|November 18, 2007 --
Family Reunion Planning Tips -- (Essence Magazine Page R6)
We love the old reunion standbys - Atlanta, Oakland, D.C., Raleigh, and
Durham - but a locale farther afield might add spice to your gathering.
Some ideas to consider:
From Walt Disney World and Epcot (disneyworld.com) in Orlando, Florida, to
Six Flags Great America (sixflags.com) in Gurnee, Illinois, a theme park provides an
instant focal point for your event. Young families can hit the roller coasters while
the grands picnic and enjoy some adult conversation until the troops return.
Glide through the waters off Alaska or sail away to the exotic Caribbean. Royal
Caribbean International (royalcaribbean.com) offer a reunion package for a minimum of
eight guests, while Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity X Club (celebritycruises.com) offers
activities for everyone, includes magic shows, karaoke, and babysitting for children under
the age of 12.
Safaris and Tours
Take in some of the world's most gorgeous terrain and explore Africa's fascinating history
(safari.go2africa.com has ideas for getaways with kids). Spector Travel
of Boston (spectortravel.com) specializes in Africa Roots & Culture to such countries
as Senegal, Ghana, South Africa and Benin.
Rent a house along the Bahamian or Mexican shore, or lease a villa on Lake Como in Italy.
(Vacation Rentals by Owner, vrbo.com, lists short-term leases around the world.) Closer
to home, consider the Sea Islands of South Carolina or Georgia or Hot Springs National
Park in Arkansas.
As much as we relish our family legacies, the air can get downright tense when we all
come together. A Swedish massage might be one of the best gifts you can give your people.
(For ideas, check out familytravelfiles.com/reunions or spafinder.com.)
Family Reunion Tips
Make it kid-friendly
Set up a puzzle that kids can work on throughout the
weekend. Provide chalk for hopscotch, bubbles, double Dutch jump ropes, crayons
and coloring books, and toys and games for preschoolers. For older kids, stage
an American Idol-style competition, sans the Simon-esque stinging criticism, or
invite the talented comedian, spoken-word poet or singer to provide the
Establish traditions McLean's three-day reunions include a formal
recognition of accomplishments (graduations, promotions, births, weddings) and a
candle-lighting ceremony to honor deceased family members. Another useful
tradition: Each year the family of Aisha Fikes Allen, 29, of Hyattsville,
Maryland, raises funds to assist its college-bound teens.
Stay Connected Record the festivities, then after the reunion, send each
family a photo or a DVD. Or consider a family Web site where everyone can upload
pictures, post recipes and blog about Cousin Joan's wedding or Uncle Charlie's
ninetieth birthday party. Four years ago, Brenda Cannon, 52, then a Microsoft
engineer, created just such a site after her own family get-together.
runs FamilyLobby.com, an Irving, Texas-based enterprise that customizes Web
pages to connect families year-round. Her site underlines the true purpose of
all the hard work: deepening familial bonds. "When I began researching Black
family reunions 20 years ago," says Vargus, "many claimed the Black family was
vanishing. Yet I saw us coming together to reunite in record numbers. Whatever
our difficulties, for us, the value of family has always remained strong."