How to Avoid Potential Reunion Problems

By Beth Gauper Premium

When more than a few branches of a family are involved, planning a family reunion requires the strategic skills of a general, the diplomacy of an envoy and the social agility of an emcee. In other words, plan carefully—it’s not easy to make everyone happy.

First, find out what people really want. Are they expecting to spend most of their time reacquainting themselves with far-flung family members, or more time acquainting themselves with the golf course and swim-up bar?

Next, think about cost. Failure to accommodate even one family on a budget can result in lasting resentment that poisons the family well rather than replenishes it. Mary Beth Solano of Fort Collins, Colo., and her sister, Jill Faskin of Grand Junction, Colo., solved that problem by asking some of the families in their 55-member group at Snow Mountain Ranch to give a little extra, so others wouldn’t have to pay so much. “Keep a careful record of who pays what,” Solano adds. “I sent out a newsletter once a month, telling people what the prices were.”

When money is tight, choose a resort with cabins or condos with kitchens, so those who need to can prepare their own meals.

Try to come up with a location everyone can get to easily. LaVerne Pasko of Palatine, Ill., saw Black Wolf Lodge while making the seven-hour drive to the Twin Cities; it was exactly halfway. “Half of our family is in the Twin Cities and half is in Chicago, so that was perfect,” she says.

When choosing a resort, pay only for what you’ll use. If there aren’t any small children in the group, there’s no sense in choosing a place where child care is included in the price; the same goes for resorts that include greens fees and such expensive activities as water-skiing, unless you’ve got golfers and water daredevils.

Take an inventory of interests. In Nancy Reynolds’ family, for example, three of her husband’s brothers love to golf and fish, and the 13 children love to swim. But the Minneapolis pastry chef likes resorts that are near antique shops and interesting little towns she and her sisters-in-law can explore. “If you just had to go and stay in one place,” she says, “that would be missing the boat.” Identifying interesting spots nearby is especially important for family reunions that, like Reynolds’, last more than three days: A little jaunt can cure a case of too much togetherness.

Don’t forget to poll family members on privacy, too. Reynolds admits she’s picky about that: “I don’t want to be tiptoeing around someone who’s sleeping late.” If privacy is an issue, choose a resort that offers a variety of lodgings, such as four-bedroom condos for families who don’t mind a gaggle of cousins running in and out, and one-bedroom condos on the other end of the resort for those families who prefer a quieter retreat.