It’s A Family Affair

Reunion organizers get help planning events

Last July, as E. Jean Allen planned for her family reunion in Orlando, Florida, she envisioned a magnificent, family-oriented resort that would be beautiful, unique, all-inclusive, and most of all — inexpensive.

“I wanted to make sure that I selected the best hotel for my family,” says Allen, who chose the luxurious, four-diamond Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate (www.omnihotels.com). “I definitely wanted to make certain that we received the lowest rate possible, with the very best accommodations.” Although the rate for the Omni is $199 in the summer and up to $299 in peak season, Allen’s group paid $127 per night.

Gone are the days of finding the cheapest motels to accommodate your relatives. Families such as the Allens are choosing three- to five-star hotels with fine dining and great amenities. And, being the coordinator of the reunion no longer means you do the work alone. Here are some free and low-cost resources to help you create the perfect family gathering.

For starters, sites like Family-Reunion. com (www.family-reunion.com) offer a free Reunion Planner that shows you how to organize your reunion and presents ideas for activities and games. You can also provide newsletters and links to other Websites. Cyndi’s List (www.cyndis list.com/reunions.htm) has extensive information, from books and Websites to software and printing services. What’s more, the African American Genealogist’s Family Reunion Primer (www.reunions. afrigeneas.com) provides information tailored to black coordinators for organizing and planning, food and beverages, special activities, and projects.

“Families spend a great deal of money attending reunions, and the organizing committee wants them to get the most for their money,” says Ione D. Vargus, founder and chair of the Family Reunion Institute for Temple University. “The committee has to think about the diverse range of ages and interests of the extended family, and, therefore, should secure as much information and utilize as many resources as possible.”

For example, the Family Reunion Institute (www.temple.edu/fri/familyreunion/) hosts an annual conference to educate families on organizing a family reunion. In addition, experts stress the importance of contacting the convention and visitor’s bureau in the city where the reunion will be held.

Once you’ve done all of your research, it’s time to select a hotel. Feel free to have discriminating tastes when it comes to getting the very best for your family. “The hotel business is slower in the summer, and family reunions help to make up considerable revenue,” says Vargus. “Even four- and five-star hotels that didn’t understand or care to reach out to African American families a few years ago are doing so now.”

A great resource is the Hotel Planner (www.hotelplanner.com). One of the perks of this service is that the coordinator gets a free room. You can conveniently enter your family’s accommodation requirements online, and local hotels will line up to bid for your group. Luxury hotels such as Luxe, Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, and Omni Hotels will be rushing to e-mail their best rate to you.

As for Allen, she found her accommodations for the reunion quite pleasing. “Our theme was ‘Relaxation, Restoration, and Refreshing

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