Families can fall into a rut. Our large and extended family tries hard to avoid that liability by scheduling activities and get-togethers throughout the year that keep us close, deepen our bonds and build the next generation’s friendships with each other.

Organized about a year ago, our family reunion this summer got off to a spectacular start when we learned a brand new family member had just joined the clan.

My brother and his wife had their new baby a few states away as the rest of us were all gathering in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for several days of hanging out on a mini-vacation.

“Welcome to the family, Charlie!” everyone texted. Instant pictures flooded our phones as we all got a glimpse of the new little one, his proud older sisters, and his beaming, but exhausted parents.

Breaking away from work and home and routines and chores, some of us drove as long as five hours to see the group and spend three days and two nights together at a pre-arranged location so we could catch up, laugh, eat, and play together. The play this time included riding scary roller coasters and gentle ferris wheels, driving go-karts and pounding the ball in batting cages, swimming and playing Pictionary, and traveling a few miles out of the way to check out a great microbrewery and take a self-guided tour.

Was it perfect? Not if you include losing a pair of glasses at the amusement park, eating way too much pizza and ice cream, or laughing so hard our faces didn’t look the same afterward.

Was it great? Everyone’s definition of that differs, but I think if you polled one and all you’d get a resoundingly unanimous answer.

Twenty-one of us were together in the middle of a packed summer, including 11 cousins ranging in age from 12 to 27. That, for me, is the best part: My kids and their cousins get to reconnect and share a great time together while strengthening their family bonds for now and in the future.

For families across America, the most popular places to hold a reunion are, according to GroupTravel.org, a trade group:

  • Recreational park: 32 percent
  • Restaurant and banquet hall: 22 percent
  • Resort or scenic location: 18 percent
  • Major cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles or Washington, D.C.: 14 percent

So we fell right in line on this point, but does it really matter where you go as a group? While it helps to have fun and do enjoyable things together, it’s about the reconnecting. It’s about staying close. It’s about being happy together.

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It’s about a disparate but definitely connected group of people liking each other so much they want to spend more than an obligatory few hours together — and then entirely rearranging their schedules to do so.

And then starting the discussion about the next one.

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