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Family Reunion Checklist

Are you planning a good, old fashioned family reunion this year? What could be better than bringing together family members that haven't seen one another in awhile for a nice visit and fun outings?

Memories made at family reunions last a lifetime and are a great way to introduce your child to the importance of maintaining familial relationships. Planning a successful family reunion takes effort and begins well before you've arrived. Here is a checklist of things to do before you leave for your family reunion:


All that togetherness is bound to make the family hungry. One of the first items to discuss before a reunion is food.

Don't just agree to share the shopping, meal planning, cooking and cleanup. Be specific about the who, what and where for each meal. And remember, for longer stays, it's perfectly reasonable to not want to share every meal with your reunion group!

Decide which meals you will eat as a group and which the families will fend for themselves

For group meals, assign each family (or families) to one night of dinner duty

Have each family plan a menu and shopping list for their meal

Assign a few individuals to do the grocery shopping (using all the shopping lists)

Keep all receipts if you are splitting costs

Make a list of breakfast, lunch and snack foods to cover the whole group

Take a survey of families for food allergies or food aversions

Group Activities

While the point of a family reunion is to play together, it's inevitable that you will want to spend time away from everyone, too! Include both group activities and down-time so individual families can pursue their own interests. And be flexible, this is vacation after all. If you walk up to the group with the itinerary on your clipboard and people groan, it's time to ease up.

Research the area and make a list of activities that might be of interest

Have each family make a list of their favorite activities

Based on preferences, come up with a few activities that work for the whole group

Make a loose schedule of daily activities


Childcare can be a tricky situation. Adult children attending the family reunion may very well assume that grandparents and other relatives will be eager to babysit younger kids, but that may not be the case at all! Remember, this is your parents' vacation, too, and their idea of rest and relaxation may have nothing to do with watching your children. So what to do?

Have each family member decide how many times during the vacation they want a sitter for young kids

Survey the families for interest in a babysitting co-op approach, where individuals or families take turns watching all the kids so others can be kid-free

Decide if you will hire a babysitter for adult-only group activities

Speak with the grandparents and other relatives without small kids to confirm whether they are willing participants in kid-sitting or they'd prefer to not have that responsibility


With kids in the picture, situations might arise that require discipline. No two families are alike, even when they're related, so it's recommended that parents let relatives know how discipline should be handled. Decisions like these are best made up front and beforehand, rather than waiting until the heat of the moment.

Have each family write down their expectations for kid behavior and appropriate discipline

Have each family decide whether they are comfortable with others disciplining their children or they wish to be alerted of any issues themselves

Relax and be open to vacation-style kid rules!

Emotional Baggage

You'll bring the usual items to your family reunion, like sunscreen, swimsuits, and sandals. But spending time with your extended famliy means you will bring along your emotional baggage as well. We all know a visit with family is ripe for confrontation. Old slights emerge, conflicting personalities butt heads, and we tend to revisit the roles we played in childhood. Here are five ways to avoid getting sucked into a family drama, leaving you free to enjoy your reunion and vacation.

Go in with a good attitude. If you arrive thinking, "Mom will be nicer to my sister because she always liked her better" then you're pretty much itching for something negative to happen. Be positive!

Limit alcohol consumption. When the kids are sleeping, the adults will want to play. Often, that involves drinking. Fuzzy heads can easily get fired up, so keep your drinking in check!

Walk away. If conversations arise that hit a nerve with you, acknowledge that to yourself and get away from the situation before it gets the better of you.

Keep it light. When reminiscing with the family, it may be tempting to bring up sensitive issues even in jest, but resist the urge. When emotions begin to run high, bring up happy times and encourage others to do the same.

Fight fair. If you find yourself involved in a family fight, you have options. You can walk away or you can remain in the argument if you are able to stay rational and fight fairly. Above all else, resist making comments that will wound the other person. It's not worth it!

photo courtesy of grimbil

Michele Johansen is a writer in Bellevue, WA. She is the co-creator of the Ruby Slipper Guide, a website that lists activities and events for families living east of Seattle and blog that delves into the foils of parenting.

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