all other aspects of the event took place within our family’s Facebook group. People simply logged on when it was convenient and participated in the daily activities. Each day had its own thread which helped keep things organized.

If not planning your virtual family reunion around a special date, I highly recommend adding a theme to your reunion. Themes allow each reunion to be special and different than the other ones.

Coordinating the Big Event

A traditional family reunion is a big event and often takes several people, or even several committees, to organize. While an online family reunion doesn’t take quite the same amount of planning, you may wish to ask for help. Sometimes, it’s just fun to have an extra ear or two to bounce ideas off of.

If you decide to ask for help, there is no need to meet in person. Often, you can do most of the planning through calling, texting, or emailing. Although if you need an excuse to enjoy Taco Tuesday, this just might provide you the right excuse to hang out with your fellow planners. Listen to your planning crew…especially if they have any concerns you might not have thought of.

In addition to the pre-planning phase, I asked for feedback several times throughout our family’s online event. The observations were noted, adjustments were made, and I have several ways I will be changing things up for our next event.

Include Something for Everyone

I have a very unique family. (But isn’t every family unique?) One of the things I wanted to be mindful of was that there would be something for everyone. To get as much participation as possible, I needed to be sure there was a variety of activities so everyone felt there included.

Participants enjoyed planning and creating these vegetable sculptures for our online family reunion.
Photography & Food Carving Talent: Whales Swimming in Hawaiian Waters

For the cooks and bakers of the family, we had a cooking activity. I gave out a list of “secret” ingredients and we got quite the variety of dishes that people came up with. In addition, people were able to submit photos or videos of various talents being showcased…all around the theme of “Hawaii.” We had videos of dogs doing the hula, a reading of “Walter the Farting Dog Banned from the Beach”. And several people showcased crafting talents like memory book pages and quilts and photography.

Review Your Plans Before the Big Day

When I chose to make a new dish for dinner a few weeks ago, I made a huge mistake. I failed to review the recipe (the plan) before it was actually time to make the dinner. While the dish was still tasty (I will be making it again), I failed in execution. Dinner was quite late that night. Other things we has planned to do that evening had to wait for another time.

Review your plans before the big date to be sure you’ve got everything in place and ready to go. It can save you so much headache and make the reunion a lot more memorable for everyone.

As always, remember: The family that plays together, stays together.

If you or anyone you know is thinking of holding an online family reunion, please feel free to share this article.

I would love to hear any experiences you have had with planning an online family reunion. Leave a comment below and let me know how it went.

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Now is the time for an online family reunion.
Family Travel and Reunions

Six Reasons to Have an Online Family Reunion This Year

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.

Reasons to enjoy a Hawaiian-themed virtual family reunion.  Connect online and enjoy island time.

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.

Have a Hawaiian-themed online family reunion complete with a photo scavenger hunt.

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?

Online family reunions allow for creativity and fun.  Macadamia nut & coconut crusted SPAM fries.

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.

Read more about virtual family reunions in the articles below:

Family Travel and Reunions, Vacation Planning

Online Family Reunions are Relative-ly Simple and Loads of Fun

Large family vacations and reunions have been a huge part of my life. I have so many memories. The bonds that I have been able to make during those times together continues to drive my motivation to do what I do both personally and professionally.

My hubby is the one who actually encouraged me to quite my old job and take up helping other families plan trips and reunions with their families. I have been planning trips and family gatherings for so many years for my family that it seemed like a natural transition for me.

But when you are in the midst of a pandemic, it can seem that family gatherings are no longer practical or wise. But that’s not true. We don’t live in an all-or-nothing society, thank goodness. With technology being so advanced, there has never been a better time for a virtual family reunion.

Get Fired Up About Spending Time With Your Family

I get pretty fired up when I think about hanging out with my family. Maybe I am just lucky, but I have a pretty fantastic group of siblings, nieces, nephew, great-nieces, etc., that I L…O…V…E to spend time with. Whether we are a group of 2 or 200, we rock when we are together! That’s why my motto is:

The family that plays together, stays together.

Often, the thought of organizing a family reunion can seem overwhelming. And right now, in the midst of a pandemic, it doesn’t seem very practical either. I mean, the best part of a family reunion is the endless, mouthwatering food; the goofy games; and the crazy antics that go on.

Playing an online game of family trivia is just one way to gather and have fun with your family through a virtual family reunion.

Through the years, family reunions and family vacations have brought me lots of fantastic memories…as well as pounds to my waistline that I need to work off once I get home.

Most Compelling Reason People Love Getting Together With Family

There are so many reasons we love to get together. But in the end, the most compelling reason people want to gather is the people we love.

Sharing pictures and video of your family is all part of an online family reunion.
Alexander Dummer/

Life is short. Kids grow up way too fast…and then have their own kids who grow up way too fast. It is difficult to keep up with them. Before you know it, people leave us way too soon.

Every year, on December 31st, I ask myself, “Where did the year go?” Each year seems to go by more quickly than the last.

Now is always the best time to reconnect with your family. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

There are many reasons we enjoy coming back together time after time with our families. And just because we are having a pandemic doesn’t mean we can’t gather together…we just gather in a different way.

What is a Virtual Family Reunion?

The internet has made virtual family reunions extremely easy to connect.
Anastasia Shuraeva/

A virtual family reunion for all intents and purposes is an online family gathering. Family reunions have always come in different shapes, sizes, and themes. A virtual family reunion…or school reunion…or reunion of friends…can be as big or as little as you desire.

With an online reunion, you can invite as many (or as few) people as you want. You never have to worry about running out of space. And no matter where they may be living around the world, family members or friends can join in.

A virtual family reunion can be as simple as a threaded FB post…or as elaborate as a week-long Hawaiian-themed series of online activities.

As I write this, I am in the middle of this exact type of online family reunion. We have a live trivia night via Zoom planned. One day we have a photo scavenger hunt. We sent out a list of Hawaiian-themed ingredients for people to use, and they have been sharing their pictures and recipes all week long. How many things can you make from SPAM?

And what’s the best secret ingredient of all? Love!

Deciding What Type of Virtual Gathering to Have

The first thing you want to take into consideration what type of reunion you want to have. Think about:

  • How tech-savvy are my family?
  • How many people do I want to invite?
  • What activities do I want to include?
  • How can I adapt games we’ve traditionally played in the past at our reunions and make them part of our new online reunion?
  • What about a theme? Do we want one? If so, what should it be?

For example: We usually have a talent show or skit night. How do we adapt?

My answer for a Hawaiian-themed reunion: Ask people to submit and upload videos of their family doing the hula…or ask Uncle Ned to play his ukelele and sing “Tiny Bubbles”…or ask Aunt Frida to perform a reading of Walter the Farting Dog: Banned from the Beach. Have fun with it and be creative!

Getting Started with Your Online Family Reunion

Over the next few weeks (and blog posts), I am going to be sharing some basic tips and ideas to help you get planning your online family reunion. I’ll let you know how we organized our Hawaiian-themed reunion.

Your mission, should you wish to accept it, have some fun and plan your own virtual family gathering!

If you want to learn more about planning a virtual family reunion, you may find the following articles helpful.

Related Articles:

Family Travel and Reunions

Trends in Travel Making Family Friendly Travel all the Rage

Times have changed a lot since my first few trips as a little girl. Today, the travel industry is making it easier and more friendly for the family heading out on an adventure together. And I, for one, am very happy about that!

I remember the first time I ever got to fly in an airplane. Things were very different back then. The cost of a flight in many cases was as expensive today as it was then. There was one tiny screen above the heads of everyone to watch the one movie the airline was choosing to show that month. If you wanted to actually hear the movie, you were required to buy ear buds that were very uncomfortable, had extremely poor audio quality, and often broke about 10 minutes into the movie.

Traveling on an airplane has become more family friendly.
Picture from Pexels

Whether you are traveling by air, land, or sea, the suppliers of travel are making the effort to become more kid friendly. They recognize that the current generation prefers experiences over things…and that means creating memories with your families while traveling.

When I was a kid, there wasn’t much thought given to making travel kid-friendly. Hotels, restaurants, cruise ships and airlines did very little little to entice adults to bring along the kiddos. In fact, I think in many cases they preferred that the kids stay home with Grandma and Grandpa while Mom and Dad had some time away.

For the record, I am all for Mom and Dad taking a vacation by themselves. However, I am also all for families taking vacations together and creating memories that last a lifetime.

Any day spent with you is my favorite day. So, today is my new favorite day.

— Winnie-the-Pooh

When I was growing up, eating out was mostly for mom and dad…and when you did get to eat at a sit-down restaurant, you usually dressed up. Going to a museum? All I remembering hearing was, “Shhh!” and “Don’t touch!” and “Don’t Get too Close!”

Family Friendly Travel is Becoming the Newest Trend

It used to be that in the travel industry kids were just a second thought…if they thought about them at all. Nowadays, there are many travel suppliers that cater specifically to families of all sizes. Cruises have kids clubs that are not just a babysitting service, but engage the kids on whole new levels…think escape rooms, zip lines, and a 10-story slide down the back of a cruise ship. Pool parties for kids and movies under the stars are offered at some hotels. Some all-inclusive resorts even have water parks attached to them.

When you visit a museum with your kids, museum curators no longer shush a cranky toddler. Many museums offer interactive exhibits where the kids can try on clothes that were worn during a certain time period…or ride an airplane simulator at an airplane museum. Many museums now offer tours geared specifically towards a younger crowd.

Options abound for every taste bud in the family, including a sweet dessert.
Photo From Pexels

Restaurants offer paper kid menus to color and do puzzles…and, yes, I’ve been known to do a crossword or word search on a kid’s menu. Options for food abound at many restaurants…while still offering the obligatory pizza and chicken nuggets for the most stubborn eaters. But beyond the menus and food, there are restaurants these days that offer experiences just for kids.

Family-Friendly Eating Experiences

Disney Cruise Line ships have three different restaurants…and your family will get to experience all three through an assigned rotation schedule. One night you might be eating a meal straight out of New Orleans in Tiana’s Place while listening to Tiana (from Princess and the Frog) and her jazz band perform. The next night you will find yourself in Animator’s Palate and watch the black-and-white artwork on the walls slowly transform with beautiful color…and the artwork literally comes to life.

Visit a Rainforest Cafe restaurant with your kids, and you’ll find yourself sitting in the middle of a rainforest with jungle animals surrounding you. A simulated rain storm happens along approximately 20 minutes, and the the whole restaurant and animals awaken and come to life.

Today, you can find a dozen different airlines that can cater to just about every budget. If your budget is low, you can fly a low-budget airline and bring your own food and entertainment. However, if you want to spend a little more and pre-reserve your seat assignments, order your food ahead of time to meet any dietary needs, and have a pre-loaded entertainment tablet, then you are welcome to do so…at a higher price, of course. No right or wrong here, just what meets your family’s needs or budget.

Family Friendly Sleeping Choices Galore

The options for accommodations has grown exponentially over the past 10+ years. Being a travel advisor, it has been a lot of fun to watch the options evolve.

Hotels have begun to offer many different options. Gone are the days where you got either a room with one bed or two beds…and had a cot brought in or sleep in sleeping bags on the floor if you needed more places for kids to sleep. Many hotels now offer adjoining rooms (must request in advance). Now, some hotels such as Marriott’s Residence Inn and Hyatt House offer options that include kitchenettes…and even full kitchens and one or two bedrooms.

Rooms that are decorated and themed to please a kid (or in my hubby’s case a kid at heart) are popping up at hotels everywhere. You can sleep surrounded by Minions or dinosaurs at the resorts at Universal Orlando. And Disney has some fun themed rooms including a Pirates of the Caribbean room at their Caribbean Beach Resort or a Little Mermaid room at their Art of Animation Resort.

Family friendly rooms such as a Pirates of the Caribbean room can be a lot of fun for the family.
Pirates of the Caribbean Room at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

All-inclusive resorts used to be marketed to newlyweds and as a romantic getaway. Now some all-inclusive resorts offer kids clubs, play areas, kid-friendly menus at restaurants…and some even have water parks attached to them. They offer areas exclusive to families, while other areas are exclusively for the adult-only crowed.

Easier to Search for Just the Right Accommodations

And thanks to websites like AirBnB and VRBO, it’s easier than ever to rent a 2- to 5- bedroom house for a family reunion…or a 1-bedroom condo on the beach for mommy, daddy, and their little toddler. You can make all your own meals with ease, get take-out or eat out.

For those who want to spend a little more money, there are more options available for families than ever before. Cruises now offer quite a variety of cabins and suites for families of all sizes. African safaris offer glamping. How about a sleeper car on a train? Yep, you can do that, too.

There are endless options today for the family who wants to travel.

Today’s Technology Makes Traveling Easier for the Family

Family travel has adapted to all of the new technology that we have available today. That has, in turn, changed how families experience and engage with a vacation.

Sure, a child’s backpack might still be filled with non-techy activities. You will find snacks, coloring books, activity books, a favorite stuffed animal, etc. But now you’ll find also find it containing a hand-held video device game or portable DVD player.

Smart phones today have a wealth of handy-dandy apps that make traveling with a family much easier. I remember the days of carrying a handful of paper boarding passes with me throughout the airport. It was a miracle if I still had them all when it came time to boarding the plane. Now, I’ve got everyone’s boarding pass right on my phone…along with my hotel reservation and car rental.

Our smart phones (and tablets) can also provide a lot of entertainment for bored kids who are sitting on an airplane or waiting in line. They can contain an arsenal of books, movies, games, and apps for just about anything. There are apps that can translate a foreign language…or find a Pokemon just about anywhere in the world.

Apps to Simplify the Travel Experience

Disney has perfected the travel app with their My Disney Experience app which becomes your transfer to take the Magical Express bus from the airport to your hotel, functions as your room key, and also contains your pass to get into the theme park. Want to order lunch to pick up at your convenience? Yep, you can do that too. It’s a seriously tech friendly way for your family use as you travel.

Smart phones and tablets are the perfect cure for the bored child or adult. They can help you through a meltdown. Put headphones on or ear buds in, and they magically become a way to digitally separate your kids when they’ve had too much together time. Just remember to pack the charger!

What is Next for Families in the Travel Industry?

Honestly, I can’t even imagine all that the future holds for family friendly travel. It has come such a long ways in my lifetime. During my childhood, many of the options and technologies we see in play today weren’t even imaginable.

I think my favorite trend has been the explosion of choices in accommodations. My hubby and I tend to stay places now where we can get a room with a separate living room area. I often suffer bouts of insomnia and have trouble sleeping at night. I head out to the other room and grab a snack and do some reading and maybe even get a little work done like writing a blog post. And I don’t have to worry about waking up my family.

What’s one of your favorite trends that has made travel more family friendly for you? What would you love to see in the future? Feel free to leave a comment below because I’d love to know.

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Family Travel and Reunions

Secrets to Overcoming Challenges of Family Travel

I know that at times taking the time to travel with family can have its challenges. But I have learned how to deal with those challenges. The result has been many fun family vacations and memories.

I have had the pleasure of planning family trips for over three decades now. It’s the reason I became a travel advisor and travel blogger. Whether it is just my hubby and me or a group of 27 extended family members, the joy that comes from being with my family is pretty awesome.

Sand shovel poking out of the sand.  Travel with the family to the beach may have its unique set of challenges like sand everywhere afterwards.
Photo Credit: Pexels

But let me take a moment to tell you that I have suffered in the past (and still occasionally do) from anxiety. And the idea of traveling with family can sometimes bring on a panic attack or bout of fear that things won’t be perfect. But I have learned a few secrets over the years to removing the anxiety mindset and replacing that with a happy anticipation mindset when it comes to traveling with family.

Does the idea of traveling with kids feel like getting a root canal without getting numb? It feels like it’s way too complicated to even consider planning? While I can’t promise you things will go perfectly and stress-free, I can say that traveling with your family can bring huge benefits. It is knowing and recognizing these benefits that make it all worthwhile.

Here are some of the secrets that I’ve learned to keep in mind over the years that have helped me during overcome the challenges of both the planning and travel with my family:

Recognize That Travel Enriches Kids…and Adults

Travel has many benefits for family…especially children. It can broaden the minds of everyone. As you travel to new places and learn the unfamiliar customs and ways of life, your kids (and even you) can learn to experience a new empathy and understanding for people of other cultures.

Kids learn new social skills. They learn how to say please and thank you in another language. Learning about and experiencing new cultures helps kids have a more global mindset and think about life outside their tiny bubble at home.

As an added bonus, travel is good for the development of the brain of a child. In an article for The Telegraph, Dr. Margot Sunderland said:

Think: family together in the pool, walking together through forest, touching long tall grasses waving in the wind, toasting marshmallows on campfire, hanging out together under warm sun, feeling sand between the toes…The brain fertilizers triggered in enriched environments are also associated with higher IQ in children. So spend some time exploring together in a new space, and you’re making your child smarter.

– Dr. Margot Sunderland

Traveling With Kids Can Be A Lot of Fun

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it a million more times in my lifetime. Traveling with kids can be fun!

Gray whale breaching.  Vacation and whale watching can enrich a child's experience.
Photo Credit: Pexels

The opportunity to see the world together can be amazing. Maybe you take your kids for a day trip to go whale watching. The look on their face when they see the actual size of a gray whale up close and personal is priceless. Your child has probably never seen something living that is so large and their view of the world changes ever so slightly.

Or maybe it’s a day at the beach and your hubby puts together an impromptu “beach Olympics.” Using items he finds at the beach, he creates small competitions. Thirty years later, the “kids” still talk about this. I know. Because our nieces and nephews still talk about this and digging hot tubs in the sand. They would dig a hole in the sand and as the tide slowly came in, it filled with water and created a hot tub to sit in for a few minutes.

As families remember all these shared experiences…good and bad…it creates a bond and memories that stay with them for a lifetime.

Appreciate the Fact That Traveling with Kids Slows You Down

There is no way around it. Traveling with kids will slow you down. That is NOT a bad thing. Kids have a way of asking questions you’ve never thought about…but maybe you should. Having kids around means you’re making a lot more pit stops. The more kids, the more pit stops are needed. But sometimes looking for that next pit stop takes you someplace you never would have stopped at, and you find a hidden gem.

Kids have a way of making friends wherever they go. Sometimes, they may not even notice that their new friend doesn’t even speak their own language. This particular lesson is one my hubby and I have learned and tried to emulate when we try to make new friends wherever we travel. We have met so many amazing people on our travels and enjoy staying in touch with them.

We can learn a lot from watching our kids and applying their way of thinking.

Anticipate the Unique Challenges of Travel with YOUR Family

You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.

Michelle Obama

Let me be honest here. Traveling with kids or a large family group is not always easy. There will be challenges in both planning and execution. But by understanding the possible challenges and preparing for them, you can turn those challenges around and make them an advantage.

Every time you travel with family, the challenges will change. I remember the first time I flew on an airplane with my then 1-year-old. He did not have a seat of his own because of his age. He had a blowout in his diaper. It was pretty nasty and the woman in the seat next to us was not appreciative of the situation. But you know what? These things happen. We had plenty of diapers, wipes, and change of clothes…and if you have ever had to change a diaper in an airplane bathroom, you can imagine out fun this was. We’ve learned not to judge other parents on an airplane.

Then there was that time we took a road trip from Seattle to Salt Lake City. We had our nephew with us. Our family has a nice rhythm when on a long road trip. We try to stop every two to three hours. Our stops are usually a 5-minute opportunity to stretch the legs and hit the bathroom. Everyone uses the bathroom whether they think they need it or not.

When we would stop for a bathroom break on this particular trip, our family would use the bathroom and get back to the car only to find my nephew still sitting in the car playing a video game. He needed to get to a “stopping point” in the game before he could use the bathroom. We made the mistake of allowing him to take his video game with him into the bathroom…approximately 25 minutes later he emerged. But because we had to wait for him, I discovered I had dropped my sunglasses car when I got out. If we had taken the quick stop, I would have lost my sunglasses.

Favorite Family Folklore is Created Out of Unique Experiences

Each time the family takes the time to travel, it will have its own unique set of challenges. The fact is, each family members has different needs, personalities and wants. As children get older, their needs, personalities and wants will change and evolve. Believe it or not, when you can recognize this and keep in mind where everyone is at when you are planning your trip, you might just have an incredible time.

That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? To have an fun time together and create happy travel memories.

At the end of your trip, everything may not have gone as planned. In fact, I’ve never had a trip where everything went as planned. But if everyone is feeling good about the trip and full of new stories to tell…and best of all asking when you’re going to do it again, consider it a success.

There are lots of reasons people travel. Some of us travel because of the nostalgia we feel from experiences of past trips. Some of us travel because we excited about the idea of exploring new places. The idea of sharing with these adventures with our kids can get us pretty pumped up.

There is No One “Right” Way to Plan a Family Vacation

Planning a vacation using a map.  Proper planning helps to have a happy family vacation.
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No two kids are alike. As a parent, we often see their personality traits come to life even before they can walk and talk. Their personalities to continue to evolve over time.

The same can be said for planning a family vacation. No two vacations will be exactly the same, so don’t fall into the trap of believing there is a “right” way to plan a family vacation. Each vacation should be planned in a way that is best both for their family and for the intended destination. A trip to the beach with toddlers should be planned in a very different manner than a trip to Disney World with tweens.

If you are like me and like routine and lists, recognizing this may cause a little personal internal discomfort. Your packing lists will be different. Your activities will be different. You may mistakes in your planning along the way. It’s okay. Learn from the experience and keep on planning for that next vacation.

The “travel fails” that we experience are what family legends are made of. We have a Disney timeshare in Orlando. It seems that one of us almost always ends up at the walk-in clinic right outside of Disney property on every single trip. We have a running joke that our medical files there are larger than the ones at our doctor’s office back home. It’s okay. We don’t stress about a trip to the clinic any more. Whenever our friends see us at Disney on our Facebook posts, they now ask “whose turn is it to go to the hospital?”

Pick and Choose What You Learn From Other People’s Travel Experiences

When you tell your friends and family you are going someplace like Sea World, every friend and family member who has been there will come out of the woodwork to give you advice.

You can learn a lot of good things from other people’s experiences. But I add a word of caution. It goes back to what I said about no two vacations being alike. When you take in the advice people give you, decide for yourself if their advice makes sense for what you are planning.

If they traveled five years ago…or maybe even one year ago…things may have changed. A hotel that is recommended may have changed management and now may be run down. Always check online reviews and do some homework for yourself…keeping in mind that they very well may have some great suggestions.

The Agony, Ecstasy and Challenges of Family Travel

The truth is, family travel can feel agonizing at times. But changing how you think about the challenges you will experience can help you prepare to create some pretty fantastic memories for your family and loved ones.

Never put off spending time with your kids…whether it’s a day trip to to the beach or two weeks in Italy. You’ll never get that time and opportunity back. Just be sure to keep your individual situation in mind when planning so that your family remembers all the awesome times you had and laughs at those not-so-awesome times.

I sincerely hope this site provides you with tips and insight to planning many happy family vacations and memories that will last for generations.

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