Your group will have a rollicking good time, even Grandpa!
When you are in the early planning stages of gauging interest from family members and choosing a location, you may want to call around to a few different theme parks to find out what they have to offer. Most parks offer discounted admission, catering and hotel room blocks for large groups.
According to Pat Tracey, manager of event sales for Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, the on-site hotel options are one of the big perks of a theme park reunion. “Staying at one of our Universal Orlando hotel properties (which are all within walking distance to the theme parks) is a huge benefit for families.
All seven of our hotels include early park admission, resort-wide charging privileges and resort-wide transportation.” All of these can help to ensure a worry-free vacation for all of your guests. Not all theme parks have hotels onsite, but they should be able to steer you in the direction of family-friendly hotels in the area.
At Six Flags America in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area, account executive Steven Jones points out that “theme parks have something for everyone. We have rides and activities for a wide variety of ages. While the kids are splashing in the wave pool, grandma and grandpa can relax in one of our shaded cabanas, which are available for full-day rentals.” Six Flags America can help to streamline the reunion process with its various group event packages. “We offer a range of packages that can include catering, admission, parking and access to our private picnic pavilion. Our pavilion serves as a ‘home base’ where families can have a meal, play volleyball or corn hole and spend some time together in between thrills,” Jones said.
There are theme parks all over the country where you can choose to hold your family reunion and each has something unique and exciting to offer.
Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, has some of the tallest, fastest roller coasters in the world and can build a ticket and catering package to fit any family’s needs. Sea World in San Antonio (and with various other locations around the U.S.) is an animal-lover’s dream and, depending on your budget, can schedule animal encounters or meals inside the aquarium with under-the-sea views.
If your family loves the mountains, you may want to check out Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Aside from the theme park and water park, they can help your group plan hiking excursions, Jeep tours, and picnic lunches in the Smoky Mountains. If you’d rather be soaking up the Florida sun, Disney World has more than enough entertainment, dining and hotel accommodations to suit every age, taste, and budget.
Once you’ve decided on a location, it’s time to spread the word. Whether you choose to send paper or electronic invitations, it may be helpful to create a website, Facebook group or group email address so you can share information with any family members planning on attending. You can also use a website or group to communicate payment due dates, instructions on making hotel reservations from the room block and to distribute a printable itinerary.
As the reunion planner, all of these responsibilities do not need to rest solely on your shoulders. While the RSVPs are rolling in, you can also enlist family members to join your reunion committee. Those who are available to assist can help with things like running the group or website, putting together welcome packets, keeping track of payments and checking on the room block.
This list of tasks may seem long, but your event planner will be there to guide you along the way. “Usually, the person planning the reunion for the group will work directly with one of our sales representatives and will have their direct phone number and email. They will walk them through the planning and booking process and compile their group vacation details into one document. The sales representative will then prepare a welcome packet prior to travel with additional information about the package and stay,” said Tracey.
Aside from the first-rate planning assistance, the best thing about theme park reunions is that the fun is built right in. You won’t need to spend hours planning activities and outings for your family because, at a theme park, it’s all around them. Of course, your family members may appreciate a few age-based suggestions for attractions, shows and dining they may enjoy, which you (or another committee member) could easily put together with the help of your event planner. Jones also recommends browsing the park’s website for suggestions on things to do in the park and in the surrounding area.
Another advantage of theme park reunions is they are highly customizable to your family’s budget and travel style. While you don’t want to overschedule events, planning a few unique experiences can add to the excitement. Whether it’s a VIP tour at Universal Orlando, a private character breakfast at Disney World or a one-on-one animal encounter at SeaWorld, theme parks offer a variety of experiences that your family will never forget.
Tracey says it best: “Sharing lasting memories with the ones you love is invaluable.” Family reunions are about spending time with those you love most, and what better place to do that than at a theme park? From thrilling coasters to lazy rivers, there’s no shortage of fun, family-friendly activities that will give your family the togetherness, smiles, and memories that make the time you spent planning all worth it.
Tarah Chieffi is a theme park and family travel journalist whose childhood dream job was being a Disney parade performer (not much has changed, honestly). When she isn’t cooking or writing (which is rare), she can be found cycling wherever her bike will take her, tucked under the covers with a good book, or planning her next adventure with her husband and three young sons.