Family Reunion: fair, just, or equitable? Or all three?
August 1, 2021 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Our family of cousins and second cousins gets together for five nights every three years. Usually we do this in a place with a common gathering area and kitchen. The reunion fund pays for the common area and for the ingredients for dinner. Everyone pays for their own motel/hotel room. In lean years, some people (me) have stayed in nearby campgrounds.

We form up into family teams for cooking and cleanup each night. During the day we take in local attractions and in the evening we play cards and board games, visit, drink adult beverages, tease the little kids, and generally solidify our familial connections with each other. We’ve been doing this since about 1971 and we love it. If you marry into the family, you get the reunion. Be warned.

This year, my sister and I are in charge of the reunion in Southern California. We have not been able to find.a suitable common area in a hotel or resort and we have taken a large (7 bedroom) fancy-pants house for the week. It will house a little over half of us. The rest (another 15-20) will stay in a nearby, inexpensive motel.
The fund will pay for the house upfront and each participant/family will reimburse their share.

How do we determine their share?

Here are the rooms:
1: King bed/ bath (master suite)
2: Queen bed/bath
3: Queen bed/bath
4: Queen bed, twin bed, and a twin-over-full bunk bed (sleeps 5-6). Bath shared with room 7
5: Full-over-full Bunk bed / bath. (Sleeps 2-4)
6: Twin daybed with trundle, (sleeps 2)
7: Full sized bed shared/bath shared with room 4. (Sleeps 1-2)
Studio: Queen bed, bunk bed , and daybed, sleeps 5. Includes kitchenette, bathroom, separate living room.

How do we price this? Per person, per bed, per room?
Do we model it after motels and change a basic rate for a single queen or king bed and add a percentage for additional beds/people? What percentage is fair?

If a queen sized motel room costs $100 a night, do we charge 110 for a king and 80 for a double and 25 for each bunk bed?

I am looking for fair charges that will be manageable for families. The fund will cover whatever we don’t charge but we are not looking to subsidize free vacations for everyone. Where do I start with this?
posted by SLC Mom to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The good news is that you can use the pricing to reduce tension and maintain harmony.

Principle #1: price it with enough of a differential so that people in plainer rooms won't resent the people in the fancier rooms, because they know that a premium upcharge was paid, and they wouldn't have wanted to pay it.

Principle #2: peg the prices to an similar property (random example: Taylor Creek Lodge) so that you'll be able to explain your rationale.
posted by dum spiro spero at 4:12 PM on August 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

I feel like you divide the cost of the house by the number of people staying and charge everyone equally. Then you draw straws or whatever to select the order for choosing the (best, most desirable) rooms.
posted by shadygrove at 4:13 PM on August 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

What if you polled everyone to see what they thought before assigning rooms? Then you could average the values.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:33 PM on August 1, 2021

There was an interesting article in the New York Times about fair division of rent a few years back. It basically involves each person picking what room they would prefer at a given set of prices and then iterating until a "fair" solution is reached. They included a calculator though it might be difficult to use with a large number of people entering information. The people staying in hotels add an additional complication but it seems worth thinking about how you could implement something like this.
posted by Medw at 4:44 PM on August 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Complicating factors:
-People choose their own rooms.
-I won’t know exactly how many people will be in the house until they choose their rooms in the house or sign up for the motel.
-A lot of their choices will be determined by the family configuration: A single person v a grandma with her daughter and three grandkids, for example.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:47 PM on August 1, 2021

Response by poster: OMG, now I want to stay at Taylor Creek Lodge!
posted by SLC Mom at 5:00 PM on August 1, 2021

Best answer: My inclination would be to set a charge for each room based on capacity/desirability and not on how many people end up using it. Your fund normally covers the cost of shared space and you're renting the house so you can have shared space, right? So the fund will cover some percentage of the total rent, maybe 25%? I would decide how much of the house rent is for shared space and divide up whatever is left roughly along these lines:

1: 14%
2: 9%
3: 9%
4: 19%
5: 10%
6: 8%
7: 6%
Studio: 25%
posted by Redstart at 5:05 PM on August 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

If the choice is to stay in the motel or stay in the house, then it seems like the price of rooms in the motel is the major determining factor in how much you can charge for the house. I assume some people will pay a premium to be closer but I don't know if half of the attendees will. Or is the house cheaper than the motel? In that case you're in some sense subsidizing the people who stay there.
posted by inkyz at 5:13 PM on August 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Beds are per person. Tallest person gets the king, probably with partner.
Attached bathroom pays 5% more per person, except for the room with lots of beds and bathroom is available to others from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. if needed(bathroom access is critical for groups.)
Bunkbeds get 10% discount
Studio, same bed rates, kitchen and living room are shared. I'd designate that living room for quieter activity.
Rebates if money is left over.
posted by theora55 at 5:19 PM on August 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would charge a per family. For example, if I were attending with my child, my child is not paying money. I am paying all the money for himself and me inclusive, so I would count as one unit of payment even though there are two of us. And I would not choose, nor be assigned, the room that sleeps five since there are not five of us. If there were five of us, it would probably mean that I have numerous children, and again, those children will not be paying, so I would count as one unit.
posted by ficbot at 7:07 PM on August 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would on the down low put out some feelers to get a sense about the relative interest in the house vs motel. At the end of the day, households are choosing between those two options, so you might want to put the pricing differential on the house to help manage demand. Since the motel would charge by room, I think it would make sense to have the house charge by room as well.
posted by oceano at 7:11 PM on August 1, 2021

Best answer: Assuming that the house is more desirable than the motel, (convenience and quality), I would price whichever room in the house is most comparable to the motel offering at the price of the motel room plus 10%, and then sort the rest out accordingly. Redstart's relative splits look sensible. If you price the house too high, then no one will opt for it, but you have to pay for the whole thing regardless.
posted by plonkee at 4:39 AM on August 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Kids should be 1/2 price or free or maybe in cots if they're little.
posted by theora55 at 1:12 PM on August 2, 2021

Response by poster: ALL of these suggestions are helpful.
In the end, I followed Redstart’s plan. I set the average price per room at a rate similar to our most commonly used resort in Yachats, multiplied it out for 8 rooms x 5 nights. Then applied percentages to that total and, voilá, 8 rooms sold out instantly with nary a complaint. Only one persons asked why she was getting her room so cheaply- and that was mostly because she was sharing the cheapest room with her sister.

Thanks all.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:08 PM on August 16, 2021

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