Reunions are always a great reason to travel. Spending time with family, friends and colleagues is a real mood booster, especially during times marked by political and social discontent. Organizing the get together event takes some doing, but the rewards are tremendous.
Depending on everyone’s comfort zone, you can choose a resort that’s central, so everyone can get there easily, or you can go for someplace that’s really far away and exotic and equally difficult for everyone to get to.
You can convene for a wilderness expedition in Yellowstone, a sailing adventure on a tall ship off the coast of Maine, or hit Orlando for thrills at Disney World and Universal Studios.
If you need further motivation, you can give your reunion a special purpose--celebrating an important birthday or an anniversary, for example--or just letting youngsters who are cousins meet each other for the first time and bond in a special place.
Additionally, creating a reunion away can give you leverage to negotiate for better prices for various travel elements. You might be able to get a group fare from an airline that serves all of your gateway cities, or group rates for accommodations, or extra hotel nights, or one free hotel room that you can use as a meeting place, or a special reception for your group. There are no guarantees that you’ll get extras, but you surely will not get them unless you ask for them when making reservations. And, that means comparison shopping.
But beyond shopping around for the best prices and extras, how do you go about organizing a reunion? Here are some basic steps that will help you get started and help you turn recession travel opportunities into a rewarding reunion:
Send word of the reunion plan to your family, friends and/or colleagues to get an idea how many of them will want to sign up for the trip. When you contact them, specify a date that you’ve determined to coincide with the celebration of a special birthday or anniversary, or suggest several alternative dates--and themes or destinations--so people can respond with their preferences from the start.
If you’re having difficulty coming up a theme that will be of interest to everyone, think about everyone’s hobbies and figure out what they have in common or what will bring them together. Some alternatives include painting and drawing, hiking, bird watching, a particular sport, playing music, finding family roots. Again, use the Internet to search for ideas. If you love baseball, type ‘baseball travel’ into the search box, and off you go.
If you have a lot of people with widely divergent interests to please, give special consideration to cruises. Large ships with great family programs offer a wide of activities--computer classes, movies, water games, rock climbing, golf, mahjong, bridge and other card games, dance classes, wine tasting, lecture series, yoga, cooking and more--most of which are covered by the cost of your ticket. Compare ships and programs to find the best fit.
Check the bigger hotel chains to find out if they have reunion facilitators who can help you organize the group trip, and get the most value for everyone’s money. Chains such as Radisson, Marriott and Sheraton have great suggestions and affordable packages.
Once you’ve decided upon dates, a destination and a theme, go prowling on the Internet for the best prices and packages you can find. It’s a good idea to speak with a travel agent, too, especially if the agent is willing to help you negotiate on fares, lodging and extras.
Decide whether you’re going to coordinate travel plans or rely on each individual to arrange his or her own flights, so you can all meet up at the hotel. Whether or not you’re responsible for arranging travel, make sure you’ve got a payment schedule, so that individuals send funds for down payments to secure reservations. If individuals are paying their own tabs, including down payments, work with the hotel’s sales staff and/or marketing department to set the payment schedule and make sure everyone meets deadlines.
Although the temptation to escape the recession via reunion travel is strong, don’t go into debt to do it. Stay within your means and make sure that others who are participating do the same. It would be a shame if the opportunity to make the travel dreams come true were to lead to an economic nightmare.