Get It Together – Reunion Planning Tips

by Country Inns & Suites
Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sometimes life turns on a footlocker. At least it did for Jerry Swanson of San Luis Obispo, California. In 2002, the newly retired Swanson was tossing out old papers when he discovered a footlocker containing Air Force orders from 1958–59, when he’d been stationed at a small base near Nashville, Tennessee. Memories of good times with good friends flooded back. Swanson decided it was time to reconnect.   By Melany Klinck
Soon he had enlisted several military buddies in Tennessee to help him put together a weekend reunion near the now-closed base. While Swanson took charge of locating the 160 or so men on his list, his recruits scouted locations, made banquet arrangements and set up a base tour. 

“Everything just fell into place,” says Swanson, noting that 97 people trekked to the 2003 reunion from across the country. “We had a great time.”

Planning Your Reunion

To organize a stress-free reunion or other group trip, Swanson advises planners to start early. His reunion took about six months to plan. Some trips can take 12 to 18 months to arrange, especially if they involve large groups, holiday travel, or trips to state or national parks, where lodgings and other facilities often fill quickly.

Tips for Group Travel

  • Ask for help. Swanson’s ad-hoc committee reserved hotel rooms and banquet facilities, hired a caterer, produced the reunion program and even arranged local media coverage of the event. 
  • Choose destinations that suit group interests and budgets. Travel in off-peak months to save money. Just be sure to plan for the weather. Costa Rica during the rainy season or Phoenix in August may not be enticing. 
  • Arrange meals and snacks. For catered meals, consider members’ dietary needs—diabetic, vegan, kosher. 
  • Think of details. Select lodging with appropriate amenities or meeting space. Create a packing list for travelers, and bring a first-aid kit.
  • Encourage interaction. Plan get-acquainted games or team-building activities. Don’t forget nametags.
  • Wrap it up. Document what worked and what didn’t. Go online to set up a group photo-sharing site.

 Then, if you want to follow in Swanson’s footsteps, do it all again. His group did so in 2005 and will have a third reunion this year. “As long as people are interested,” he says, “I’ll keep planning them.”

Tennessee-based writer Melany Klinck recently survived a 10-day bus tour of Florida with a group of 35 teenagers.  Need help planning an event?  From from weddings to reunions, meetings, and more, our experts can help!  Visit www.countryinns.com and click on “Groups and Meetings” to request information or submit an RFP.