Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Planning a "destination" family reunion

Behind the scenes of our most recent getaway..

Getting the cousins organized...

Family reunions are sometimes hosted by family members, perhaps over a holiday weekend. Other families might have a time-share, like a beach house that they visit every year. But every once in a while, it's fun to plan something a little more ambitious.

My siblings and I are scattered across the globe at varying distances from each other and our parents. I guess it's fair to say that there are a higher concentration on the East Coast, but then again Florida is pretty far from Massachusetts. Suffice it to say that any gathering is going to mean traveling a long way for at least a few people. So, might as well try out different rendezvous points, right?

We started bouncing around the idea of a trip to the UK for my dad's 70th birthday. It's his ancestral home, and truth be told, I was excited to be going somewhere LESS than 5 hours away by plane (sorry, everyone else). So the decision was made to get 22 people (15 adults and 7 children) over to Scotland.

Here are some notes from trip planning:

1) Planning the planning

In a large group, you will inevitably have planners and non-planners, leaders and followers, etc. You will have people who never read emails, and those who read and respond multiple times per day.

If you are going somewhere where you will be participating in any sort of sightseeing or cultural programs, you need to think about how you are going to organize everyone. It's not fun for negotiations to take up precious time that could be spent together...though that is part of being in a family. Everyone needs to eat at least 3x per day, and children (and some adults) will need naps. I don't know of the best universal approach, but we did fairly well considering all the logistics.

When everyone is from out-of-town and no one is necessarily familiar to the area, some extra research will be required.

Bagpipe concert was first on everyone's list, right?

2) Accommodations

Too urban could be rough with kids! And too rustic might mean a lot of time spent in the car (unless your main goal is to be in nature).

Self-catering is great with large groups, as long as someone doesn't mind doing dishes. While searching for rentals, we found that the biggest, charming houses seemed to be pretty far from civilization (in my mind, anyway). But a hotel with no playground or even a big room for hanging out can be a bit of a bummer.

We were able to find a group of smaller cottages to rent, a bit in the countryside but only 10-15 minutes' drive from stores and sightseeing. With a playground onsite, the kids were able to let out some of that energy. Part of me wanted to be even closer to town and part of me really missed that fresh air when we stopped in London on the way home to Russia.

Not a bad setting to wake up to.

3) Transportation

It took a lot of time and research to get everyone plane tickets for the same approximate dates. After that, we needed to get everyone from the airport to our lodging, about an hour away. 7 kids needing carseats, and a few drivers who didn't mind playing chauffeur in a foreign country while driving on the other side of the road. Whenever I think back on these details, I marvel over the fact that it all worked out!

Personally, my stroller can go anywhere,
not sure about this left side/right side business.

4) Family Genealogy

We managed to look at a few old family homesteads (found in census information online) and visit a few churchyards to look at headstones. I personally don't think it's realistic to do a lot of archive-visiting and that sort of thing when you have such a large group of people. When you have family history, sightseeing, childcare, and family time all in one week, it can be pretty hard to balance it all.

Kilts+Croquet (at the home of golf)

Again, it seems more and more like a miracle each time I look back and reflect. It's definitely not something to attempt every year. I keep trying to think of ways to simplify, but people are people and it's important to be accommodating. Just being in a peaceful setting together sounds more relaxing than doing a lot of traveling here and there, but wouldn't we go stir-crazy? And again, any location will be a trek for at least some people. Things to think about for next time!

All the cousin photos are too cute to pick just one!

In future posts I will comment on some more specific issues that we dealt with personally, such as childcare and illness.

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