Avoid These 6 Common Family Reunion Disasters


1. Food poisoning

Nobody wants a bad potato salad to be the one thing they remember from their reunion weekend. Every year, 1 in 6 Americans get hit with food poisoning, suffering symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. ​

​Most incidents of food poisoning occur when food isn’t maintained at the proper temperature, according to Darin Detwiler, a food safety expert and professor at Northeastern University. ​

​“A potato salad could be in the car for two hours before it’s served,” he says. “No one uses a food thermometer at a family reunion.” ​

​​Detwiler suggests prepping food at home and cooking it on-site, making sure to serve hot foods immediately and to keep cold foods on ice. Better yet, call in the pros. ​

​“A professional catering company will deliver food when you need it, keep it heated or cooled to eliminate those risk factors,” Detwiler says.​

2. Canceled flights

Planning to fly to your reunion? Go early, giving yourself a cushion of time so you don’t miss out on reunion activities, advises Jen Campbell Boles, founder of Explore More Family Travel.​

​“[Fly] in at least a day early until the airlines are staffed up,” Boles advises.​

 ​As of July 1, there have been more than 820,000 flight delays and 116,000 cancelled flights this year, according to the flight tracking company FlightAware. ​​

It’s also a good idea to purchase travel insurance.​​

“Having travel insurance gives you the flexibility to be rebooked outside of the airline you are working with [and] could be the key to getting there,” says Boles.​​

3. Freeloading relatives

The cost for a venue, hotel rooms, catering, entertainment and matching family T-shirts or other reunion swag can add up. So, what about the cousins who showed up, wore the T-shirts, ate the food and enjoyed the festivities—but never paid? Psychologist Donna Marino suggests giving them the benefit of the doubt. ​

​“Perhaps they forgot or didn’t have the money at the time,” says Marino. “Greet them as you would any paying family member … and say something like, ‘It’s so good to see you, I had no idea you were coming. I was just collecting everyone’s contribution to the event.’”​

​If your relatives still don’t hand over their fair share, Marino suggests weighing whether the relationship is more important than the money, adding, “Could there be something going on with them and they could really use their family right now? Could you sponsor them to be there? Be thoughtful in your response.”​

​You may also want to hire a travel agent or event planner to coordinate the reunion and manage the unpleasant task of collecting payment.​

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