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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    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.

    Destinations, Hawaii, Uncategorized

    Get Your Kids Excited for Hawaii Through Hawaiian Literature

    When I was a little girl, our family vacations were far and few between. Most of the time they involved all seven of us piling into the family station wagon, no air conditioning in the heat of summer, off to visit a member of the extended family.

    If it weren’t for books, I wouldn’t have known there was a whole other world out there. I was an avid reader and liked to read about life in other places…whether it was Paddington Bear in London, life on the frontier through the Little House on the Prairie series, or Canadian life in the early 1900s through Anne of Green Gables. Books took me somewhere exciting and different.

    The old classics are still there, but in today’s world the possibilities of travel through books are endless. If you’re eager to get your children anticipating your trip to Hawaii…or maybe just planning a “destination staycation” where your family can escape to Hawaii through books…no matter their age.

    The number of books available relating Hawaii are quite extensive. The key is to find the books that you or your family will enjoy the most. Whether you’ve got little ones who like picture books or the ultra planner who wants a guide to activities, there is something for everyone.

    My family always checks availability at the library first hoping to save some money. But when it comes to guidebooks, you always want the latest edition and something you can scribble notes in, so I recommend purchasing your copy.

    Hawaiian Books for the Youngest Family Members

    For the real little ones, it’s fun to have them settle down in your lap while you read them a story. There are some great books for the younger kids in your bunch.

    • Good Night Hawaii by Adam Gamble. A beautiful board book written for toddlers teaching them about Hawaii’s beaches, foods, and beautiful coral reef. Geared to the 0- to 4-year-old.
    • Rock-a-Bye Baby in Hawaii by BeachHouse Publishing. This board book can be read…or sang to your little one to the traditional lullaby “Rock-a-Bye Baby.”
    • Hawaiian Ocean Lullaby by Beth Greenway. Another board book that introduces your toddler to the Hawaiian ocean wonders like whales, dolphins, and mantas.
    • Aloha, Hawaii by Martha Zschock. This book is part of an “around-the-world” series by the author. In this installation, a mother and child macaw visit Hawaii. Geared for the 2- to 5-year-old.
    • Seashore Touch-n-See Hawai’i by Ellie Crowe. This book takes your child on a journey through the Hawaiian waters. It’s both educational and fun as the little ones want to touch the cute little Hawaiian critters over and over.
    • ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – in Hawaii – by Valjeanne Budar. A Hawaiian twist on a Christmas classic. It includes a glossary of common Hawaiian words. Geared toward ages 5 and up.
    • A is for Aloha: A Hawai’i Alphabet by J’ilani Goldsberry. A great opportunity to learn the language as well as some history and many wonderful things about the Aloha State. Geared towards ages 6 to 9.

    Hawaiian Fiction for Beginning Readers

    These books are great for those kiddos who are just beginning their independent reading journey. They can read independently, read to you, or maybe even read to their siblings.

    • Froggy Goes to Hawaii, by Jonathan London. The “Froggy” series is a bestseller. In this book, Froggy is off to Hawaii. Even things never seem to go as planned, he still manages to hula, surf, and swim and have an overall good time.
    • The Hawaiian Heist by Geronimo Stilton. This is a whodunnit mystery as Geronimo Stilton, mouse publisher, tries to figure out who the thief of a jewel heist is. Geared towards ages 7 to 10.
    • Junie B., First Grader: Aloha-Ha-Ha! by Barbara Park. Those who love the Junie B. Jones series knows that trouble accompanies her wherever she goes…even Hawaii. Geared to ages 7-9.
    • Recipe for Adventure: Hawaii! by Gia De Laurentiis. This book is #6 of a series where the character Zia’s magic ingredient takes the children Alfie and Emilia on an island adventure to Hawaii, famous for its delicious food, luaus, and surfing. Geared towards ages 7 to 9.
    • Thea Stilton and the Legend of the Fire Flowers by Thea Stilton. Book number 15 in the Thea Stilton series. This book finds the Thea Sisters in Hawaii to compete for a hula competition. Things go awry when a volcano is about to erupt. Geared towards ages 7 to 9.
    • High Tide in Hawaii: Magic Tree House Book 28 by Mary Pope Osborne. If you have a reader just getting into chapter books, the Magic Tree House series can be a lot of fun for kids to learn about places and events in history. In this particular book, the main characters Jack and Annie are headed to Hawaii. They help an island community survive a tidal wave and learn to surf.
    • Calvin Coconut: Hero of Hawaii by Graham Salisbury. Calvin has great plans for his sister’s birthday. Unfortunately, a big storm hits his home in the Hawaiian islands causing unforeseen complications. It’s up to Calvin to save the day. Geared towards ages 8 to 12.

    Hawaiian Historical Fiction for Children

    • Lydia and the Island Kingdom by Joan Holub. This is part of the “Young Princesses Around the World Series.” This is the story of the young Princess Liliuokalani. Geared towards ages 6 to 8.
    • Attack on Pearl Harbor (Ranger in Time Series) by Kate Messner. This book is set to be published in July 2020. In this installment of the “Ranger in Time” series, Ranger the dog travels back in time to Hawaii and where he makes new friends…just as the attack at Pearl Harbor begins. Geared towards ages 7 to 10.
    • Pearl Harbor (American Girl: Real Stories from My Time) by Jennifer Swanson. This installment of the “Real Stories from My Time Series involves fictional American Girl Nanea Mitchell and takes place around Pearl Harbor. It includes a glossary, historical photos, and a timeline.

    Children’s Hawaiian Fiction and Travel Guides

    • What’s Great About Hawaii? by Mary Meinking. In this book you can find out the top ten things to places to go and things to do in Hawaii. Geared towards grades 2 to 5.
    • Hawai’i Volcanoes (A True Book: National Parks) by Karina Hamalainen. This book is part of the National Parks series published by True Book. Geared towards grades 3 and above.
    • Hawaii: The Aloha State by Emily Rose Oachs. This book investigates what makes Hawaii unique from the other states. It talks about how volcanic activity helped form the islands and the beaches, bursting rain forests, and waterfalls. Geared towards grades 3 to 7.
    • A Kid’s Guide to Hawaii by Jack L. Roberts. This book will take young readers on a journey to learn all about Hawaii. They can learn about Hawaii’s nature, wildlife, state history, and more. Geared towards grades 4 to 6.
    • Hawai’i: True Stories of the Islands by Rick and Marcie Carroll. This book features many personal stories by different contributors as it explores Hawaii in a new way. Geared towards teens.

    If you don’t find anything that hits your fancy, feel free to do a search using your local library’s online search function. See what comes up. You never know what kind of gem you’ll find…often written by local authors.

    Hawaiian Coloring and Activity Books

    Other things I enjoyed doing as a kid were coloring and activity books. We had an “educational” bookstore just about a mile from our house. We’d head over there the beginning of the summer and my mom would buy us some activity books to keep us busy (and I’m pretty sure to keep us out of her hair).

    • The ABC Hawaii Coloring and Activity Book by Ruth Moen. Coloring pages and activities to help in learning your ABC’s and 123’s…while introducing Hawaii to your little ones. This book is advertised as geared towards grades 2 to 3, but it looks like many activities would be appropriate for the kindergartner and 1st grader also.
    • Coloring Hawaii by Kelly Monis. This book is advertised as an adult coloring book, but the pictures are all drawn on a medium scale with lots of beaches, ocean, flowers, animals, and landscapes. It would be great for a slightly older kid (or an adult who still loves to color).
    • Wonders of Life Hawaiian Edition: Coloring Book for Adults and Children by Natasha Nicole Portman. This coloring book is inspired by the art of zentangle and is meant to help you relax as you color. The details are large making it easier for older children to color. (Again, this one would also be fantastic for teens or adults.)
    • Hawaii’s Ocean Animals Coloring and Activity Book by BeachHouse Publishing. This book contains 25 activities (dot-to-dots, word searches, color by numbers) and 64 pages to color. This book focuses on the ocean animals found around Hawaii. Geared towards 1st and 2nd graders.
    • My Hawaii Coloring and Activity Book. by Hollyanne Shell. This book is advertised as geared towards 2nd to 3rd graders, but the simpleness of the activities would be easy for many kindergartners and 1st graders also. The pictures to be colored are nice and large.
    • Pineapple Coloring Book for Kids by Ocean Front Press. This coloring book is a little silly and all pineapple. It’s especially great for anyone who loves this juicy and sweet fruit.
    • Hawaii Coloring and Activity Book for Boys and Girls by Amelia ZaZa. This coloring book offers to help kids discover the beauty and culture of Hawaii. It also offers single-sided coloring pages to avoid tge bleeding through of markers.
    • The How ‘Bout Hawaii Coloring Book! by Carole Marsh. This book includes reproducible coloring book that introduces you kids to important people, places, and facts to know about Hawaii. Geared towards Preschool to 3rd graders.
    • Story of Hawaii Coloring Book (Dover History Coloring Book) by Y.S. Green. The “Dover History Coloring Book” series has been around for a long time. It offers lots of interesting and informative captions to accompany the pages to be colored. This coloring book is more detailed and is geared towards 8- to 12-year-olds.

    I’ll admit it. Even at my age, I still enjoy sitting down with a good coloring book at the end of the day. I keep one by my desk along with some pens. It never gets old.

    The Adventure Continues Through Hawaiian Books

    In my house, the planning of adventures never ends. Sometimes we plan a trip, and it doesn’t happen because life gets in the way. We put it on the back burner until we’re ready to put the trip back on the calendar. But that doesn’t stop my hubby and I from reading and learning about our destination…whether through fiction, historical fiction, guide books, biographies…the possibilities are so extensive and each book adds to our appreciation of the trip when we finally get to go.

    Do you have any favorite books that you enjoy about Hawaii, the culture, the history, the folk tales? I’d love to add them to the list. Just put them in the comments below.

      Uncategorized

      Disney’s Aulani Resort Awarded Best Family Hotel in the U.S.

      Congratulations to Disney’s Aulani Resort! U.S. News & World Report ranked Disney’s Aulani Resort number one on their 2020 list of Best Family Hotels in the U.S. That’s quite the distinction when you take into consideration the many choices that families have when traveling all over the United States.

      Hotels were graded on things such as guest reviews, hotel amenities, hotel class ratings, and reputation among travel advisors. Since its opening, Aulani has been recognized for its fabulous service and endearing and authentic experiences.

      If you choose to stay at Aulani, you can create an experience that is unique to what your group wants to experience–whether it be a romantic getaway for 2 or a multi-generational gathering for 30. Aulani Resort cast members go out of their way to make sure that you feel that you are part of the Aulani ‘ohana. It’s a fantastic destination to create memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.

      As a College of Disney Knowledge graduate, I would happy to be help your group plan a getaway to Disney’s Aulani–one which is geared toward the specific needs of your group. I continue to watch for new promotions and apply them even after your group has booked to ensure you get the best deal.

      Please use the contact button at the top of the page to let me know how I can help you plan your vacation to the number one ranked Best Family Hotel in the U.S., Disney’s Aulani Resort.

      You can find more information on Disney’s Aulani Resort here.