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 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

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

    When you are in the midst of a pandemic, it can seem that family gatherings are no longer practical or wise. I do miss hanging out with my family. Thankfully, we don’t live in an all-or-nothing society. With technology being so advanced, having an online family reunion can be simple to put together and offer loads of fun.

    Large family vacations and reunions have been a huge part of my life. I have so many fun 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.

    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 Simple Online 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.

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      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

      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.
      Photo Credit: Pexels

      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.

      Additional Article(s) You May Find Helpful

      Trends in Travel Making Family Friendly Travel All the Rage

      The travel industry continues to make changes to entice families to travel together more often.

      Six Steps to Planning a Vacation

      Here are the six basic steps to planning a family vacation. After all, the family that plays together, stays together.

      Vacation Planning

      Tips to Enjoy (Not Just Survive) a Group Family Vacation

      Sometimes it can seem out of reach to enjoy a group family vacation. It is not as difficult as you might thing. It does take a little planning, listening and patience.

      I have been pretty lucky to get to do so many group family vacations over the years with both my family and my husband’s family. We share so many fun memories…and a few that maybe weren’t so fun at the time but we can laugh about now.

      Disneys Aulani Resort is a fantastic way to enjoy a group family vacation.  There is a little something for everyone.
      Photo Credit: Disney Destinations

      Tip 1: Be Willing to Break Rank Sometimes

      There is no hard and fast rule that says when you’re traveling as a group that says you must start and finish your day together. Your group does not have to be together all the time to enjoy your vacation. In fact, a little break from each other every now and then may be just what the doctor ordered.

      We’ve traveled to Disneyland several times with my grown nephews. We have always have a blast together. But we rarely start the day at the park together. My hubby and I are early risers and like to be there when the parks open. The nephews are just the opposite. They text us when they get in the parks, and we get together then. It’s no big deal. Everyone is enjoying the trip the way they that makes them happy.

      To enjoy your family vacation sometimes you have to split up so everyone can see what they want like Rise of the Resistance.
      Photo Credit: Disney Destinations

      I had a client who recently returned from Walt Disney World. It was a couple with their two elementary-aged children. They had gotten up early one morning try to get on the new Rise of the Resistance ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The system for getting on the ride was crazy when it first opened. Despite their much too early morning, they were unable to obtain the elusive “Boarding Group” that would allow them to get on the ride.

      The dad really, really, really wanted to ride Rise of the Resistance (and who could blame him). The rest of the family wanted to sleep in (and who could blame them). This could have been a huge battle or a situation that required some personal sacrifice. Instead they chose to let Dad get up early one morning while the rest of the family chose to sleep in and explore their resort. Everyone was happy and Dad got to share how awesome the new ride was…and I enjoyed reading about it.

      Tip 2: Don’t Try to Do Too Much

      One lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way over and over through the years is that the larger group, the slower it moves. So don’t try to schedule too much into your days.

      Even in small groups, you’re always moving at the pace of the slowest traveler. It might not be you on Monday, but it might be you on Thursday when your feet are knee is acting up and slowing you down. Don’t let people get frustrated when someone seems to be slowing the group down.

      Allowing your group to set up a schedule that is too rigorous will make you look like a group of military recruits out on a long march. The looks on your group’s faces will say it all. Take the time to look at people’s faces and see if it’s time to take a break and sit for a moment…or maybe reassess your schedule for the day…or maybe even split up for a little while (see Tip 1).

      Tip 3: Have a Back-Up Plan Ready

      There are a number of reasons you may want to have a back-up plan ready to go. Sometimes you realize that you have too many things to do in too short a time. If this is the case, knowing ahead of time which activities are easiest to drop is a life saver. There is no need to sit and waste valuable time trying to decide what to drop in the heat of the moment.

      Other times, you can look around at your group and know that no one’s enjoying whatever the group is doing. Maybe it sounded fun during the planning, but the reality is that no one is enjoying it. Cut your losses and move on to the next activity…or stop for an ice cream to get the group back in a happy frame of mind before moving on. Yes, we do use ice cream to readjust moods in our family.

      Maybe you’ve planned an outdoor activity, but it begins pouring down rain. It’s okay to have a back-up plan in place to make sure everyone stays safe and dry…and most likely happier…when the weather doesn’t cooperate with your plans. Keeping the family dry may be essential to making sure the group is comfortable and is able to enjoy themselves during a day of vacation.

      In the end, you have the ability to change things up to make sure everyone is enjoying their time together. If needed, it’s okay to split up into smaller groups (see Tip 1).

      Tip 4: Know What People’s Must-Do or Want-to-See Lists Are

      For most group family vacations, people are putting out a lot of money on accommodations, activities and hotels. While it is nearly impossible to do everything everyone wants to do, trying to work in at least one thing that each person wants to do can go a long ways in having a happy group. Ask everyone ahead of time what things they want to do on the trip and use that information to create an itinerary.

      When planning a group family vacation, one of the first questions I ask each individual is what they enjoy doing. I work hard to try to fit in something for everyone.

      Tip 5: Assign Everyone a Task That They Do Well

      Do you have someone in the group that enjoys taking photos, go ahead and ask them to be in charge of taking photos on the trip. Are you headed to Mexico and someone likes to show off their Spanish-speaking skills, let them be the interpreter when needed. Do you notice Cousin Freddie fancies himself a foodie…he posts dozens of pictures daily on his social media from the restaurants he goes to. Let him pick out some places to eat during the trip.

      When someone agrees take on a role, they begin to feel like they have a stake in making sure this is an enjoyable group vacation for everyone. Thank them profusely and give them encouragement. It can be hard work trying to figure out a place eat that will appeal to almost everyone. Gratitude goes a long way in getting people to offer their services in the future.

      Caution: Occasionally when I’m planning a trip for a larger family group I come across someone who is a “control freak.” They want to make all the decisions for everyone. Listen to what they say to express their opinions and implement one or two of the suggestions where appropriate…but don’t let them take control over the entire trip. Believe me, everyone will be happier that way.

      Tip 6: Shop Around for Group Discounts

      Group discounts can be found many places. The thing to remember is some places offer group discounts for groups of eight or more, and other discounts require you to have a significantly larger group. When checking out the prices of where you want to go, there is usually a link and/or phone number to call to discuss group discounts. And who doesn’t like to save a few dollars?

      Some discounts require you to purchase them in advance. Still other discounts may require you to visit on certain days of the week or during certain times of the day. This is all important information to know when planning your family’s itinerary. It never hurts to ask if your group can get an exception if the restrictions don’t work…but don’t count on an exception.

      Tip 7: Enjoy and Share the Knowledge About the Vacation with the Group

      When I have taken the time to plan a trip for a larger group, I like to have an initial conversations with the group. If a destination has been decided on, there is a good chance that many in the group have already done some research on their own which is a good representation of their own interests and motivators.

      You can gather everyone’s ideas together and assemble them and send the ideas out to the group. I find that in some ways this can become almost like a personalized guidebook for the group. Like in Tip 5, it allows everyone to share their strengths to come out with an itinerary that’s works for just about everyone. Everyone can enjoy a well-planned group vacation.

      Tip 8: Know When to Speak and When to Listen

      It is important that everyone feels like they have had some say in the planning. Once you get deeper into the planning stages, it’s important that people continue to feel heard. You need to be sure you understand any special needs that people have.

      Know when to speak and when to listen.  Understanding what your group needs will make the vacation more enjoyable for everyone.

      It is perfectly okay to have a pre-published agenda and stick to it when having a planning meeting with the family. Share any information people may need to be aware of such as deposit or final due dates of payments.

      You should also share your initial itinerary with the group. Give them a few days to look it over and make suggestions for adjustments. It is also important to make sure people are aware of any special medical needs such as food allergies or mobility issues family members may have.

      For example, maybe Aunt Susan expresses her concern that she can’t hike the required five miles to ride every ride at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. It’s a great opportunity to see if she would prefer you locate areas where she can rest within the park or prefer to rent a wheelchair or mobility scooter. If she wants a wheelchair, who will be pushing her around? Are there volunteers? It is much better to have solutions in place before you leave than to deal with these issues once you get there.

      Tip 9: Talk Things Out

      This is one of the most important tips I can give. It is so important to have open conversations when planning a trip. To resolve most of the issues ahead of time by talking through them allows for a much more amicable trip. I encourage you to keep planning meetings to 45 minutes and stick to an agenda. This ensures that conversation doesn’t go too far off the rails. You can always follow up where needed when you’ve been able to step away from the problem and look at it from fresh eyes and do some research.

      Everyone should feel like they’ve had the opportunity to have their say and to express any concerns. People may not agree, but they all can feel like they have been able to contribute to the conversation. Even quiet Cousin Callie might have a hidden obsession with Disney trivia and might be able to come up with a game the kids can play when they are getting restless during an hour-long wait for Space Mountain.

      Tip 10: Try Using a Trip Planning Service

      For larger groups, I recommend using a trip planning service. There are some great online tools and resources as well as travel advisors that specialize in group travel. If you decide to use a specialty travel advisor, I recommend you interview them to before signing any documents. It is important to understand what documentation you will need to sign or fees that will need to be paid. These fees can be worth their weight in gold when your group can relax and enjoy their vacation.

      If you don’t want to use a travel advisor, check around to see what online tools you can find to help you in your planning and booking. I continue to add resources to my website to help people plan for their family vacations. You can do a search or contact me using the “Contact” page if you have any specific questions. I really enjoy helping families put together trips that will create memories that last a lifetime.

      And remember: The family that plays together, stays together.

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        Family Affinity Travel, Family Travel and Reunions

        Quick Guide to Planning Affinity Family Group Travel

        So what exactly is an affinity group? Stay with me here because I think when you understand this concept, you’re going to want to start implementing some family affinity group travel into your travel bucket list. I get excited just thinking about the possibilities!

        According to, an affinity group is:

        Definition of family affinity group travel is traveling with family who share an interest.

        What is Family Affinity Group Travel?

        So what is family affinity group travel?

        Have you ever attended a family reunion or a family wedding or funeral or graduation or…well, you get the picture. It’s a time that we use to reconnect with family members you haven’t seen in a while. And sometimes you even meet someone new you get along with because you’ve got a common interest. Sometimes, maybe it’s even more than an interest; it’s a passion.

        My husband and my nephew both enjoy trains…especially steam trains…and can talk for hours on the subject. I connect with my mother-in-law over the Anne of Green Gables book series. My hubby and I both connect with any family member who loves Disney theme parks. We share an affinity with them.

        With family affinity group travel, you take common interests of some of your family members and create activity around that interest. It may just require a day, a weekend, or maybe even a whole week. With today’s Millennials, Gen X’s, as well as Baby Boomers, you might be surprised at who is able to connect over a common interest.

        How Does an Family Affinity Group Trip Differ from a Family Reunion?

        Typically, in a family reunion a large gathering of family takes place with dozens to hundreds of extended family members coming together. It may happen one afternoon at a park or over a weekend at a campground or a rented facility. Many family reunions are steeped in traditions of how they are organized and what activities take place, where they take place, and when they take place. They have been doing things the same way for 40 years or more

        Often, we see a family reunion as an opportunity to meet aunts, uncles, and cousins that maybe you’ve never met before…and reconnect with ones that you have.

        With a family affinity group activity, you take the connection a little further. As you discover aunts, uncles, and cousins that have the same interests as you, you plan something special to strengthen those family relationships and build deeper friendships. It’s a win-win.

        Often, that means that instead of doing the same traditional “reunion.” You choose a specific activity that people are interested in and plan an activity around it. It may require more flexibility in dates and where you will meet up than a regular reunion. The point is, after all, to enjoy an activity together that the group enjoys.

        That doesn’t mean you need to exclude everyone else from the activity. If you like, invite everyone on your reunion list and let them know this particular activity is especially for people who enjoy an interest in “X”, but everyone is welcome to join.

        Examples of Family Affinity Group Travel Activities:

        Here are some examples of special activities we’ve done with members of our family who shared a common interest. Although everyone was invited, no one felt obligated to come, and those who participated had a great time.

        STP (Seattle to Portland) Bike Ride

        My hubby is the bike rider in this group and has organized several group family rides. This particular one included riders from both my side of the family and his. A special Facebook group was created to organize the event.

        Because the STP is an organized two-day event held every July, the dates weren’t flexible. Those who were available and wanted to came. Even though I’m not a big bike rider, I was able to participate by organizing a carb loading meal at Olive Garden the night before as well as ride along in the sag wagon to meet up with the riders along the route.

        There were a number of training rides throughout the spring and summer, so even people weren’t able to go on the big ride, they were still able to train along with the group. At the end, there were lots of fun and funny stories to tell. I was so excited to cheer everyone on as they crossed the finish line.

        Mount Rainier Steam Train Ride

        Since my nephew and hubby are both big steam train enthusiasts, several summers ago we decided to meet up for a day trip to ride the Mount Rainier Steam Train. It was a fun afternoon riding the train and visiting the little museum.

        The whimsical sound of a steam whistle from a steam train was distinct. Those who are the real train aficionados got downright giddy when they heard the train pulling up to the station. Again, lots of fantastic memories from that afternoon and family bonds were strengthened.

        Anne of Green Gables Cruise

        My mother-in-law and I both have a love of the Anne of Green Gables book series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. They hold a tender place in my heart for a number of very personal reasons dating back to my childhood.

        My mother-in-law had made an attempt to take a cruise that stopped there several years ago. Due to mechanical issues, her cruise was cancelled. We were talking one Christmas and she had mentioned that this was one of the few items left unchecked on her bucket list. I was determined to make that happen. As a travel agent, I did a deep dive into the different cruise lines to find one that stopped there…and we booked.

        Why a cruise? Because I knew a cruise would interest other family members who might not necessarily be interested in visiting Green Gables. We let other members of the family know about our plans and soon had a small group going. The cruise has been booked and we are anxiously awaiting the date for next fall. Those of us who want to visit Green Gables will experience it, and those that don’t should be able to find an excursion that suits their interests. It’s a win-win.

        How to Organize a Family Affinity Group Trip

        Organizing a family affinity group trip isn’t all that different from organizing any other group vacation or activity. It just takes a little extra finesse to make this work.

        1. Clarify what it is you’re trying to do

        Family members that share an affinity for Harry Potter can travel together as a group.

        Any Harry Potter fans want to gather and play for a weekend at Universal Orlando? You can drink some butterbeer and ride the Hogwart’s Express.

        What is the affinity you’re all interested in? Is there a way to tweak the idea to interest more people if you want to include more or would you rather it be a little more intimate? Do you want it to be just a short afternoon activity? Or are you more interested in making it a long weekend trip?

        2. Select the activity you’re interested in

        For example:

        If your group is interested in jazz, is there a jazz festival where you can meet up at? Or maybe just a jazz club to meet at one evening enjoy a dinner or snacks? How about a themed cruise that brings famous jazz players on board (yes, cruise lines actually have themed cruises)?

        Do you have a group interested in quilting? How about a weekend trip to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, Oregon? Visit the show and do some shopping…or maybe volunteer as a group to help out during the day. How about renting a large house to share and sewing some quilts after a visit to the show?

        3. Begin publicizing your activity

        Now that you know what you want to do and when, it’s time to let people know that it’s happening. You can let your group know through email or a Facebook group. Both my family and my husband’s family have private Facebook groups with fun names where we can organize activities.

        Facebook groups are a great way to stay connected with your extended family. It offers people the opportunity to share what’s going on in their lives. As people share, you’ll be surprised what you can find out about people…as well as those who share your interests.

        Put a date or set of possible dates out there and see what the response is. Maybe people will share alternative ideas that are even better than what you came up with.

        4. Create an estimated budget or cost for the trip

        It is important to budget wisely for your family affinity group to travel together.
        Photo by Pixabay/

        Most people will want an estimate for how much the trip will cost. If you’re working with a travel advisor, this is a great opportunity to get them involved in creating an itinerary for your trip with different options and costs for each option. I know I try to give my clients several options so they can compare the costs and what they getting for their money.

        5. Get a head count and begin making reservations

        Once you have an estimated cost, now is the time to get people to commit to your trip. You need a head count so you can begin making reservations. To obtain group rates, you often need to meet a minimum number of people in your group. See if you have enough people attending to meet that minimum.

        After you’ve got commitments from people, go ahead and make reservations. If nonrefundable deposits are required, be sure that your group knows that up front.

        6. Guidebooks, documentation, and registration procedures

        Communication is key to making sure everything goes smoothly. Be sure everyone has a copy of the documentation they need such as reservation numbers, times the group is meeting up, where the group is meeting up, etc.

        If you have people visiting from out of town for the activity, recommend some guidebooks to get them acquainted with the area. I also like to have a list of local restaurants recommendations.

        7. Hold your activity or take that trip

        Get your family that shares an affinity to gather together as a group.
        Juhasz Imre/

        Now is the time to sit back and enjoy the company of your family and your shared interests. Bond with your family. Enjoy that activity you’ve been wanting to do. If there are a few bumps in the road (and there almost always are) then take note of them because these are the things that makes these trips even more endearing and gives us stories to talk about in the future.

        8. Gather Feedback

        Gathering feedback from those who went on the trip is so essential if you want to keep doing them. Find out what people liked and didn’t like. What went well and didn’t go so well? This is how you learn and make things better. And for those times when someone says something that hurts your feelings, just let it go.

        Begin thinking about other trips or activities that people might enjoy. Do you want to do them yearly, quarterly…you are only limited by your imagination (and your checkbook depending on what you like to do).

        Why Travel as a Family Affinity Group?

        So you’re asking yourself: Why do I want to do a family affinity trip? After having coordinated quite a few of them myself, I will tell you why I keep organizing them. I love being able to bond with family on a different level than at a traditional family reunion. We have stories to share about our shared interests and activities.

        Please note that I am NOT anti-family reunions. They have their place and are great at keeping contacts up and reliving memories from the past. But I never feel like I come away from them as having deepened those family relationships the same way I do with a family affinity trip. I even know a few families that have begun to switch up their family reunions to add a few affinity activities either before, during or after their regular reunions.

        The blunt truth is that Millennials and Gen Z’s as well as even some Gen X’s, really don’t have an interest in the old traditional family reunions. They value experiences over things. Providing them with opportunities to share experiences helps build those generational bonds that people are seeking.

        If you want help planning or coordinating a family affinity group trip, please feel free to use the “Contact” page to let me know. I’d love to talk to you and see how I can help.

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