Family Reunions, Family Travel and Reunions, Uncategorized

Ideas on How to Stay in Touch Between Family Reunions and Vacations

If you’re like me, you start to miss that time you’ve spent with family the minute you climb in the car to drive home after that family vacation or reunion. Everything is cleaned up and the open space looks kind of empty. Everyone is headed their separate ways. My hubby calls this the “walk of sadness” as we give those last few hugs goodbye. It’s about this time I know that I need to stay in touch and keep those connections I’ve made with my family.

In my head, as while we are still driving home, I am already beginning to plan not just for the next time we get together, but also how we can stay connected until then.

Why is it Important to Stay in Touch with Family?

An article by WebMD provides the following information on how staying in touch with family benefits us:

“This idea of feeling connected becomes very reinforcing, to all of us, and contributes to happiness, it contributes to mental health and it does contribute also to physical health.”

John northman, psychologist
Stay in Touch with Family Through Social Media
Photo by Cristian Dina on Pexels.com

The article discusses how keeping in touch with family benefits us:

  • Emotional Support: It makes us feel better when we are able to share happy moments and memories together.
  • Esteem support: We can feel good about ourselves. Our family can validate that we’re doing well and help us out when we aren’t doing so well.
  • Informational support: We can teach other things by passing on our knowledge…like hobbies and family recipes…hints and tips on how “Grandma always did it.”
  • Network support: It gives us a sense that we belong. It’s really important to have a place where you feel like you’re accepted and you belong.
  • Tangible support: What college kid doesn’t enjoy getting birthday money in a card or a care package from home?

Ideas to Stay in Touch with Family Online

I’ll be the first to admit that although I may not always be the most adept at using technology, I love all of the fun ways available to connect online. It’s never been easier to come up with new ideas to stay in touch with the family.

Below are a few ideas on how to stay connected online between vacations, reunions…and even during a pandemic. Pick and choose and create an online family reunion. Want more information on how to hold an online family reunion? Grab the free downloadable guide to coordinating an online family reunion on the sign-up at the bottom of the page.

Baking or Cooking Together

Send out an invite with a recipe, let everyone gather their ingredients, and spend a Sunday afternoon making Grandma’s pot roast via video call together.

It’s a great opportunity to share helpful hints or the “secret” ingredient Grandma left off her recipe card. My mom used to leave ingredients off of recipes she’d hand out so no one’s tasted just like hers. Over the years, we’ve compared her recipes and finally been able to figure out her real recipe. Sorry, Mom, but we loved yours so much we just had to play detective to be sure we got it right.

Or spend an evening baking or decorating cookies. Traditionally, the cousins (now grown) have gathered to decorate Christmas cookies together. This year, during the pandemic, they can gather via video and still decorate cookies. They can share their funny creations…just at their own homes through video.

Stay in Touch with Family by Decorating Cookies Together Virtually.
Photo Credit: Bluebird Bakes

Bluebird Bakes offers seasonal “decorate yourself kits” if you’re running short on time to do your own baking and frosting making.

Chocolate (or wine or soda or cookie or anything) Tasting

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic had many businesses needing to quickly pivot their business models. Here in Washington, we saw wineries that offered virtual wine tastings. You could simply have your wines shipped or pick-up them up for your virtual wine tasting.

I have seen friends and family take this a step further offering virtual chocolate tastings and virtual soda tastings together. Order everyone a bag of assorted Ghirardelli minis. Jones Soda offers some great variety packs of soda that can be ordered online.

Simply connect virtually with your goodies and compare your tastings with your family. Use your creativity and and find something that is perfect for your family!

Play Games Together Online

Our family has been enjoying virtual game nights every month for the last nine months and probably will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t matter where in the world family members are, as long as they have internet, they can participate.

We’ve had trivia nights, as well as played games like Family Feud and Never Have I Ever. Next on our agenda is a game of Harry Potter-themed Hollywood Squares. Zoom is perfect to hold these as it allows you to share your screen if you’ve got a game board.

Social Media Challenges

In the past, we’ve seen big social media challenges like the “ice bucket challenge.” You can create your own social media challenge for just your family. Maybe it reflects something that has meaning to your family…like taking a picture with a spoon hanging from your nose.

Stream a Movie

While you may miss those in-person movie nights, there is a way around that. Make a video call, choose a movie, and have everyone start it at the same time. Better yet, there are apps like Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) that let you view movies or TV shows simultaneously.

Video Call

As people get older, sometimes they tend to talk less. A video call is a great idea to stay in touch family…and pretty easy. The number of apps and programs available are pretty numerous. Some of our favorites are Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook.

Virtual Book Club

I have always wanted to be a part of a book club. So pick an evening, set a time, gather some snacks for an hour or two of sharing what you’re reading and whether or not you’d recommend it. Alternatively, you can have everyone read the same book and discuss it.

And for those with younger kiddos in the group, maybe Grandma and Grandpa could do a book reading. Can’t get together for the annual reading of “The Night Before Christmas”? Set up a call where it gets read virtually or record a video and share it with family.

Ideas to Stay in Touch with Family Offline (aka the Old-Fashioned Way)

Care Packages

There is nothing like getting a care package. It shows that the sender…well…cares about you! You know someone is thinking of you. If you’ve got an upcoming family reunion or vacation planned, it can contain things to help build excitement…like a countdown calendar or packing list or suntan lotion.

A care package can also be themed to a holiday. Think outside the box. Is Global Handwashing Day coming up? How about a box filled with nicely scented hand soap and lotions? Be creative and try to make it fit your family.

Newsletter

A family newsletter is the perfect way to let everyone know what’s going on throughout the extended family. A newsletter can be sent as an attachment via email…and if Great Aunt Edna doesn’t “do” email, you can send her a copy via snail mail.

Phone Call

In today’s world of text messaging, it’s easy to forget how simple it is to just dial a family member and give them a quick call to check in on them. Ask them how they’re doing. You’re probably not the only one struggling with being separated from family. It’s such a small act that can mean the world to someone.

Send Cards and Letters

Stay in Touch with Family Through Sending Cards
Photo by Claire Morgan on Pexels.com

My grandma never missed a birthday. She always signed them “Loads of love, Grandma.” This was no easy feat considering she had 6 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren and numerous friends and extended family she kept in touch with. Going through her things after she passed, we realized what a large part of her days were probably spent letting people know that she was thinking of them.

I still love to send (and receive) real, physical birthday and Christmas cards. We send them to our nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews, siblings, etc. If you’re 18 or under, you still get $10 from us. I love to hear how the kiddos use that money. The most recent purchase by a great-nephew was for a stuffed baby Yoda. Oh, that makes my Star Wars-loving heart melt.

Stay in Touch with Family Through a Virtual Reunion

The perfect way to stay in touch with family between those in-person reunions and vacations is to connect virtually. Our family has had so much fun the past few years playing games online, sharing recipes, and so much more through our family Facebook group.

In addition, many families can’t manage to coordinate a family reunion or vacation every year. Holding an virtual reunion can be the perfect way to substitute an in-person reunion with a virtual one. We’ve put together some great articles and a free quick guide for holding an online reunion. Sign up below and leave your ideas in the comments below on how you stay connected with your family when you can’t be together in-person.

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    Family Travel and Reunions

    Conquer the Top 4 Worries About Traveling with Kids

    If the idea of taking the kids with you to the grocery store sounds intimidating…the idea of taking them on a trip can be downright exhausting. But don’t let the worries you feel about traveling with your kids stop you. Being aware of those worries and planning for them ahead of time can make your trip go smoother. Together, we are going to confront those worries head-on.

    Even though my boy is a grown adult, it doesn’t mean I don’t have worries when taking him traveling. After all, his file at the walk-in clinic right outside of Disney World has got to be five times thicker than his one back home. We’ve learned a lot over the years about renting wheelchairs and crutches in Orlando.

    Worry #1: Can We Afford to Travel with the Kids?

    Our financial position when our son was little was definitely much tighter than it is now. We have always valued travel and life experiences over acquiring “things” in our family. Our house is not a mansion, but the memories we have of our family adventures bring us lots of joy.

    There are little tidbits of how to budget for a trip sprinkled throughout my website. And there are thousands of websites on budget travel…and many of them focused on family travel. One of my favorites is Points With a Crew. The reality is that traveling will always cost you some amount of money (although there are ways to reduce the costs…sometimes dramatically).

    silver and gold coins
    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    Anticipate the following costs of travel:

    • Food: Everyone needs to eat. It’s what sustains life at the most basic level. When you get to your destination, will you pick up food at the local grocery store? drop in at the local McDonald’s? or enjoy an sunset dinner cruise?
    • Lodging: We all need somewhere to place our head down at night and snore. Camping, getting a hotel, or getting your own RV still costs money.
    • Admission costs: Unless you are spending the week enjoying the free outdoors, you need to anticipate costs of admission to theme parks, zoos, museums, etc.

    All of these family travel costs can add up and create worries if you haven’t planned ahead.

    Over the past few years, family travel has definitely been becoming more expensive. It’s the basic economics of supply and demand. Gen X-ers and beyond have been placing more emphasis on experiences over things…causing demand for experiences to increase. Cruise ships have been pumping out ships like crazy to keep up with demand. Yet, prices continue to climb as availability can still be difficult to come by.

    Everyone wants to travel during school breaks. The result has been a steady increase in pricing during these peak travel times for families. This has created something called “date-based” pricing for food, hotels, and entrance into places like Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World…and even the local zoo.

    If there is any way for your family to travel during the off season, that can save you lots of money. Do some research and look for more economical or budget-friendly destinations. And look into joining mileage programs and credit card reward programs to help with the costs. Points with a Crew has so many great tips in this area. I highly recommend checking them out on how to save money.

    Worry #2: How Do I Keep My Kids Healthy and Safe?

    New parents spend tons and tons of time trying to figure out how they can keep their little ones safe from just about every accident, disaster and sniffle out there. It’s in our DNA. And when it comes to traveling with our kids, our worries can compound at an exponential rate.

    Prepare for Any Eventuality

    Every day of our lives, we spend time trying to lessen the risks of getting sick or injured. But part of life is accepting that at times things will go wrong. It’s all part of this adventure we call the human experience.

    The truth is, when we travel there are a lot more unknowns than there are at home. We recognize that things are often out of our control. Now add that to the things we already get nervous about when it comes to our kids. It is shocking that we ever take our kids with us when we leave the house. Take them to a new beach, state, region, country? Now that’s downright scary!

    But I’m here to tell you it’s not as scary as you might think. It’s definitely worth jumping the hurdle. There are some basic and fundamental things you can do to lay the groundwork for some fun and healthy family vacations.

    Remember: Kids (and parents) can get sick and have accidents at anywhere…even at home.

    Vaccinations and Medications

    Many countries and regions of the world require specific vaccines. And some areas it is highly recommended to look into anti-malarial medicines. Don’t leave looking into this until the last minute!

    ambulance architecture building business
    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    Take a first aid course. This can come in handy both at home and while traveling. Seriously, this helps you not to panic in case of emergency. Always carry a first aid kit with you! If you’re bringing a backpack to haul around snacks and essentials, the first aid kit should be one of the first items in the backpack.

    Before the trip remember to:

    • Bring emergency numbers for the area you’ll be visiting…including doctors who may be in-network for your insurance.
    • Go over basic hygiene with the family…especially washing hands often.
    • Teach the kids to listen to safety instructions…whether it’s a muster drill or airline pre-flight instruction, there is a reason for these directions; tell them to make a mental note and ask questions if needed.
    • Be aware of pedestrian safety…be aware of which side of the road drivers are on, know what the different signs mean, and don’t assume cars stop for pedestrians.

    Some people say you need to hear something seven times before it sticks. I’d say with teenagers, kids, and even adults, it never hurts to hear that safety spiel one more time.

    If someone in your family has special medical needs, some countries with less than ideal medical infrastructure might not be a great destination for you. The good news is that there are gobs of destinations where good medical care is available should you need it. Not that I am speaking from experience or anything.

    Insure Some Peace of Mind

    If your worries from traveling with kids includes the following…

    • Cost of emergency medical care
    • Cost of replacing items in lost luggage
    • Missing your flight because you overslept

    …consider purchasing travel insurance.

    I always mention the benefits AND drawbacks of purchasing travel insurance to the families I work with. But I always leave the decision to them because it’s a very personal decision. I purchase travel insurance for myself about 30 percent of the time. The risk-reward ratio has to make sense for me.

    In many circumstances it is well worth the risk to purchase insurance. And sometimes you may feel like it was a wasted expense when you get home and didn’t need it. As the saying goes: Better safe than sorry.

    If for some reason there is an emergency, your entire family may need to fly home early. Do you know what the change fees are? How does that stack up against the cost of insurance?

    Before you purchase travel insurance, read the fine print. Know what is covered and what isn’t covered. Not all travel insurance is the same.

    Worry #3: What Happens if Your Family is Involved in an Emergency?

    Statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely that your family will encounter any of these emergencies, but you need to be aware if they do happen and how to handle them:

    • Car accident
    • Natural disaster
    • Random local crisis
    • Terrorist attack

    Experts agree that it is much more probable that you will be involved in a car accident close to home. We get in and out of vehicles on a regular basis at home.

    Research Your Destination

    You should do your research before leaving to ensure that you are aware of any current problems or current events to be concerned about at the destination you will be headed to. Follow any official guidance on areas to avoid. If there are issues, and you’ve got little ones, maybe postpone that destination for the time being and go someplace else.

    It is important to know what your tolerance for risk is…and if you have worries about traveling with kids to a destination. And I always say to research, research, research! Weigh the risks before deciding to book your vacation.

    There are so many places in the world for families to explore. Is it really worth it to take a trip if you are going to be distracted or frightened about the safety of your family the entire time? You want to be sure you can breath easy and have a good time together.

    Where to Find Travel Information

    The most up-to-date information for travel can be found on official resources provided by governments. Below are links to some of the most commonly used ones:

    It is well worth your time to read any advisories and pay attention to situations like “no-go” areas. This can often impact whether or not your travel insurance is effective. Again, read the fine print of travel insurance before you purchase. Not all policies are created equal.

    If you have friends or family who have traveled recently to your destination, ask for their feedback and what their experiences were. Sometimes we something on the news like “Seattle is burning” when the reality is that there are occasional protests on Saturday nights and they are miles from any tourist areas. A little pre-planning and you are safe to go.

    In the end, it is your comfort level that should determine whether or not to travel to any destination.

    Worry #4: Is it Worth the Worries of Traveling with Kids?

    Let’s face it. Traveling is a lot of work…and tons of extra work when you’re hauling the little ones along. So is it worth all the effort and worries to be traveling with your kids?

    The truth is that the younger the kids, the less likely they are to remember everything that happened on a vacation. Our son certainly doesn’t remember his first trip to Disneyland. But he does still have the souvenirs we picked up. And he enjoys looking at pictures, video, and hearing the stories of that first trip. As a bonus, he still goes to Disney with us whenever his schedule allows. Something this mama loves!

    Once you arrive at a destination, and you are all together as a family, something pretty wonderful happens. Even the youngest of kids can feel their parents relax as they settle in to being away from a hectic life at home. Parents have more time to focus on their kids with all of the regular household chores out of the way. Their little brains begin to learn to adapt to new experiences…and that’s a good thing!

    Let go of worries of traveling with kids and just enjoy the special moments like sunsets together
    Photo on Pexels.com

    As kiddos get older, they can learn a whole new set of life skills if you let them. Let them help plan what excursions you will be going on. We let our son get us around the airport by learning to read signs…find a place to eat, what gate are we departing from, has there been a change to our flight time, where is baggage claim. By the time he was no longer an unaccompanied minor, he was getting around the airport like a pro.

    Kids should learn early how to create a packing list for themselves and pack their own suitcase. They can also learn about how to be flexible when things don’t go as planned…and maybe even learn a little patience.

    There are also nice educational benefits for kids who travel such as:

    • Foreign language: Kids should learn at least some of the most commonly needed phrases when traveling such as “please,” “thank you,” and “where is the bathroom?”).
    • Math skills: Kids can learn to budget for things like snacks and souvenirs. Older kids can learn about currency exchange and exchange rates.
    • Humanities: What is the history of the area you are visiting? How have things changed? What kind of geological features do you see? What about art and architecture?

    Quality Time

    Leave those worries about traveling with your kids behind! A vacation with the little ones is the perfect way to spend quality time with them! Traveling will help them pick up and master new skills and knowledge. They will get a better appreciation for different people and cultures around the world.

    Read More About: How Trends in the Travel Industry is Making it Easier for Families to Travel

    No matter what emergency has popped up for our family while traveling, we always come back happier and more bonded as a family.

    The bonus for you as a parent (or grandparent or aunt or uncle)? Getting to scratch that travel itch. Go ahead and give it a try!

    Sign up below for free weekly ideas for family activities and to hear what is new here at Ohana and Friends Travel and in the family travel industry. Don’t miss out on the fun!

      Feel free to share this post with anyone who may be feeling a little nervous about the thought of traveling with kids.

      Family Travel and Reunions

      What is the Best Type of Trip for Your Family?

      My family loves to travel. We always enjoy a vacation to a Disney theme park. As the family changes, the type of family trip we take also changes.

      When we had a toddler at home, we enjoyed things like a small staycation checking out the local sites like the zoo. As our son grew, so did the types of vacations we tried out. We enjoyed exploring new destinations both near and far.

      Every family has their own unique likes and dislikes when it comes to travel. Some love to camp and rough it while others enjoy a getaway at the local Great Wolf Lodge and spending the weekend on water slides. One of the great thing about travel is that the options are endless. And the type of trip your family takes can change and adapt just like your family does.

      The Staycation: Exploring Your Own Back Yard

      Occasionally, we enjoy staying around the home and exploring the local sites. Living in the Seattle area, it is surprising how many locals I talk to that have never taken the elevator up to the top of the Seattle Space Needle. Yet, it is a must-do for tourists from out of town. For the record, I have been up to the top several times, but it’s been decades and I have yet to see the new glass floors that were installed. Time to head back!

      Hometown types of family trips allow you to explore your city like you were a tourist.  In Seattle, that might mean a trip to the Space Needle.
      Explore your hometown as if you were a tourist!

      If you choose a staycation as the type of trip your family wants to take this year, remember to treat it as you would any vacation. Unplug from work, turn off distracting apps on your phone, and definitely avoid household chores. You wouldn’t be mowing the lawn if you were 2,000 miles from home, so don’t do mow it during your staycation.

      A staycation is the opportunity to check out the newest exhibit at the children’s museum you’ve been wanting to see. Or maybe you want to try out the cookie dough food truck everyone has been raving about. Find a kid-friendly local hike and take your child on their first hike. Knowing how much they enjoy hiking and what their hiking abilities are can open up possibilities of exploration down the road…like hiking Arches National Park.

      Find a Base and Do Some Exploring

      My hubby and I have been doing this quite a bit during the summer of Covid-19. We have driven 3 to 6 hours from our home to a base hotel and explored some cities in Washington and Oregon. It is something we probably never would have done if it weren’t for our hesitation to fly during a pandemic.

      Renting a home, condo, or a villa can be a great way to introduce kids to travel. You’ll have your own kitchen to make meals that are familiar to your kids. A mix of eating out and eating can initiate conversations about manners when eating out and trying new foods. We always told our son that he should try “one bite.” If he didn’t like it, he wouldn’t have to finish it. He’s a pretty adventurous eater now because we didn’t force him to finish eating things he didn’t like.

      Renting a home allows your family more square footage to spread out if needed. And no need to tell your kids to not walk so hard so you don’t disturb the people in the room below. There is no need to worry about noisy neighbors in the room next door…playing loud music, TV, or holding wrestling matches.

      Many rental homes and villas even offer toys for kids to play with.

      Get Active on Vacation

      As a child gets older, his physical abilities begin to develop. This means it might be the perfect time to try a vacation that takes a little more physical activity. It can be the perfect way to connect with your family.

      There is a sense of achievement when your whole family makes it to the end of the hike…whether it was a 1-mile hike with toddlers or a 10-mile hike with teens. When the boys in our extended family did the STP bike ride (Seattle-to-Portland Ride), they came away with deeper bonds and lots of stories to share. It continues to be one of my hubby’s fondest travel memories.

      Active type of family trip may require a little extra planning...like biking Seattle to Portland.
      Take an Active Vacation

      As each member came across the finish line, there was a group of family waiting to cheer them on. And I heard no complaints about the fact that those of us in the sag wagon (support vehicle) had picked up VooDoo Doughnuts for them to enjoy after they finished.

      Just be aware that a more active vacation may take some extra planning and patience. What you pack for a 180-mile bike ride is very different than what you pack for a weekend at the beach. Be sure that everyone in your group is in the physical shape necessary for the level of activity you will be doing. It is worth the payoff in the end.

      Head to the Big City

      Most big cities offer an astonishing amount of activities for kids…with lots of options appealing to kids’ taste buds, too.

      Some cities can be very noisy, busy and a bit polluted. Other cities have tend to have aggressive street sales people. Do your research before you leave to make sure the city you are headed to will be one your kids will enjoy. Just because a guy is trying aggressively to sell you a “I Love NY” hat, doesn’t mean you won’t love New York (but it might frighten some kids). Be prepared so you know what to expect…and prepare your kids to know what to expect.

      It can be a lot of fun to watch your kids immerse themselves in the culture of a new city. This is especially true of older kids who are more aware of the culture in a given city. It’s the perfect time to let the older ones learn to navigate how to get around a big city. And it’s a great life skill them to know for when they finally leave the nest.

      Get Behind the Wheel and Embark on a Road Trip

      Packing up a toddler for a 10-hour trip in the car can bring fear into the heart of any parent. The challenges of a road trip can be many.

      But for many families, there is something kind of fun about getting ready for a road trip. In our family, every one puts together a “road trip playlist” for listening to…a special type of music (or podcasts) only listened to on the open road. Oh, and don’t forget those awesome road trip snacks! For us, no road trip is complete without chocolate chip cookies, Red Vines, and mixed nuts.

      We have learned to look for pit stops along the way to use the bathroom or grab something to eat about every two to three hours. And if you are worried about the back of your car looking like a bomb went off…well, it probably will. But it will clean up. I suggest doing a pick up and clean up at the end of every day.

      To make your road trip extra memorable, allow the kids to pick a few stops along the way. When kids are involved in the planning, it gives them a mental boost. And they are more apt to participate and support all the activities that have been planned.

      Volunteer on Vacation

      If you are wanting to increase your family’s ability to be more flexible, tolerant, and understanding of the world, then adding a volunteer type of component to your family trip might be just the answer.

      Traveling can be one of the best ways to expose your kids to a world bigger than what they know and a lot of compassion. Volunteering offers an unequaled opportunity to teach your family how to appreciate what they have, to work together, and to learn empathy for others.

      Take the time to volunteer sometimes while on vacation.  Give Kids the World is the perfect complement to a vacation to Disney World.
      Volunteer Somewhere Like Gift Kids the World on Vacation

      Taking the family to Disney World? How about spending a day sometime in the middle of your trip volunteering at Give Kids the World. Here you can help and serve kids with terminal and life-threatening illnesses enjoy a vacation with their families. (Our family LOVES Give Kids the World and the work they do!)

      If you do decide to do a volunteer vacation, always do your research to make sure that you have chosen a trustworthy organization.

      Mix Things Up

      The type of trip that might be the perfect match for your family most likely will change from year to year…or even month to month. Different stages of life open up different types of travel. Give different types of travel a try and let the kids help plan when appropriate.

      By the time our son was eight years old, we let him guide us to the airport and find our gates based on flight numbers, find baggage claim to get our suitcases, etc. When he flew by himself for the first time at age 14 to visit relatives, he was not nervous and was able to navigate the experience by himself with no issues. I considered it a win as he learned important life skills.

      So go ahead and plan some family trips! Enjoy your time together! And remember: The family that plays together, stays together!

        What’s your family’s current favorite type of vacation? I’d love to know in the comments below. We love learning about new travel ideas.

        Please share this post if you know someone looking for ideas for a family vacation.

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        Family Reunions, Family Travel and Reunions

        Deciding How Often to Hold an Online Reunion

        The decision of how often to hold your online reunion is probably as unique as each member of your family.

        I’ve heard it said that family is like fudge; mostly sweet with a few nuts! Yep. Our family is no exception. In fact, we embrace the nuttiness in our family.

        We love spend time together…even though we are scattered all over the United States from Washington to Idaho to Utah to Texas to Alabama. We haven’t always lived so far apart, but when you have a large family it just kind of happens as the family grows.

        Past Reunions

        In the past, we’ve held some sort of family reunion almost annually. My parents had a summer cabin near the beach on Camano Island in Washington. Every 4th of July we held a barbecue and set off fireworks on the beach. This had become a tradition we all looked forward to…especially the kids who enjoyed getting to light off fireworks with their cousins.

        As a matter of fact, this has become so much a part of the family that I had a nephew get married there this past year on the 4th of July. Due to the pandemic, the wedding was held with only a handful of immediate family members to keep things socially distanced. But the joy and and heartfelt well wishes to the bride and groom were sent by those couldn’t be there physically.

        I’d be lying if I said some of us weren’t a little heartbroken we couldn’t be at the wedding. But those of us unable to attend were able to join virtually. We were able to celebrate both the 4th of July and the wedding courtesy of today’s technology. It was a way of keeping the tradition alive…even in a pandemic.

        Virtual wedding meant enjoying a piece of cake virtually.

        There was sure a lot of cupcakes and cake for such a small group thanks to our family’s baker extraordinaire. He also showed off his cooking and baking talent in our online Hawaiian reunion, too.

        Approximately every five years, our family has tried to hold a large destination family reunion. Disney World was our destination of choice for many of those reunions. Five years seemed to be a nice amount of time for families to plan and budget for these reunions.

        Is an Annual Online Reunion Often Enough?

        Did you know that over 50% of family reunions that are held have them every year? A second bit of trivia: 15.8% of all reunion include five generations. How lucky is that to be able to have five generations together?

        personal organizer and pink flowers on desk
        Photo by Kaboompics/Pexels.com

        Many of my family live fairly close together. Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw each other fairly often. While we still do a few things together, it is in small groups and socially distanced. We have missed gathering, so we held our first online family reunion this year.

        Our online reunion was a huge success!

        It was a week of activities held online. Everyone’s talents (and sense of humor) were on full display. We found out things about each other we never would have known had we held the gathering in person. Note to self: When this pandemic is over, we WILL continue to hold these.

        The families who were spread out all over the country didn’t have to worry about the cost of traveling or missing work or school or camp. For these families, the online reunion was allowed them to connect without the cost or hassle of travel and protecting themselves against the spread of illness.

        Hold a Small Online Reunion to Try It Out

        There is no need to decide early in the game how often to hold an online reunion. Go ahead and give a virtual reunion a try. My technology of choice is a private Facebook group. Simply set up a Facebook group and give it a fun name. My maiden name is Funk, so we have named our reunions FunkBlast.

        Think of your one-day online reunion as a testing ground for future reunions. Find a theme and run with it. As part of our online reunion this year, we had a Hawaiian theme.

        Hawaiian Online Reunion 2020.  Is annually often enough for an online reunion?

        Choose a themed activity like a photo scavenger hunt. For example, our Hawaiian-themed scavenger hunt included items like a ukulele, a sand dollar, a coconut, and beach ball. People uploaded photos throughout the day as people commented and connected with each other. Creativity (and maybe a little nuttiness) really made this activity fun.

        The interesting thing I have found with these online reunions is that the number of family who participate grows each time we gather. Apparently, the word gets around when you’re having fun!

        Stay in Touch Between Reunions

        Let me tell you one of the huge advantages of having your reunion online. There is no clean-up! No garbage pickup, no dishes to wash, no need to figure out who left their baseball cap behind.

        Once our online family reunion was officially over…actually, before it was even over…everyone wanted to know when we would be doing it again.

        And staying in touch with each other was easier than ever. We now had this private Facebook group where we could connect any time we wanted…no matter what the time of day was or where in the world we were.

        There are lots of other ways to stay connected, too. Some families publish a monthly newsletter. Other families have a family website that they use to coordinate information. And some families hold a weekly phone call. How often you meet is up to you!

        Our family is now holding monthly trivia nights via Zoom. It has been a total blast! And we have found out how much people remember about The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island.

        Be a Close-Knit Family by Connecting Online

        “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”

        -George Burns

        While the above quote offers some humor, the reality is that having family in another city doesn’t mean you can’t be a close-knit family. Because you can! And you can gather as often as you want without worrying about time or money. The more the merrier when it comes to online reunions.

        We always say: The family that plays together, stays together. So have an online gathering once a month or once a year. You decide. It is so much easier to plan than a traditional reunion that it makes having them more often a breeze.

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          If you know someone interested in holding a virtual family reunion, please feel free to share this post.

          For more information on the new trend of virtual family reunions, please read the articles below.

          Family Reunions, 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.
          Kaboompics.com /Pexels.com

          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.
          AnastasiaShuraeva/Pexels.com

          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.

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            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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