• Entertaining Big Overnight Groups at the Lake with Ease and Enjoyment

July 01, 2018

My friend, Christy Howard and I were talking about lake house challenges the other day and we ended up laughing about how we should write an article about having big groups of people overnight.  So here it is!  Christy has lived on the lake her entire life and has a lot of experience with big numbers of folks as do I, coming from a large family on both sides.  We are both excited to share these tips to make entertaining more fun for and relaxed for lake dwellers!  (My contributions are due in part to my friend, Dillar Nelson, who helped me prepare for a large group last summer.)

Endless Arnold Palmers are a great way to welcome your guests and keep them happy throughout the day.  Have two 4-liter spouted dispensers sitting out all day, one with Crystal Lite lemonade and one with Lipton’s Cold Brew Iced Tea.  Add water to two pitcher packs of Crystal Lite with a couple of cut up lemons to add flavor.  As for the tea, the easiest ever iced tea is cold brew!  Put 6 regular sized cold brew tea bags in a 2-gallon dispenser with water, and poof!  You're done.  Keeping it cold without diluting is a snap if you freeze lemonade and iced tea in pint-size containers and use them as ice.

Don't learn the hard way that a printed list of Lake House Rules are really important.  It’s challenging for hosts to tell every person what the parameters are in water safety and things like hanging up towels inside the house, so the posted list at different spots inside and out on the dock are a God-send.

Sign Up Genius is a great invention.  Just go to www.signupgenius.com and get a free account.  This tool can save you hours of phone calls and texts while it emails your guests automatically and creates multiple slots for a food sign up.  With a big family reunion over multiple days, it’s super helpful to put one or two families or small groups of people in charge of all the food and cleanup for each day.  That way, the other families can relax and enjoy their vaca instead of everyone helping out with every meal!  

Guests are always hungry on Day 2. (If they are teenagers, they are simply always hungry period.) Make breakfast easy for you so you can enjoy your guests! Sliced fruit, bagels people can toast whenever they wake, maybe a casserole (pre-made) so you just pop it in the oven and ham or bacon pre-cooked so they can eat it cold or just reheat it in a snap in the microwave.

When people ask to bring something last minute, say, “Ice!!”  Simple as that.  Between coolers on the dock and meals you will eat indoors, there is always a need for ice.

Over-the-door towel racks are such a help at a lake house.  It is really key to put them on all bathroom and bedroom doors.  When many guests are sharing a bathroom, it is impossible to fit all the towels on one towel bar.           

If you’re entertaining over a span of several days, for example, in the case of a family reunion, it is especially fun to have daily themes to create excitement and camaraderie.  Tried and true themes include Hat Day, Jersey Day, Hawaiian Luau Day and Patriotic Day.  The sky’s the limit!

When a family visits the lake, adults seem to always know to pitch in where needed.   Children and teenagers, however, sometimes need a nudge or even just a suggestion of what needs to be done.  Give kids jobs like emptying the trash inside and out, filling coolers and replenishing the fire pit with wood.


Karaoke is a bonding experience!  After a couple of days on the water, it’s fun to go out to dinner and it’s even more fun if there’s karaoke.  “Celebrate Good Times, C’mon!”

Air mattresses are a must at the lake.  Even if you can sleep a large number in beds at your house, air mattresses allow for more, which may mean the entire group can be together. 

Even if it seems like you’re overdoing it, you will be so glad if you print t-shirts for a family reunion.  Put someone in charge of it who will design a cool shirt people will want to wear later.  It’s fun to come up with your own family logo and you never know when a family member might show up wearing it, bringing back all the memories.

Put someone in charge of games.  We enjoy horse shoes, corn hole, diving contests off the dock and many different card games, but our family favorite is Sequence.  The Jumbo Sequence is much easier to see and easily allows six people to take part in the game.  If your group is especially cooperative, you can assign teams for the weekend and keep a running tally of who’s in the lead!


S’more fixins on a tray ensure that guests of all ages have a fun activity around the fire.  It is helpful to have this permanently assembled and ready at an inside designated spot - ready to grab when the fire gets going.

Younger guests can be given a clean set of sheets to change the bunk beds when it’s time to leave.  These are the hardest beds to change (nearly impossible!) and kids are much more able to climb around up there.  Let them do it!  Amazon carries sheets made specifically for easy changing of bunk beds.  Highly recommended.

The goal for you, the host, is to enjoy being with people you love….so remember, do the “work” ahead of time so you can play with them and enjoy the lake!


Christy Howard, Co-Contributor


Christy and Annie Presley co-author the Read This…® series of guided journals. Titles include: 
Read This…® When I’m Dead - to help get your stuff together for your loved ones
Read This…® On Our Anniversary - to capture the best parts of your life together
Read This…® On Your Birthday - a fun way to tell the story of a child’s life 0-21
Read This…® About My House - to chronicle home renovations and maintenance

Christy’s early career ranged from practicing real estate and environmental law to management positions at Hallmark in finance, risk management, marketing & development, and human resources – and then to humanitarian work globally. She co-authored her first book in the late 1990’s – The Environmental Due Diligence Handbook published by Government Institutes. 

In her position as Director of Corporate Communications with Children International (with global operations), she found herself inspired both by people doing their utmost to help end global poverty, and also by the families and the children themselves who work daily to escape the relentless traps of poverty. Christy spoke to groups at the United Nations and met with government officials in countries as far away as Zambia. The mothers she met earned her undying respect. 
Christy has served on boards and committees for various non-profits.  She loves to spend time with her family – her husband of 28 years, their daughter who they love to visit, and their big extended family. Her favorite activities include water sports, yoga, hiking, and playing with her dogs.

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