When your favorite aunt calls you up and says it’s been far too long since the whole family last got together, you earnestly agree that a family reunion is in order. Then, she and your mom consult and name you head of the planning committee. This you agree to less eagerly.
Planning any group event can be daunting, especially if the invitees live across multiple states and run on very different schedules. The two greatest causes of the planning headache: coordination and cost.
As far as coordination goes, the best you can do is start planning early, establish a date months in advance and notify your fellow family members as soon as that date is picked. That way, they’ll have time to ask off from work and free up their schedules.
Cost is a little trickier. There are a lot of financial factors that go into planning a family reunion but, fortunately, there are just as many cost-saving solutions. Here are three big ones that can help you plan your next event.
1) Choose Affordable Sleeping Arrangements
If you’d like your reunion to last longer than a day, or if some family members have to travel a long distance, sleeping arrangements will have to be made.
But consider your options before you start booking hotel rooms. For example, you can save everyone money on both travel and hotel expenses by hosting the event at your house or the house of a family member — preferably the one with a pool!
If a family member’s house isn’t a possibility, though, you can always try booking a set of hotel rooms with a group deal. If Googling these keywords doesn’t get you what you’re looking for, you can always call potential hotel venues to compare group rates before booking.
Just remember, whether it’s a hotel or a relative’s home, where you all sleep is just that — a place to sleep. If you’re reunion’s done right, the guests at this event won’t be spending much time in their rooms, apart from sleeping. Don’t feel like it has to be the Ritz.
2) Use Your Local Resources
As you know, the highlight of any family reunion isn’t the hotel stay. It’s the actual event or set of events that get the family all in one place to catch up and have fun.
Depending on the span of your family reunion, your get-together event may simply be one big meal, or it may be a few meals and a fun activity — like a pool party, a bowling night or a trip to Worlds of Fun.
Wherever possible, save money by using your local resources. Look online for Groupons at local attractions. Go to the public park for your family picnic and have everyone bring a dish. Play touch football at that same park, rather than renting out a field in a sports center. Consider using an economical event transportation service in lieu of having everyone drive separately.
3) Have a Game Night In
When you’re the one being asked to plan an event, it’s easy to worry that your plans won’t be exciting enough to pacify everyone. But don’t overcompensate. Remember, the whole point is to have fun as a family. And fun is easy — and inexpensive! — to come by when you get creative.
So, rather than going out every single night of your family get-together, try having a game night in. Play cards, have board game stations, teach the kids the joy of charades, let the kids teach Grandma and Grandpa how to play a couple Wii games.
Heck, if you’re crafty, you can even make your own outdoor games fairly inexpensively. Consider putting together your own cornhole set or ladder toss game. Meanwhile, you can have some classics laid out for the kids like horseshoe, Twister and hide-and-go-seek.
And when’s the last time you had a three-legged race? You can bet you’ll get some laughs out of everyone when you pair up teams for this classic field day event.
Ultimately, you don’t have to go anywhere to have fun with your family. And by sharing one another’s favorite games, you’ll talk and laugh more, everyone will learn something new, the kids will have a blast and the adults will feel great about saving money.
4) Make Your Reunions Count
Wherever your family reunions take you, remember the most important rule: it’s all about having fun. Booking hotels, hiring transportation services, choosing events to attend — they’re all just details. So plan ahead, consider your resources, look for group discounts and book in advance.
Then, when it all gets started, keep your focus where it belongs: on your family.
Anum Yoon is a personal finance blogger and writer. She created and maintains her personal finance blog Current on Currency. You can subscribe to her blog newsletter right here for her weekly updates