We are old pros at hosting big groups or gatherings AND planning a family reunion or two! So it's time to share our best tips and tricks to help keep you organized and have a whole lot of fun!
Have you ever been to a family gathering before where you're constantly prepping for the next meal or activity, so you never get to sit down and enjoy the company that you traveled so far to see? Don't let that be you this summer! Or ever again…
*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.
Family reunions can be a ton of work! However, a little planning can go a long way and take the stress off of the adults so they can actually chillax and enjoy connecting with other adults…. and kids, too! It's time to make some memories this summer. Check out these tips for planning a family reunion and you can be an old pro soon, too!
Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube Channel for new videos every week!
Check out the video online or watch our tips for planning a family reunion below:
Whew! That was a fun one! Organization is totally my jam, so I hope you got some great tidbits on how to plan your family reunion. Here's a recap, just in case 😉
PLANNING FOOD FOR A FAMILY REUNION
Let's talk food! Of course, it depends on the size of your family, but family reunions require a lot of food! Once you all get together, you don't want to spend a ton of time planning or worrying about food. Nobody wants to hear the question “What's for dinner?” at a family reunion.
STEP 1: DIVIDE UP RESPONSIBILITIES
Communication is clear here, to help decrease the stress for everyone involved. Figure out when everyone arrives, how many days you'll be together and exactly how many meals you'll need. Divide up meals—breakfasts and dinners, by the number of families (a family equals two adults).
Typically, we plan on everyone doing lunches, snacks, and drinks on their own or for their individual families! This way, everyone can plan things that they know their family will enjoy eating and your favorites don't get eaten up by bigger families. Don't forget, you can definitely bring food to share!
STEP 2: PLAN MEALS
Set up a google sheet that lists all the meals and the dates. Have people add their name and what they are cooking. Whatever meal you sign up for, you bring ALL the ingredients, including condiments! But once you put it on the sign-up form, you can collaborate and share condiments. That's why it's important to list it out where everyone can see.
For cheap, easy, delicious ideas that feed a crowd, check out this post on Feeding a Crowd on the Cheap!! It also has tons of tips for deciding what types of meals are great for saving money. You might want to check it out!
STEP 3: ORGANIZE FOOD
Once you've decided what food you need, you'll need to figure out how to store it while you're all together. If you rent a cabin, you can usually empty out a cupboard or two for food storage. We often suggest having families bring their coolers for a portable pantry. Luckily, we have huge wire shelving units here (from Costco) at our cabin to help with food storage.
We also suggest setting aside a communal shelf or area with snacks to share, paper products, etc. Do the same thing with the fridge and label a shelf with leftovers and shared food that people can grab and eat whenever.
Pro-Tip: Put together a caddy to keep sharpies, 3×5 cards and tape to make easy labels for shelves, cupboards, etc. This way each family knows where to find their food and doesn't eat an important ingredient for an upcoming meal.
STEP 4: POST A MENU
A posted menu helps people know what meals are happening when and approximate times. For example: Breakfast 8:30am, Lunch on your own, Dinner 5:30! This definitely helps everyone to be on the same page and know what to expect from the day as different family activities are planned. Times can always be flexible!
STEP 5: DIVIDE UP CLEANING TASKS
Once meals are complete, everyone should take a turn helping with clean-up so it doesn't fall on one person or family! Add a chore chart to your sign up to share the load so everyone can enjoy the fun.
SHOPPING FOR PAPER GOODS
One option is to list out paper goods you think you'll need for the meals you are in charge of and have each family provide those paper goods, plus whatever their family needs. Another option for getting all the paper goods you need, preferably a local person or the host, can pick up ALL the paper goods for the week and then just split the cost between all the families at the end of the week and divvy up what's leftover.
Here's a list of everything you should have people sign up for:
Pro-Tip: Head to Costco to buy paper products! You can actually wash and reuse Costco cutlery which makes them perfect for on-the-go and big gatherings.
FAMILY REUNION ACTIVITIES
It's so fun to just be together, let the cousins play and the adults chit chat! But we've learned that setting aside organized time and facilitate activities it makes for more memorable experiences and a loooooot of bonding time.
Have everyone chip in ideas for what they want to do, but assign one person or couple as the “activities director” to help get decisions made and get activities started. If you don't have one person that is “in charge” sometimes the whole week will go by and you won't do anything!
As your planning, check the weather for the week of the family reunion. Base your activities around the weather! Hit the lake on the hottest day of the week 😉
COMMUNICATE PLANS CLEARLY
The night before set aside time to talk about rules and give out any other important information (i.e. Are dogs allowed? Are there public restrooms? Where can you park? etc.) that every family should know, including times and activities you have planned!
Coordinating the night before gives everyone time to pack and prep what they need so you can get an early start the day of. Mornings can be chaotic so make sure you schedule a time to leave so you don't waste the morning away.
PLAN A VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES
Make sure you have a really good blend of indoor activities, outdoor activities and “adventure” activities where you actually leave the cabin or house you're staying at.
As you're planning activities keep ages and interests in mind. Some people may love going out on a nature hike, while others may just want to stay home and relax with a good book.
Once you decide on your activities, you can easily assign activities to a family for them to take charge of, gather supplies for, and lead out at the family reunion. It's fun for each family to lead out on something they are interested in.
- The Bowl Game
- Ice Breaker Games
- Board Games
- Ping Pong Tournaments
- Group Crafts
- Decorate Sugar Cookies
- Face Painting
- Yard Games
- Obstacle Courses
- Water Fights
FAMILY TALENT SHOW
One thing we do that is so fun and is tradition is a BIG family talent show! All week long the kids get together and the cousins plan skits and acts. Showcase both real and faux talents… it's okay to have some spontaneous acts, too!
Check out THIS POST for tons more family reunion ideas!
ADULT ONLY GAME NIGHT
We learned a while ago to set aside adult only time! When teens get older, they sometimes want to spend more time hanging with the adults… which is great during the day, but at night we say that from 9:30 on it's adult only game night. Kids are free to stay up and watch a movie or talk in their rooms, but adults get kid-free time to bond and have conversations!
CHORES & CLEANING ASSIGNMENTS
With so many people under one roof it can get messy! Divide up responsibilities so that the mess doesn't get out of hand or fall on one person to clean up daily… or once the reunion is over. For our family we have two cleaning checklists. The first is generic zones and the other is meal time clean up!
Divide your lodging into zones and choose as many zones as you have families. Then list out the days you're together and simply rotate through zones and families so each family has a chance to help with the different zones at least once during the week!
Write out the area and instructions for what needs to be accomplished in that zone. At the beginning of the week, gather together and go over the schedule, expectations and rules so that everyone can pull their weight equally.
MEAL CLEAN UP
For the meal time checklist, we divide up tasks like cleaning off tables, picking up floors, washing dishes, drying and putting dishes away, and putting food away. We started by having whoever was in charge of cooking the meal, also be in charge of putting food away and again just rotated through the families for the other cleaning tasks.
CUT DOWN ON WASTE & CLUTTER
No matter what you do, you're going to have a lot to keep clean and organize. A few simple tricks will help you cut down on the waste. Make sure everyone gets a paper cup and writes their name on it. You can also use wet erase markers on plastic cups and it will rinse off in the dishwasher… handy trick, hey? Reuse the same cup over and over throughout the week, when possible.
Another trick for reducing waste in the kitchen—keep sharpies by the plates and write names on them so that you can either A – reuse if it's clean or B – set aside kid's food so that they can come back and eat it when they are hungry so it doesn't go to waste.
Decrease clutter by providing a big bin for each family to store basic items by the door. Label with a notecard, so that there is an obvious place for shoes, coats, hats, etc. This will keep things a little more organized and help parents keep track of important items so they don't disappear into the endless abyss under the couch.
FAMILY REUNION PLANNING CHECKLIST
We love you so much we've put together a family reunion planning checklist in a simple google doc to help you get started. Attached to the planning checklist is a generic google sheet that you can customize to help plan your next family reunion!
Whew, well there you have it! Get to planning your family reunion and remember to have LOTS of fun! Is there anything you do for your family reunion that has completely changed your world? Let us know in the comments!
Check out these other great posts!
- Get all the deets about Aspen Hill Lodge (our family cabin), how she came to be a part of our family, and a tour of our home away from home!
- Don't forget to work your family reunion expenses into your budget!
- How to meal plan at home so you can save money! Don't forget, you can do the same for your family reunion. Use these tips when you're coming up with what food you need to take on your next trip.
- If you love getting together with friends, check out more tips for entertaining on a budget!