advertisement

Family reunions should be full of more hearty laughs than hassle. It's the planning, though, that usually turns out to be more of a pain. Not so much anymore. There are some excellent websites and travel planners that make big group travel easy to plan. Now even the organizer of the big get-together might have time to bake her famous blueberry cheesecake or marinate his favorite London broil.

Groople (tel. 888/447-6675; www.groople.com) offers full-service travel agent and travel provider services to people looking to book large group travels. From large family reunions to corporate outings to weddings to even school reunions and trips, the company's agents and website offer not only discount travel to areas all over the United States, but they also list a bunch of helpful hints including location selectors, an event calendar, how to plan the event from afar and questions to ask when selecting a hotel or resort. For location selecting, for example, the site urges you to think beyond a big resort, and select a place that has sentimental meaning to the family, like a hometown, a place important in the history of the family, or a central location where getting together is made easy for everyone.

Groople also does some of the work for you. Groople¿s online group cruise booking engine allows groups of 16 or more people (8 or more staterooms) to book all their cruise needs online (for cruises on 6 major cruise lines). For groups of fewer than 16 passengers, they offer online cruise bookings on Carnival ¿ and cruise bookings on the other 5 carriers through Groople¿s cruise specialists (over the phone). Billed as the web's "only fully online group cruise booking tool," Groople's "Group Cruise Wizard" lets you select number of people, dates, cruise line, research destinations, compare room prices and even allows you to pay in one price or allow each room renter to pay for their room accordingly. The engine is extremely easy to use and Groople recommends you call if you have any questions.

If you can't locate a family member, Reunion.com (www.reunion.com) allows you to do a people search for your long lost relatives. In addition to helping you find a family member, Reunion.com provides families with services such as e-mail, photo sharing, broadcast family announcements, post and read messages online, and keep their address books up-to-date. Claiming a membership of over 30 million people, Reunion.com recommends you join its service, which is free. For another people finder site that's less family oriented but usually doles out excellent results, try www.peoplefinders.com, which offers a host of different searching options at a variety of prices.

Escorted Group Tours (tel. 800/942-3301; www.escortedgrouptours.com) is another full-service group travel provider that offers assistance on travel for family get-togethers, corporate travel, friends, weddings, fundraisers, and meetings. Offering travel opportunities and links to travel providers to over 50 countries on seven continents, Escorted Group Tours has cruises, land trips via train or luxury motor-coach, and trips that cover many different activities such as music, adventure, art tours or sports events.

Planning a reunion or just a family trip? Get practical advice from fellow Frommer's travelers on our Family Travel Message Boards today.