Tug of war, talent shows, campfires and S’mores, these are the joys of family reunions. The Wilburton Inn specializes in big, multigenerational family reunions as it's been family run by 3 generations of the Levis family for almost 30 years! Everyone is welcome at the Wilburton - from infants to great grandparents who need handicapped accessible rooms. Of course pets are welcome as they are part of the family!
Last summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, we welcomed over 43 family reunions at the inn and our seven vacation villas. Here are tips that I learned from our helping our many family reunion guests. May they inspire you to plan years of colorful, joyful family reunions!
#1 Pick a Bigger House Than You Think You Need
Squeezing into your favorite jeans is one thing. Squeezing into a house with 20 relatives is another. There's always a grumpy in-law who resents being dragged along, so it's worth it to spend a little more and get a larger home where s/he can read their Kindle in peace.
Our Battenkill Valley Mansion has 15 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms and sleeps up to 34 guests! This is our most popular reunion home. Some guests come from overseas and stay for 10 days with different friends and relatives coming for different parts of the stay.
Also, be sure the house has a big enough living room and dining room for the whole gang hang out together, after all, that's why you're doing this. Here's a list of all 7 large reunion homes at the Wilburton Inn.
#2 Location, Location, Location
Pick a town that has lot of things to do. Fingers crossed, the sun will shine and the dads can golf as the kids zipline and then everyone can take a glorious family hike, but it’s still good to know where the local bowling alley is, just in case. Manchester, Vermont is a fantastic town for a week long family reunion thanks to the outdoor summer concerts, zip lining and fun zone at Bromley Mountain, golfing, horseback riding, hiking, shopping at Manchester Designer Outlets the cultural events at Weston Playhouse, Dorset Theatre Festival, and Manchester Music Festival, and boating on the Battenkill River.
If you do end up indoors, try hands-on, interactive group activities like glass blowing or cheese-making that are unique to your location.
Tevya said it best in Fiddler on the Roof. Traditions keep a family together. One group has a family book club and discusses a different story each year. In another family, everyone including the kids, have to share a joke at the dinner table. The family elder tell stories about the family history. Another family makes a point to share favorite memories of relatives who have passed away. These traditions connect the children to the family roots and legacy.
I was very touched by a family that came with 31 family members to celebrate their 31st family reunion. Their tradition is a family prayer circle where everyone shares what they hope for in the coming year. One family member writes these down and emails this list to the group so they can pray for each other throughout the year. When they unite the next summer, they revisit the list to celebrate what came true.
#4 Put Your Kids Devices to Good Use
Accept that even in nature, your kids are going to be on their iPads. You can help them use their screen time to be creative! They can shoot and edit a family movie on their phone. Have them interview the oldest relative and make a documentary. Let them use their laptops to be the DJs at family dance parties.
#5 To Cook or Not To Cook – That Is the Question
Cooking together is a great way to bond, but be mindful that it’s no fun doing the dishes – especially on vacation. Every family reunion vacation house at the Wilburton Inn has a BBQ and tables to enjoy eating al fresco. For groups that enjoy cooking together, divide into teams and decide on theme meals in advance so people can practice their favorite recipes. Make sure it’s not just the guys who grill and the women who do the dishes.
We also offer guests the option of having our chef and staff cook and clean up after every meal or host a big celebration meal like a 50th birthday dinner or anniversary hoopla!
Summer Guests at the Wilburton Inn also enjoy eating outside at our Wednesday night Farm Night dinners. Family Reunions love having their group be a part of this larger weekly event with organic vegetarian food from our farm, Earth Sky Time.
#6 Plan In Advance
It’s a pain in the neck to organize all the logistics of a big group vacation. But if you do it before 30 relatives walk through the rental house door, then you can relax and enjoy the time together. (I always say that the person who organizes the trip gets the biggest bedroom.)
#8 Let the Games Begin!
Lawn games like corn hole, Frisbee, flag football, giant outdoor Jenga are great for all ages to play together. Create teams for spirit. Make your own family color war and Olympics. Cards, headbands, and charades are great free fun family indoor games. The point is to pick games with audience participation. And when the kids go to bed, the grown ups can play Scrabble.
True I was a children’s songwriter before becoming an innkeeper, but I do feel that music is an important part of every family reunion. Encourage everyone to bring instruments. Sing around a campfire. Put on a family talent show. Turn your living room into a karaoke party by downloading videos on You Tube. Have the kids put on skits to celebrate family milestones. Write a family theme song to a famous song. As School House Rock taught us, we remember what we sing, so sing your own family song!
#10 Not Everyone Has to Wear the T-Shirt
Remember, not everyone has to do everything on family reunions. This is the key to getting that reluctant spouse in #1 to come back the next year. So if someone doesn’t want to wear this year’s family T-shirt, that’s just fine.
For a terrific resource on family reunion planning, click here http://family-reunion.com/
Click here to see all eight of the Wilburton Inn's spacious vacation homes for large family reunions.
Wishing you and your families of summer of joyful memories!
-- The Levis Family Innkeepers