Family Reunions are a big deal in summer.  It’s fun to see everybody together, to do your family visit duty in one fell swoop.  And most times, family gatherings can even be fun.  Reunions can also be a ton of work for the hosts/planners and it can be tough to keep the kids coming when they stop being kids.

There are lots of resources out there for planning reunions, if that falls to you.  But here are some battle tested tips for you — Type A Mom exclusives!

First, What’s your reunion strategy?

Seeing everybody every year or two or five is not a strategy.  It was our plan 15 years ago when Leo and I planned the First Handfelt Family Reunion in …. Theodosia, Missouri.  We were thinking “central location” for the six families, and low cost, so everyone could afford it.  Don’t know why 4 of the 6 families opted not to join us in our cinderblock cabins on Bull Shoals Lake where the smell and sound of mooing cows outside our open window woke us at 6 a.m.

Those who went had a.. er…memorable time and Grandma and Grandpa loved it the best because for the first time, they could enjoy their grandchildren for a while and then quietly disappear to their own cabana for a nap!  They weren’t doing all the shopping and cooking, either!

Adjusted Reunion Strategy?

The ADJUSTED reunion strategy calls for keeping the location neutral…so nobody is the “Host”.  But hey, let’s go someplace people actually want to see!  For us that meant Breckinridge and Dillon Colorado, Jackson Hole, Tahoe, Whistler Canada, The Outer Banks of North Carolina, and soon to be Gatlinburg Tennesee.  There’s even been talk of a castle in Europe!   Suddenly, anybody not sure about spending a week making smalltalk with crabby Aunt Ethel and the rest, can relax because there will be lots of other things to escape to.

What’s your Family Activity Personality?

Turns out the Handfelts are awash in Weekend Warriors and buffed out young men in their prime.  By the Second HFR we knew that White-Water Rafting was a requirement wherever we decided to go.  So was Outlet Mall Shopping.  Other must haves?  Golfing.  Coffee shop to walk to (for all the moms every morning while Dads feed the kids).  Mountain Biking down ski-runs.  Horseback Riding.  Any outdoor play which includes sticks and exploring — we’re heavy with boy cousins!  My husband, affectionately referred to as “The General”, prepares a master Activity Sign-up SPREADSheet that is eagerly sought by all attendees on arrival.  If you’ve got an engineer in the crowd, this a great job for them.

What about the lodging?

Make it n-i-c-e!  After all, this is a vacation.  We started focusing on ski resorts which tend to be full of very large houses.  We have several times rented side-by-side houses (with at least 1 large porch for all to hang out) and even taken over a B&B in Whistler.  Home Away and Vacation Rentals By Owners have been great resources for us.  As for meals, with six families each does dinner for all one night.  If we have an extra night to cover, we’ll splurge on take out. (Lots of places can connect you with a chef, if that’s what it takes to get everybody there).

Our Attendance Success?

Overall, pretty darn good, even with our now college and older crowd.  The secret is to pack your “marketing” email with stuff these guys like to do that –and this is the key –you will pay for if they come on the trip.  In fact, when our kids were preschoolers a wise person told us that the best way to keep your kids coming back for family trips is to get them into some great sport that only you can afford.  So we started them in skiing and it’s worked like a charm.

Family reunions can do the same thing.

Mary Handfelt lives and writes in San Diego. You can catch her on Twitter as imwritehere.