Ask your hotel about their group policy. Some hotels extend a complimentary room when a minimum number of rooms are booked. Traditionally planners take complimentary rooms, but here’s another idea. Designate the rooms for students or elders who cannot afford housing. Bringing in those potential members—or members in need now—make it more likely that they will come (and pay) in the future. Thanks to Visit Fairfax (fxva.com) for this idea.
Always ask hotels what extras they provide.
Negotiate breakfast and/or cocktail hour into the room rate.
Ask if your hotel offers complimentary airport, train or bus station transfers or shuttles.
Ask for free parking.
Book as many members as possible for deep discounts to take advantage of group rates.
Use senior discount privileges, where applicable.
Use entertainment books that feature destination discount rates and coupons.
Ask if the hotel room has a coffee maker, refrigerator or microwave. Then, eat in to save on some meal costs.
Ask if the hotel has a gym or pool and bring appropriate clothes to get some exercise. No excuses!
Ask if the hotel offers free WiFi or a free business center with computer access.
Many large hotels have themed decorations stashed away in closets or stock–rooms. They might have décor pieces/props/server uniforms. Common themes are beach party, luau, baseball, Wild West, patriotic (red, white, and blue), etc. While the hotel would prefer to charge for using props or decorations, you should inquire about what they have available, and negotiate using their props or decorations for free or at a reduced rate. Say, “I’ll sign a contract today if you agree to dress up my cookout on your patio with your beach party props!” A great suggestion from Dean Miller, National Sales Manager at Visit Fairfax.
Hostels are cheaper. Hostels include travelers of all ages—not just the young. They usually provide breakfast and heartier breakfasts yield leftovers for lunch. There is also free WiFi access. Front desk workers can point you to unique sites worth seeing. Reservations at Lonely Planet and Hostel World allow you to search by location, price and type of hostel, with photos and a description of the accommodations.
Also see columns by Dean Miller, Hospitality Answerman and National Sales Director at Visit Fairfax, in Fairfax County, Virginia. Dean writes about how reunion planners can deal with/ hotels and convention and visitors or tourism bureaus.
Staying in touch … and there’s a lot that’s free
Add Twitter to your reunion social networking. Assign a hashtag that pulls all reunion-related tweets together. Twitter will compile all your tweets containing the hashtag. Tell your members to add the hashtag to their tweets so everyone can see all your reunion tweets.
Blog your thoughts. Free sites such as wordpress.org and blogspot.com offer resources to get you up and writing in minutes. You don’t need to know any coding and your reunion can have its own blog.
TribalPages.com is a free, family tree hosting website that offers GEDCOM import, photo features, charting display and printout, family tree mapping and reports. Create and send custom newsletters and poster-size charts, which can also be excellent visuals to take to your family reunion. (Source: Weekly Buzz)
GroupMe is a free app for group texting and conference calling and works on almost any cell phone. Each app walks you through the process and helps manage your groups. When you start a GroupMe, you get a unique phone number. When you send a text message to a GroupMe number, the message is sent instantly to everyone in the group, like an instant chat room. If you don't have a smartphone, you can still start a group by texting START to GROUP (47687).
Call overseas for free.Freephone2phone.com gives you 10 minutes of free talk to landlines in 55 countries and cellphones in some. You listen to short ads, then connect.
Plan reunion spending
Review personal finances to determine the money available for reunion expenses without adding debt. Estimate total reunion costs, travel, meals, accommodations and spending money. If you carry a credit card balance and are paying interest, leave credit cards at home, and use cash, checks or a debit card to cover reunion expenses.
Some families choose to limit holiday and birthday gift giving, and instead save the money for reunion expenses. Instead, shop for gently-used items in thrift, dollar or discount stores.
Shop with a list, and stick to it. Shop for food when well rested and not hungry.
Choose a date and time when stores are least likely to be crowded, such as weekdays or early morning hours. Carry an envelope to organize receipts.
Track spending to help ease reunion spending next year.
Take advantage of discounts offered through “your” organizations: AAA, unions, AARP, alumni associations.
Enter your city or ZIP code, and Sciddy.com lists discounts in your area for people 50 or older. The savings range up to 15 percent on everything from travel to food.