For once, the entire family can agree on one thing. You've decide to gather the gang together for a family reunion vacation with kids, cousins, siblings and grandparents. This is going to be on celebration vacation!
Everyone is super excited...until somebody mentions that dreaded "B" word...budget! Talk about a buzzkill!
Most people don't like to talk about money yet having the "budget" discussion is one of the most vital and necessary converations. First of all it's an important part of vacation planning 101. If "having everyone together" is the goal of this vacation and not everybody is a millionaire then expect the need for some compromise on budget.
In addition, having a vacation budget will help keep the focus on "the good of the group" when making your destination, accommodation and transportation selections. Having focus means you can make swift informed decisions which can save you a great deal of money. Having everyone on the same page when it comes to money it will avoid misunderstandings, potential arguments and hurt feelings down the road.
A couple of group vacation planning 101 tips -
- Pick a travel "Save the vacation date" about 1 year in advance and send out annoucements
- Elect a group leader - someone fair, organized and knows how to get things done
- Make sure everyone in the group is prepared to make the necessary initial deposits for accommodations. This usually starts around $100 per person and more - depending your your specific vacation choices.
- If your reunion includes flights, airfare prices usually become available about 9 months prior to departure. Most airfares are non-refundable and must be paid in full to confirm your seats - so again, make sure everyone in your group is aware and ready for these monetary commitments.
Any multi-generation trip means there will be folks traveling together at different life-stages of their lives. This can complicate matters when it comes to creating balance and keeping everyone happy.
Grandparents may have a bit more discretionary income to spend on their vacation. They are at that stage where their prefer a bit more luxury and pampering when they travel. Young parents are busy raising children so their income goes for things like piano lessons, sports equipment and saving for college. This opposite of this scenario may also be true. Your family may be one where the second generation has lucrative professional careers due to parents and grandparents who struggled to invest in their family's education. Perhaps one family invited to the reunion may be very well off while other invited families don't share their income level of spending.
The trick to achieving balance and getting everyone to participate is to select one vacation that offers different levels of accommodations and activities that will work for all budgets.
A family reunion cruise would be a great example of a vacation that has something to offer everyone. For example Royal Caribbean offers everything from budget friendly inside cabins starting from $89 per person per night including all meals and shipboard entertainment. On the same ship you can find Royal suites from $1200 per person/per night. These two story penthouses come complete with a personal concierge.
Regardless of individual stateroom prices, everyone can dine together in the main dining room and most specialty restaurants. All the kids (and parents) can enjoy the complimentary kids clubs from ages 3-17, enjoy evening Broadway style entertainment every night and experience some of the most beautiful ports of call together in the world.
Being together on a cruise doesn't necessarily mean "joined at the hip". Kids can enjoy zip lines and surf simulators on board while mom and grandma head off for a day at the spa. Grandpa and the boys can take in a mixology class in the sports bar while Aunt Sue and some of the girls take cupcake decorating class. In the afternoon everyone can plan to meet at the pool. A cruise vacation is a great blend of independence and togetherness. Besides most ships are big enough so that you can enjoy plenty of fun while avoiding your one annoying in-law (it's alright...every family has one of these!).
When in port, there are also a wide selection of different types of sightseeing excursions to make everyone happy. In addition, most cruise lines will offer group booking bonuses and discounts. These perks can be used to offset the cost for say one family who may not otherwise be able to afford this trip. Again, the ultimate decision is up to the leader and the group. Just know this option is available.
All inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico can also offer a similar mix of accommodation choices and activities. Theme park destinations offer many of these options too. Just bear in mind the main focus of activities at a theme park is based around their rides and attractions. There will be the additional cost of park admission and theme parks don't generally offer perks the way resorts and cruises do.
A guided tour group doesn't have the same flexibility with budget compared to a cruise or resort stay. Normally guests are moving between hotels as they sightsee and there is the extra cost of a guide factored into your prive. Tour groups generally block the same type/price of hotel room for all of their guests. Also specific guided tours have age requirements for participation. This may limit families with younger children or seniors with health or mobility issues. Everyone pretty much does the same sightseeing and stays together for most of the day. Depending on group size, private groups can be arranged but again there is not much itinerary flexibility for individual families.
Many families often think sharing a vacation home would be an ideal way to enjoy togetherness for all. This can work for some families but there are some factors specific to home rentals that need to be considered. First, the size of your group and occupancy rules. If you are a small group, you may be able to find an affordable rental that will work. Larger homes for bigger groups generally come with a much higher per person rate.
True the cost of a weekly home rental can be divided up between the number of people in your group. There is no choice to the room budget like in a resort or on a cruise. It's one for all and all for one. The other consideration is that most vacation homes will have 1 or, if you're lucky, 2 master rooms. How do you decide who gets the master with it's jacuzzi bathroom and who gets the bedroom down the hall with bunkbeds? Is your family willing to draw straws and then live together with that decision?
Unless your home rental comes with a staff included, you'll also want to insure that "everyone" gets a vacation - meaning one person doesn't get stuck doing all the cooking, cleaning, kid care and concierge activities (aka - mom). If you factored the pay she should get for doing all that she does you wouldn't be able to afford her!
So if your family is thinking of a reunion or a celebration vacation together, you definitely need some professional help! By that I mean talk to a travel agent. A good travel agent knows tips and tricks to help make a reunion affordable and fun for the entire family. They can take all the planning stress out of the equation (aka - off mom's shoulders). With proper planning a family reunion is something everyone will look forward to instead of dreading. Yes, it can turn into a cherished annual event.