After more than a year of missed holidays, birthdays, and milestones, families are eager to reunite and spend time together. Family reunion vacations are the perfect way to make up for lost time and spend quality time with loved ones. Planning your reunion to be very outdoor-centric will ensure you’re meeting everyone’s comfort levels, and creating a safe and healthy experience for all generations to enjoy. To help with your planning, here are six tips for a fun, successful, and safe vacation with extended family.
1. Have the Covid Discussion
Everyone is going to be wondering a few things; who is and isn’t vaccinated? Who is still wearing masks and in what situations? Even though it’s on everyone’s mind, it can be a tough subject to broach, says Catherine Ryan Gregory, the author of a travel blog and several travel books for families. “I suggest starting a conversation by sharing your own status and what you're comfortable with regarding masks and being around others.
“Say something like; “All the adults in my family are fully vaccinated and our kids are not. We feel comfortable doing X but not Y and we still wear masks in these situations.” This strategy makes your comfort clear from the get-go.” And, other people can use the information both to reciprocate their own preferences and to create a consensus around the trip. This will avoid any uncomfortable conversations or clashes while on your trip and sets the tone for a respectful and relaxing experience for all members.
Encourage the family members who are being extra cautious to ensure they voice their concerns and to make their requests to other family members clear. And, packing extra masks, hand sanitizer, and hand soap to share with others is always a good idea.
2. Decide Where You Want To Stay
“The question of sharing lodging vs not sharing is a big question right now,” says Gregory. “I recommend your group discuss lodging as far in advance as possible and be completely honest about your comfort level for sharing a house, staying in a hotel, and so on.”
With an outdoor vacation you also have to agree on what level of outdoorsy everyone wants. Some folks don’t feel they’re really outdoors if they aren’t sleeping in a tent. Less outdoorsy relatives might not have the gear to comfortably spend several nights camping. Others might be willing to hike, kayak, and bike all day but they prefer a proper bed and bathroom overnight.
A group of single-family cabins in a big state park can be a good solution if people want to be near each other but have their own space. Some KOA campgrounds have cabins grouped together in a way that’s ideal for this kind of trip. Quick research can tell you how rustic or not these spaces are. Check to see if they have full kitchens, en-suite bathrooms, places to barbecue, or make a fire in the evening.
Renting RVs is another way to sleep separately but be close to each other. RVs also allow for a road trip, say to a series of national parks and natural beauty spots, rather than sticking to just one destination. And, some RV parks have resort amenities like pools, game rooms, and tennis courts for family members who need to keep kids and teens entertained or just want a bit more comfort.
Your collective per-day budget can determine where you stay and what you spend your days doing as much as people’s interests and comfort level will.
Tenting will cost far less than a hotel if you’re meeting up near a national park. A RV vacation might be more costly than you expect when you factor in rental fees, gas, and the cost of resort-style RV parks. And, you might be surprised, but a luxury vacation rental in the mountains or at the beach could be surprisingly inexpensive per person—if everyone is good with sharing a house, and you’re comfortable with kids from different households sharing bedrooms.
Renting kayaks, river rafting, zip-lining, doing a 4X4 safari, or learning to mountain bike or surf can all be fun outdoor activities and great bonding experiences. But they cost varying amounts of money. Hiking is usually free or close to it, as is cycling if people bring their own bicycles.
Determining a per-person budget for the length of the stay will help you to figure out how many higher-end activities you can manage and how much you want to rely on swimming, hiking, and other low-cost fun activities.
4. How Active Is Everyone?
In addition to your activity budget, it’s important to get a feel for how active everyone wants to be. And, you might need to come up with activities that accommodate a range of abilities.
A gondola ride to the top of a mountain can allow grandparents to join in the outdoor fun even if they aren’t out hiking every day with the group. A family member with a baby in a carrier will prefer well-groomed hiking trails over those that require a lot of scrambling over rocks or steep inclines. Teens in your group might need more of an adrenaline rush than most, while a porch with a nice mountain view might be outdoorsy enough for your less athletic relatives.
Keep in mind you don’t have to do everything together. Having a spot to gather, like the patio of the largest cabin or a select spot at the lakeside beach can help people to keep in touch while doing different activities for some of the time.
And, agreeing on a daily evening meal together—and perhaps breakfast as well, will ensure you all get plenty of together time.
5. Meal Planning
Family reunions always require a lot of discussion about meals. Menu planning, eating out, dietary restrictions or food allergies, different tastes, all makes for a lot of pre-planning to ensure everyone is accounted for. You can easily prep food in advance too to avoid extra cooking time while on your vacation.
If you’re planning to eat outdoors as much as possible, plan ahead. If it rains, think about what your back up will be, if you’re eating out in a restaurant, make sure you book well in advance to get your outdoor spot.
When you’re cooking together, consider having one person serve at each meal instead of passing dishes around or sharing plates. And, make sure any rental home has a dishwasher so you can thoroughly wash and sanitize utensils and glasses.
Once you know your budget, your lodging preferences, and your ideal activity roster, it will help you narrow down your destination.
Ski towns can be ideal for a reunion vacation. They’re usually much less expensive and less crowded in summer. They’ll have plenty of restaurants with outdoor tables. And, they’ll have activities like spas and shopping as well as a good variety of outdoor activities too.
National parks are a great option for a multi-generation vacation. Many have flat, paved trails that can handle wheelchairs and strollers, as well as challenging hikes for people who want them. Some have scenic drives or park shuttle buses for relatives who want the scenery without the exercise. Lesser-known parks will offer better value in terms of lodging and dining than the super popular ones.
And, don’t overlook beach vacations. A day of body surfing and building sand castles is the ultimate free outdoor activity. Pick a destination that offers bike paths, surfing lessons, kayaking, SUPing, and nature preserves with walking trails to give everyone more activity options.
A family reunion requires different packing than other vacations. You might want to bring some favorite board games or even portable yard games. This year you’ll also be packing hygiene-related extras like masks, sanitizer, wipes, and disinfectant spray, as well as the usual bug spray and SPF.
A bag like the Cargo Hauler wheeled duffel offers the flexibility and room of a duffel bag and it has wheels so you don’t have to carry it. It’s water-resistant, has side pockets for small items you want to keep handy, and it even converts to a backpack for the ultimate flexibility.
Get super organized with packing cubes like the Pack-it™ Isolate compression cube set to save space, and easily find everything you’ve packed. These pair well with the Cargo Hauler. From protecting clean clothes from shoes or dirty laundry, stashing your technology or toiletries, or even to compress bulky items like a fleece or hiking socks, they’re so versatile, you’ll wonder how you ever packed without them
For even more lodging ideas and inspiration check out 6 Alternatives To AirBnB.