Family Reunion Trips: Gulf Shores, Alabama

Family Reunion Trips: Gulf Shores, Alabama

Sure, you could all head to your aunt’s house once again. Or you could give her a break and pick a neutral yet exciting spot, certain to please even the pickiest sibling, and turn the standard reunion into a real vacation for all. Here are 12 choices ranging from deluxe to super-affordable, including several that offer options at different price points.Gulf Shores, Alabama
Currently, two-bedroom vacation homes in this Southern beach town are renting for as little as $600 a week at the height of the summer season. This despite the fact that the beaches here are as pristine and sparkling white as they were before the BP oil spill last year. But last year’s bad press continues to bedevil this lovely vacation spot. You help the community and save a bundle by renting one or two homes here for your brood, spending days building sand castles and memories. See more attractions in Alabama.

Family Reunion Trips: Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, Stanley, Idaho

Ideal settings for family reunions, dude ranches offer a multitude of adventures in a family-friendly atmosphere. With its spectacular perch in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, this handsome one, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a particularly good bet. “Rocky Mountain’s unique a la carte program means it will work for diverse groups,” explains Gene Kilgore, founder of “Guests do as they please. If they want to hike, that’s fine. If they want to fish, the ranch sets that up. Horseback riding is, obviously, available too, along with mountain biking, whitewater rafting and swimming in the on-site, natural hot-springs pool.”

Family Reunion Trips: Walt Disney World, Florida

Watching a 5-year-old’s first encounter with her favorite princess can be a magical moment not just for mom and dad, but also for the grandparents, aunts and uncles. That’s one of the reasons many families choose to have reunions at Disney World in Orlando. Another factor: Disney has a dedicated staff available to help iron out reunion details from meals to park tickets — ask for Grand Gatherings or the Group Department if your family will need more than 10 rooms. To save a bit, consider sharing a house in one of the vacation rental communities near the parks.

Family Reunion Trips: Wildflower Inn, Lyndonville, Vt.

If your family reunion must include Fido, head to this dog-friendly collection of refurbished farmhouses and barns. Wildflower is set in “the area of the state that Vermonters go to when they want to experience the real, untouched Vermont,” says Mel Allen, editor of Yankee Magazine. “It’s near gorgeous Lake Willoughby, which looks like Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne, with soaring mountains rising on all sides of it.” Activities? They’re numerous and include the on-site spa, kids program, petting zoo and, nearby, 100 miles of mountain-biking trails. Need to work out long-simmering sibling rivalry issues? One barn holds a batting cage and pitching machine.

Family Reunion Trips: House boating on Lake Amistad, Texas

Renting a houseboat is about as far from roughing it as you can get. Many now come with multiple bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, flat-screen TVs, whirlpool baths and wet bars. Despite these cushy trappings, this sort of travel can be a real adventure for families, especially on this spectacular lake with its severe limestone cliffs, sandy beaches and 850 miles worth of coastline. History buffs will enjoy viewing the 4,000-year-old cave art at the top of the Amistad Reservoir; anglers love the lake for its abundance of striped bass.

Family Reunion Trips: Acadia National Park, Maine

Whether you pitch tents or head to a hotel near the park’s entrance, Acadia is an ideal setting for family time together. “It’s a beautiful park,” enthuses Kurt Repanshek, founder of “And it’s doable for all ages and really varied groups.  You’ve got a great loop road for a windshield tour, perfect for those who can’t walk too far; alternatively, one half of the family can drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain while the others hike to the top. It also has carriage paths for bicycling, and tide pools which young kids just love.”

Family Reunion Trips: Royal Caribbean Cruises

With all manner of price points on cabins, from cheap inside ones perfect for the stingiest cousin to verandah suites where grandma and grandpa can splash out, cruises on Royal Caribbean generally please the whole family, notes’s Editor Carolyn Spencer Brown. “There’s a lot of variety on board these ships,” she says. “You have all sorts of food choices, spas, onboard activities. Family reunions at sea tend to be really successful because there are many things the families can do together, and also ways they can escape one another.” Really large families may snag group discounts.

Family Reunion Trips: YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colo.

Hosting close to 1,000 family reunions a year, this choice is both affordable — with facilities ranging from single rooms to eight-bedroom retreat cabins — and wildly scenic. Families can use the Y’s conference facilities to powwow over family trees, or head over to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park to see forests, elk, bighorn sheep and soaring mountains vistas. The center boasts tennis courts, a swimming pool, ice skating, fishing, mini and disc golf, sand volleyball courts, barbecue pits and an arts and crafts center. If that isn’t enough to keep your family busy, there’s a zipline nearby.

Family Reunion Trips: Azul Fives Hotel by Karisma, Mayan Riviera, Mexico

How’s this for simplifying the booking process? An Azul Fives Hotel staffer dedicated to reunion travel coordinates with all family members and sets up special events for your group. Have little ones along? The resort has a loaner program for baby gear and toys. Those are just the initial bells and whistles at this cushy, all-inclusive beachfront resort, which also features a huge spa, swank décor, a kids club and multiple restaurants. “Foodie families will love it,” says Sally Black of “They have an organic garden which stocks the kitchens. I also like the fact that they have multiple suite configurations from studios to three bedrooms, most with lots of common space for hanging out.”

Family Reunion Trips: West Yellowstone, Montana

While you can lodge in Yellowstone National Park, Kurt Repanshek, founder of advises groups to look at this bedroom community instead. “In Yellowstone Park, the lodgings don’t have kitchens. Here you can rent affordable units — there are many, many options — in which you can cook up family meals, a real money-saver.” Most who stay in West Yellowstone take day hikes into the park and into the Targhee and Gallatin national forests. It’s also a top area for fishing and rafting.

Family Reunion Trips: Tan-Tar-A Resort, Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Tops for active families, this Missouri resort keep groups hopping when the weather is lovely or ugly. On fine days, check out the tennis, golf and mini-golf courses, or go out on the lake for water skiing, wave running, paddle boats, parasailing, fishing and more. In bad weather, try the indoor water park and pool, video arcade and bowling alley. Frequent sales mean that if you hit it right, your family could score a deal; be sure to look at several websites before booking.

Family Reunion Trips: Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, Olympic National Park, Washington

“You get three national parks in one here,” says Kurt Repanshek, founder of “There’s the high alpine areas with glaciers, the beach coast and the temperate rain forest. Having so much in such a relatively compact area is ideal for groups who want to experience a lot.” He also appreciates that Olympic National Park’s Sol Duc Hot Spring Resorts offers units with kitchenettes. “And the kids will get a kick out of the hot spring-fed swimming pools — actually the adults love those, too!”