Whenever I see extended families decked out in matching technicolor t-shirts at the campground, I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous. Family gatherings are the stuff of vivid summer memories worth repeating, year after year. It’s a great way to catch up and figure out just exactly what Aunt Joan is into these days and learn about the colleges little Timmy, who’s not so little anymore, is applying to that fall. The great outdoors and camping only make those experiences more memorable.
But planning a family reunion — especially when it’s at a campground — can be a lot of work, especially if it’s your first.
9 Tips For Planning a Family Reunion at a Campground
Planning a family reunion at a campground isn’t so different from planning a family reunion anywhere else. The biggest concern will be finding a centrally located place that the necessary amenities for your older and younger relatives. Once you’ve found an army of relative volunteers, you might start to wonder why you haven’t planned a family reunion camping trip sooner.
1. Start Planning At Least a Year in Advance
We all have busy lives so planning a family reunion far ahead far ahead of time is a must. Try to plan your family reunion at least 12-18 months out. This gives relatives a chance to offer feedback on what dates will or won’t work for them. Start by creating a Facebook page specifically for your family reunion or sending out the first edition of a family newsletter. Offer a few different dates and locations before making your final decision.
As far as the camping portion goes, start narrowing your list of campgrounds down prior to announcing any sort of location idea to your Facebook group. Look for places that accept reservations at least a year in advance, or plan to jump on popular campgrounds as soon as they open for reservations to be made. More popular campgrounds will require planning at least 6-12 months in advance for accommodations, as they often fill up the same day their date windows are released.
2. Determine a Campground and Date
Planning a family reunion is all about choosing the right spot for it. Once you’ve sent out the initial email or created the Facebook group, create a poll to all those who might be attending to determine the best date and location. Give everyone a few days or weeks to respond so everyone feels like their voice was heard. The last thing you want to do is create family tensions before the fun even starts!
Finding a location will be determined by what’s closest to the majority of family members. Since you’ll be targeting campgrounds, be sure to research all of the relevant details, such as the price of group sites, the number of tents and vehicles each can accommodate, and the number of nights that groups are allowed to camp consecutively. Renting out the entire campground may also be a great option because family members will likely have different camping styles.
If you have relatives that require more advanced accommodations than tents, try to find a campground that has yurts and cabins as well as full hook-up RV sites—this will help ensure that all family members have a place to stay that’s comfortable according to their needs. When it comes to deciding on a date, just make sure your campground is open during the windows you’re looking for! If it’s a winter or early spring reunion, you’ll want to prioritize campgrounds that are open year-round.
3. Create the Ultimate Family Camping Budget
Not only is it important to create a budget, but it’s important to stick to it, too. Some family members will be less inclined to come if the costs are too high, but thankfully, by hosting a family reunion at a campground you’ll offset the major lodging costs that can be associated with planning a family reunion.
Factor food, lodging, gifts, and entertainment costs into your budget. Gear is a big expense, too, when you’re camping, so be sure to include some extra budget for folks that might need to rent things like tents, sleeping bags, and other common camping items. Once you’ve figured out your budget, add a buffer so you don’t end up with exorbitant costs when the time comes to start booking and purchasing items for your family reunion.
Ask attendees to donate seed money to start. It can be a small amount, around $50 per family to cover the deposit for a place to stay. This will also give you an idea of whose committed to attending the event.
4. Create a Gear List
If you’d rather not be the one to coordinate gear for everyone, create your own gear list for each family, so that they know exactly what they’ll need to bring, rent, or buy before the reunion officially starts. Apart from the necessary food items, we recommend the following pieces of “essential” camping gear:
Sleeping Bag (depending on the weather projections, you may want to suggest a minimum temperature rating) Tent, RV, or Camper Headlamp / Flashlight Toiletries (even if your campground has bathrooms, bringing some extra TP is never a bad idea!) Warm Clothing (beanie, gloves, long pants—especially if you’re camping at high altitude or in the middle of a cooler season) Camp Chairs Sturdy Hiking Boots or Tennis Shoes (depending on how much hiking you’ll be doing) Other Location or Activity Specific Items (is there a lake near your campground? A river, a bike path, a boat ramp? Be sure to identify anything that might make your family reunion more fun!) 5. Get the Word Out (and Help Ease Your Non-Camping Family Into It)
As soon as you have an idea of date, location, and budget, start spreading the word! Let all your relatives know there will be a family reunion and ask them to tell other family members as well. The more family members that attend the reunion the more fun it will be for everyone.
You may have family members that are less enthusiastic about the idea of planning a family reunion at a campground. For some, camping may be an activity that’s totally foreign (and gross). To help ease the idea of camping with your more tentative family members, try to emphasize the amenities and activities available at the campsite. Share how close the campground is to local attractions and practical places like grocery stores, gas stations, and supermarkets. If you need to, engage your camping-phobic family members in a separate email that shares more details on why a campground is a great place for a reunion, and why staying in a yurt is a lot like staying in a moderately-furnished hotel room. Before you know it, your family will be a bunch of camping fans!
6. Create Committees to Help With the Planning
It might sound like all work and no play, but having committees when planning a family reunion will help ease stress and lift the planning burden off your shoulders. Each of the committees will be dedicated to a single issue and are responsible for planning and executing the tasks for their committee. Your job will be to communicate between the committees and make sure everyone stays on task.
Finance committee: The finance committee will be focused on creating and maintaining the budget as you purchase food, gifts, and rent tables and chairs if necessary. They’ll make sure everyone is aware of how much there is to spend and to curb any attempts at reckless spending.
Lodging and food committee: This committee will focus on finding lodging for the reunion and coordinating the food whether that’s working with a caterer or organizing who’s bringing what for a potluck. Typically, the potluck style meals work best at campgrounds, as it avoids the potential hazard of inviting a large fleet of catering vehicles into a potentially quiet campground.
Entertainment committee: The entertainment committee will be in charge of planning fun activities throughout the weekend. They’ll need to keep in mind the wide age range of attendees to the family reunion and be aware that not everyone will want to participate and that’s okay!
Reservations and correspondence committee: This committee is critical to planning a family reunion, as they will track who’s coming to the reunion and keep communication open between family members. They’ll likely run the email correspondence and/or be in charge of the Facebook group. The correspondence committee should also consider what’s needed for communication at the campground. If you have a massive family that’s going to be spread across an entire campground, go for something like Midland’s X-Talker Walkie Talkies, which come in fun colors and provide easy communication up to 16 miles away (hopefully you won’t be that far apart). They’re a perfect way to keep your kids, parents, and distant relatives all on the same page throughout the weekend, whether you’re announcing a mealtime or asking for an extra set of hands for a round of cornhole.
Welcome committee: The welcome committee will be in charge of name tags, gifts, and welcoming everyone to the family reunion! They should be the enthusiastic talkers who will make everyone feel right at home. Try to think of something fun and in line with your camping theme for a welcome gift. Pick something like a customized s’mores box or something else that can be used while on the trip.
You can create as many committees as you want, but be wary that too many could make the planning feel more overwhelming with so many groups to look after.
7. Hold Regular Check-Ins With Committee Members
Check-ins will help your peace of mind to know that everything’s running smoothly and everyone is on task as you get closer to the date of the reunion. These can happen sporadically in the early stages, every two months or so. As you get closer to the day, it’ll be helpful to hold check-ins every month, and then every other week to ensure everything runs smoothly as you get closer to the big day.
8. Assign Food Items and Prep to Family Members
As far as food goes when planning a family reunion, you can either plan and execute it all yourself, or you can delegate these tasks to different family members. If you want to save money and opt out of catering, you’ll need to figure out how many attendees there will be and then create a massive shopping list to feed everybody.
There are a few ways to tackle food, especially at a campground. Everyone can be on their own for breakfast and lunch, and then have a potluck or cooked dinner. Or you can cook all food together. The benefit to cooking food altogether is that some of your relatives likely won’t own camping stoves and will need a way to cook food, so it’ll be easier for them to contribute if you’re all cooking together, rather than leaving them to find their own cooking device. If this is the case, make sure that the campground you rent has a pavilion and cooking space large enough for your family reunion. Choose simple group meals, like hot dogs and hamburgers, roasted corn over the campfire, or go for the fancier stuff like smoky sausage campfire mac and cheese.
9. Gather Ideas for Campground Games
As you speak with different family members in the months leading up to the reunion, ask them to gather and send ideas for activities to incorporate throughout the weekend. A critical part of every family reunion is having something for everyone to do while they reconnect and bond over old memories. Games like cornhole, frisbee, and flashlight tag are great options for kids and younger adults, while things like checkers, nature bingo, and traditional playing cards are great options for adults and less mobile relatives, including grandparents. Around the campfire, consider teaching your game-friendly family members something like I Spy or the ever-popular role-playing game Mafia, which can keep a group of 5-10 people engaged for hours on end.
This article is brought to you by Midland.
Check out their kids walkie talkies for your upcoming family reunion!
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