There are two decisions that can make or break a reunion: when you have it and where. In this article, we’re going to discuss five factors that go into choosing the perfect reunion date. (Read how to find the perfect reunion destination here.)
First up, let’s be realistic. Unless you have a very small group, there’s going to be conflict between schedules. So it’s best to start planning your reunion at least one year in advance – a small family reunion can get away with a shorter timeframe; something along the lines of a college or military reunion would need two years or possibly longer.
How do you know what is a good date? Ask people. You can do this either in person, over the phone or by means of survey cards. However, here are a few general pointers to keep in mind:
- You can schedule your reunion according to special events, such as an anniversary, a retirement or a group milestone.
- If your reunion attendees include kids, either try to sync up your reunion time with their school breaks or accept that families with kids in school may not be able to come.
- Scheduling reunions during long weekends, holidays and school breaks can make it easier for everyone to be there. The downside? Higher travel and accommodation fees.
- If you’re planning a more expensive reunion option (i.e. renting a resort, booking a week on a Caribbean island) or traveling a long way, give attendees at least a year’s notice so they can save up for the trip.
The Takeaway: The longer in advance you plan your reunion, the more likely it is that it will be well attended.
Next, let’s talk about reunion frequency. If your group is coming in from all sorts of far-flung places, it may not be possible to have them reunite every year. On the other hand, if your group comprises a couple dozen people who live within an easy drive of each other, then a yearly reunion is definitely an option. Take into account your group’s level of comfort with each other, budgets and schedules.
Interestingly, a poll of Reunion Workbook readers showed that 49% of them met annually, 23% met every two years, 9% every three and 4% every five.
The Takeaway: Reunion frequency is up to your group’s schedules, tastes and budgets.
A general rule in deciding reunion length is that geography and democracy rule the day. A one-day reunion can work when everyone is local, but if members are driving in for more than a few hours, it doesn’t leave much time for fun. If you’re looking at a day’s drive, then a weekend or even a long weekend is best. Travel any longer than that and a week is needed (at least in our opinion).
If you’re planning a repeat reunion, remember that past performance can indicate future results. Look at who came and where they came from to get an idea of the kinds of distances your group is going to travel and how long they can stay. Obviously, it may not be feasible to have a weeklong reunion every year.
For multiple-day reunions, you may want to create a general schedule. For example, if you’re holding a three-day reunion, attendees could arrive during the day and have a dinner together that night. The next day could be the main event, full of games and activities. The following day could be quite casual, with a late breakfast, a buffet lunch-dinner combination, and time for long chats and laid-back card games.
The Takeaway: Reunion length depends on how far guests have to travel and how frequently you reunite.
Now we are definitely getting into pros and cons. For many of us, a reunion in Michigan in the middle of February is a terrible idea, thanks to snow and arctic-like temperatures. However, if you’re into skiing, snowmobiling or any kind of cold-weather sport, a winter reunion Up North makes sense. So, breaking down reunion times by season, we have:
Summer is by far and away the most popular reunion season. The weather’s good, it’s easier to get time off work, and kids are out of school.
Pros: This is the time of flexible schedules, mass appeal, and lots of opportunity for outdoor sports and games.
Cons: This is also the time of peak rates, high humidity and sometimes dangerously warm temperatures.
Early fall usually has very nice weather and lots of glorious autumn foliage to look at. Later fall tends to be a bit dreary and cold in the northern states, although in the South and West it can be quite mild.
Pros: Fall is a shoulder season, which means you should get better rates on accommodations and travel. If you schedule it properly, the weather can be just as good or even better than summertime.
Cons: Folks with kids in school may be reluctant to attend anything longer than a weekend. This also goes for people with demanding jobs.
Winter brings snow and ice to the northern US – and lots of people going down South for a break from the cold. If you are planning a reunion for people who like cold-weather sports, winter is an excellent time for a northern reunion. In the South, relatively mild temperatures also make winter a very reasonable time for reuniting.
Pros: Wintertime reunions make a great excuse for a ski holiday or a sun break.
Cons: Rates can be high during winter too, as these are peak ski and sun-seeking times. If you travel during the holidays, plan ahead for extra congestion and expense.
Spring is another shoulder season, offering pleasant weather and reduced travel and accommodation rates – as long as you avoid spring break hotspots. For gardeners and other lovers of the outdoors, a spring reunion can be quite beautiful and memorable.
Pros: It can be easier for families to attend because of school’s spring break policies.
Cons: Spring break dates change from school to school and from year to year, so they can be hard to plan for.
Finally, consider the region where you’re going to hold your reunion. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the same area where you live. They are plenty of good reasons to visit every state, and more attractions and we have time to list. But before you make any plans, consider some basic climate info:
- New England/Northeast: Expect hot and humid summers, and fairly frequent thunderstorms. Autumn and spring tend to be cool and crisp, with spectacular foliage and abundant greenery and flowers. In the winter, cold and snow are the norm.
- South: Winters are mild in the South, with most precipitation coming in the form of rain — although the occasional interruption of snow and ice does happen. In the summer, highs can top 90 with ease and humidity levels aren’t far behind. Expect to see spring go into action as early as March, and autumns can last longer in the South than in their northern neighbors.
- Southwest: This is a region of deserts and mountains, which means it can be very hot and very cold in the same day. Coastal and desert areas (i.e. the California coast, Phoenix) have mild winters, while the mountains are decidedly colder. Spring and fall enjoy moderate temperatures, and summer is downright hot. The exception here is the California coast, which generally stays pleasant all year round, with rain more common from late October to March.
- Northwest: The Pacific Northwest is legendary for its rain, but for the most part temperatures are quite mild. Overall, the entire region enjoys cool summers, which are also the sunniest months of the year. Inland and in the mountains, snow and cold are common in the winter.
- The Midwest and the Plains: Winters are very cold and summers tend to be very hot in the middle of the country. Spring and fall both have mild weather, although strong thunderstorms and tornados are possible. The Great Lakes and Ohio Valley areas can be quite humid, but the central and northern plains tend to be drier.
Note: In most regions, the farther north you go, the colder it gets, and vice versa. Two states in the same region can have noticeably different winters and summers.
The Takeaway: How to Find Your Next Reunion Date
Your reunion date will be unique to your group, and it can change with every reunion. Give attendees a few date and length options, keeping in mind the vagaries of weather and climate. Remember, it’s not likely that everyone will get their choice — or even be able to attend each year — so let people know in advance that majority rules!