Family Reunions

Follow these tips for planning a successful vacation with your kith and kin.

Family Reunion, illus. by William Duke

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If the kids are starting to ask what Grandma and Grandpa look like—or hey, even if they aren't—it might be time to round up the gang for a group vacation. Whether yours is a reunion of far-flung family or of college pals with their spouses and children, a multigenerational getaway can be fun for all, from the seniors to the squirts.

GETTING STARTED
Pick a date Try to book three months to a year in advance. To take advantage of spring and fall's better rates and broader choice of lodging (especially for groups of 10 or more), consider booking a three- or four-day stay over a weekend; that way, schoolkids need only miss a day or two of class.

Be budget conscious The Web site www.groople.com (888-447-6675) permits groups to find and reserve five or more hotel rooms at negotiated rates. Best of all, each traveler can pay for his or her own room individually through the site (or over the phone), so you avoid the hassles of splitting a group bill. Shared rental homes and condos are also affordable options—just be sure you'll have enough bathrooms. If your aunt insists on spa treatments while your cousin favors budget motels, consider Costanoa (650-879-1100, www.costanoa.com). It's a coastal lodge and camp in Pescadero, Calif., with 10 levels of accommodation ranging from tent sites ($40) to luxurious lodge rooms ($255).

PICKING THE PLACE
Resorts Don't want to fret about cooking? Booka stay at an all-inclusive resort. The Montecito Sequoia Lodge (800-549-7100, www.mslodge.com) near the big trees of Kings Canyon, Calif., offers activities for all ages, including guided hikes, late season cross-country skiing, and boating on Lake Homavalo. The pet-friendly Sunriver Resort, southwest of Bend, Ore., rents rooms, condos, and vacation homes near golf, river fishing, and 30 miles of bike paths (800-801-8765, www.sunriverresort.com).

Dude ranches Alisal Guest Ranch (800-425-4725, www.alisal.com) in Solvang, Calif., is a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch with 73 cottages. Utah's Clear Creek Family Ranch (800-414-5710, www.clearcreekfamilyranch.com), just outside Zion National Park, offers campfire sing-alongs and barn dances. Check www.duderanch.org for more listings.

Conference centers Snow Mountain Ranch (800-777-9622, www.ymcarockies.org) in Winter Park, Colo., with its skate rink, minigolf, and 60 miles of hiking trails, hosted 300 family reunions last year. Asilomar Conference Grounds (831-642-4222, www.visitasilomar.com) in Pacific Grove, Calif., has 28 lodges a short walk from critter-filled tide pools.

Cruises Modern ships now aim to amuse all ages under one seagoing roof. They also can be a good value: Carnival Cruise Lines (888-227-6482, www.carnival.com) offers a free berth for every 15 adults.

ONCE YOU'RE THERE
Don't insist on sightseeing Break out the cards and board games. Plan a few outings, but don't require full attendance. Instead, schedule group dinners each night so travelers can swap stories of their day's adventures.

Photo Illustration by William Duke

This article was first published in March 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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