Group Vacations: A Unique Way To Get Families & Friends Together!
by Alison Blackman
In the “old days” families group vacations didn’t really exist, and families lived close to one another and getting the entire clan together was relatively easy.
Today, family members are likely to be scattered all over the country, perhaps even all over the world. Getting a large group together can be difficult, and it might be impossible, or unaffordable to find a central meeting place that’s practical for everyone to reach with minimal hassle, time, and money.
The Benefits of Extended Family/Group Vacations
Vacations are a time to relax. When you get a group together of people you like or even love, everyone can connect, relax, and have a good time. When families and groups merge their gatherings with vacation, it’s the ultimate way to get everyone together, and also “get away from it all!”
For groups of friends who don’t live close by but stay connected by getting together at least once a year, getting together at a big resort or on a cruise is a fabulous way to go! You can often tell these happy people are in a group because they’re proudly wearing tee shirts or hats proclaiming their “clan” or the birthday girl or bride-to-be is wearing a tiara.
Where Will You Go?
Spas have become especially popular for smaller groups, replacing the traditional bridal shower or “big” birthday celebration with a pampering weekend (or longer). But for larger groups, bigger resorts and cruises are the most popular.
They sky is the limit on what you can do to make your family memories the stuff of legends.
How about having your family reunion at a beach party on a private island?
How about getting married in a tropical paradise, or renewing your wedding vows surrounded by a sparkling sea with dancing and dining afterward, under the stars?
Weddings are a time to get people together and destination weddings are becoming increasingly popular among couples who would rather enjoy a honeymoon and wedding at one place, rather than spend their funds on a stuffy wedding palace and then have to travel someplace else for their reception and honeymoon.
Extended family group vacations are becoming so popular (especially for weddings) that many of the cruise lines are re-instituting (legal) marriages at sea, and building new onboard wedding facilities to meet the need. If you don’t feel like using FaceTime, they have internet capabilities to broadcast the event to the unfortunate people back home who couldn’t get away.
Cruise Vacations Are Great for Groups
Whether it’s a bachelor or bachelorette party, a graduation celebration, a 50th wedding anniversary, a special birthday, a large family reunion…. or just to end the “who-shall-we-visit-for-the-holidays?” dilemma, I personally think cruises are the #1 best way to get the family together.
The main reason is that there are activities and accommodations to suit just about every budget, as long as the people in your group are willing to cruise. While most events are joyful, I’ve even heard of families who have taken cruises together to mark less-joyful events, such as memorials and the scattering of a relative’s ashes (check on regulations about this first, if that’s your plan).
Many cruise lines have group desks who will make all the arrangements for you and even give you special benefits if your group is a large one, such as special seating in the dining room or show lounge, or even discounts on the rooms, or a special cocktail reception just for your group. Most of
On cruises and at many resorts, most of the arrangements are practically made for you, no one has to play host (or make beds, or fix meals) and there’s something for every age and interest.
All cruise lines will assist with marriages and many have onboard wedding facilities for those who want to get married onboard. If you don’t feel like using Facetime, they can broadcast your special event via the Internet to the unlucky family and friends who just couldn’t get away.
Here are Some Tips to Make Your Group Vacation, Tops!
If you’ve got a major event in your future, or you’d just like to try something exciting and new for the holidays, here are the most important things you need to consider if you are consider getting a group vacation going (especially an extended family group):
Timing is Everything: All modes of travel have a peak, shoulder and off-season price based on the destination and time of year.
You might find it’s more likely you’ll get more people to join you during the holidays and summertime, but if finances are an issue, consider planning your special event off-peak when discounts are more available.
Location, Location, Location: Depending on where you live, some destinations will be more practical and affordable for the majority of your group, than others.
If most of your group lives on the East Coast, for example, finding a resort nearby or taking a cruise from an East Coast port may be more cost effective. Cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line sail from a variety of ports, including both coasts.
If you are planning a trip to Europe, most flights go to New York as a hub. If most of your group is from the Midwest or West Coast, cruises and resorts from Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles, or Texas to Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska are good bets. Airplane flights to the South Pacific or the Orient will connect from the West Coast.
Delegate: Let one person book the cruise, hotel, or vacation package for everyone, and you’ll qualify for cheaper rates as a “group.”
in general, just 10 or more rooms or cabins qualifies you for discounts, and sometimes, free rooms or cabins (check the supplier directly or consult a travel agent.
If there are singles in your group, keep in mind that nearly all cruise lines still charge a singles supplement although some of the newer ships have solo cabins. Encourage solo travelers to double-up.
Some cruise lines and many hotels will offer free or reduced rates for young children sharing your room or cabin. Some rooms may house a family of three or four, but not all. Some may be more appropriate for passengers with disabilities. Check carefully before selecting.
Choose Your Destination wisely: Maybe your personal idea of fun is camping or hiking into the hills for hours, but it’s probably not going to be the stuff dreams are made of for the very elderly or for family members who aren’t into roughing it.
Your vacation will be a much happier one for everyone if you choose a location that has facilities and activities to suit different personalities and age groups.
There is nothing more distressing than a group of whining, bored kids with nothing to do and nowhere to go (even worse if the weather is bad and they can’t even go outside) or adults who hate the weather, the location, the food….
If you choose a cruise you’ll find something for almost everyone on virtually all cruise ships, but some have a vibe that might appeal to your group more than others. Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line are just four leaders in family cruising. They cater to groups of every size, budget, and interest. Their “something-for-everyone” approach is reflected in the wide range of onboard activities, shore excursions, dining options, and even the public rooms (everything from video games to gaming tables, pools, and coffee to cigar bars). More sophisticated groups or those who want a more personalized experience and can afford to pay for it, can look to the ships of lines such as Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Oceana and Grill class on Cunard.
Most ships and plenty of bigger resorts offer special facilities and age-appropriate programs for kids that are well supervised so that the adults have time to themselves, but the family can still gather together as much as desired. Some only really offer children’s programs in peak season and holidays so know before you book.
Ask Questions and Check Review Sites: A resort or cruise website may look amazing, but will it be for you and your groups? Some will be downscale and casual. Others will cater to adult audiences with more discerning tastes. The descriptions can be confusing if you have never been there before.
The best way to get an idea of what a resort or cruise line/ship is like is to ask others what they liked, and didn’t like, and seek guidance from a travel agent.or from online websites like Trip Advisor, Hotels.com and Yelp. Also be aware that not everyone makes the same offers or has the same prices. Shop around if you can.
Plan in Advance: The best-laid plans are the ones made in advance. Holidays are the most popular travel time for all destinations and accommodations sell out quickly reservations well in advance. The same goes for airline flights. Cruise lines often offer 2 for 1 deals if you can plan more than 5 months to a year in advance.
The next time you’re wondering how to get the family together, get them to go on vacation with you. Be sure to bring an extra memory card for your camera or smart phone…you’ll be capturing a lot of memories!