By Lia Blanchard

A large family gathering is a big deal for everyone involved. Along with the joy of reuniting with relatives comes the stress of planning, travelling, and logistics. It makes sense to designate a host to coordinate the details. Is that you this year?

Family Reunion Sign

Wide But Well-Defined Ranges

The key to ensuring that everyone enjoys the experience is to set expectations that are clear and not too narrow. From lodging to food to entertainment, providing a range that accommodates most of the group – while being clear and specific about what isn’t going to be available – will set realistic expectations, minimize surprises, and keep everyone engaged.

It’s All in the Planning

The biggest things to plan are: lodging, food, and entertainment. Plan these ahead of time and frame them with a budget.

  • Lodging. How many people need a place to sleep? Are local relatives willing to house others? If so, be specific about maximum number of people and days of stay. Keep in mind special needs such as mobility issues, allergies, and kid-friendliness.
  • Food. What meals are communal? Who is in charge of gathering and distributing information about dietary needs? Who is in charge of shopping for and preparing each dish?
  • Activities/Entertainment. Plan a small variety of activities that will accommodate a wide range of interests, abilities, and ages.
    • Table games: cards, board games
    • Party games: bingo, charades
    • Outdoor games: team games, sports
    • Crafts: time capsule, cookbook of family recipes, photo collage of event
  • Budget. Will the host foot the entire bill? If not, how will families share expenses? One simple way is to come up with an estimated total of all expenses (plus a little for unforeseen expenditures), and divide it by the total number of people attending. Each family then pays their per-person contribution to the coordinator.


If you’ve stayed organized and planned well, you’ve done the hard part. No event goes 100% as planned, but you are much better prepared to “roll with it” if you’ve done the groundwork, and have helpers in place who are clear about their responsibilities. Visit Gatherings or Disney’s Family Fun for valuable planning tools.

Tip: Hired help for the day of the event can be a real blessing. It may take a fair portion of your budget, but having someone else taking charge of food, or cleanup, or child care, or photography will really allow the family to relax and enjoy each other.

The whole intention behind family reunions and gatherings is to get relatives together who otherwise would not see each other. It’s important to remember these intentional moments. What memories will you make this summer?