The comedian Jerry Seinfeld once joked, “There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.” Indeed, it can be nearly impossible to please all your relatives, but it doesn’t hurt to try. We have gathered some helpful tips for hosting family so a visit from the out-of-towners doesn’t turn into a downer.
Planning and Expectations
When your family is planning to come stay with you, a little planning in advance can go a long way to making it a fun, memorable time. You don’t want it to be a situation where you all end up counting the days until your family’s departure.
Most often a visit from family is not a surprise, so take the opportunity to plan with your family on the phone in advance of their arrival. The benefit to family is that you probably already know what they like when it comes to food, drink and activities.
Discuss what foods they would like to have while they are visiting and any allergies they may have, even if you feel you already know them well. Sometimes people change. Ask what sights they would like to see, what they would like to do and what restaurants they would like to try. Planning out a rough schedule can help.
Knowing what they have in mind for the trip is important. Be open and honest about your own schedule and prior commitments ahead of time. This can prevent boredom or hurt feelings.
Tell them how excited you are that they are coming and find out the duration of their stay. If you can take some days off work, your family will appreciate the gesture. If you can’t take days off, try to at least leave work a few hours early to spend quality time with your visiting family.
It is important to make time for relatives you know might want to visit you one-on-one. Opportunities for spending time with close relatives become fewer once we leave the nest, so it is important to try to enjoy and appreciate those moments.
Supply and Demand
Give your guests some privacy. It will make their stay more enjoyable for them and you. If you have a guest room, consider yourself lucky. Provide clean towels and linens and place them in an obvious location like on the bed or by the sink. Even if the guest room sheets and comforter are already clean, refresh the sheets by washing them and tumble the comforter in the dryer with a dryer sheet to freshen it. Leave the room smelling nice and inviting.
If you do not have a guest room, the same rules for towels and linens apply, but also try to give guests some privacy. Consider buying a divider wall, folding privacy screen or hanging room divider, depending on the layout of the room. Screens and dividers are relatively inexpensive options, and a little privacy can go a long way toward peaceful cohabitation.
Remember that these visits are basically gathering people who don’t normally spend a lot of time together, at least not anymore. A little privacy and taking breaks from one another can prevent visit overload.
To prevent the belongings of your guests taking over and sprawling across your floor, give guests some space. If you have drawers and/or some closet space, let them utilize it. If you don’t have storage space, a table or luggage rack will work fine. Luggage racks are inexpensive and can be folded when not in use.
Your house isn’t a hotel but taking your cues from the hospitality industry can help you create an environment where your guests will feel comfortable and self-sufficient.
Since everyone likes to stay connected, give your guests a card with the password to the WIFI or have the password displayed in a place that is obvious. Also, give them an outlet for charging electronic devices. You’ll thank us later.
Toiletries can sometimes take over a space, especially if a bathroom is tiny. Consider giving your guests a cheap shower tote. You can even put together a guest basket with some essentials such as: toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. If you plan to party, it might be a good idea to add aspirin, water bottles, cheap sunglasses and some snacks like protein bars or trail mix as well.
Speaking of toiletries, if you have expensive, cherished items like perfumes, pricey shampoos or luxurious moisturizers or serums, it is a good idea to keep them out of plain sight to discourage guests from taking liberties with coveted beauty products.
If you do not have a place for your guests to sleep, try to borrow items you might need like an air mattress, sleeping bag or extra dining room chairs. You can also buy them secondhand.
When it comes to etiquette, it is a good idea to give older relatives a bed. If you do not have a guest room, you may need to give up one of the kid’s bedroom. If you do have to give up your bedroom, treat it as your guest’s bedroom for the duration of their stay. Be courteous and knock before entering and remove your necessary items before they arrive.
If you have early risers in your family and you like to sleep in, anticipate what items they might like to have on hand. This way, it is less likely they will wake you up simply by banging around in cabinets in the kitchen.
Leave out basic breakfast items and dry goods like coffee, tea and sugar, so they can easily get the day started without waking anyone up.
Divide and Conquer
If you are planning to let your relatives go out and explore on their own, give them a map of your city or town, transportation info if they are using public transportation and brochures and coupons for tourist spots, activities and restaurants.
When it comes to meals, you know your family best, so plan with them and determine if they are going to want to eat out or eat at home. If they aren’t into eating at many restaurants, plan some meals in advance. Prepare some dishes ahead of time and freeze for quick meals.
Make sure you have enough dishes and silverware to accommodate everyone, and if not, visit thrift stores or buy items on sale.
A few days before your family arrives, catch up on your laundry because you probably won’t have time once they get there. Clean and tidy the house and prepare their room. Set out the clean towels, freshen the linens and make the guest bed.
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The day before their arrival, confirm any pick-up times and/or travel arrangements. Start thawing out one of the premade meals and make sure the dishwasher is empty. If you plan to eat out at any popular restaurants, make any necessary reservations.
Managing expectations is important to prevent disappointment. One visit probably won’t resolve issues that may have been present for many years. Be the best version of yourself and remain calm and positive. You are only responsible for your own behavior and life. The rest is in the hands of other people or perhaps even fate.
Relax and remember that your family is coming to see you. Everything else is secondary.
Survival of the Visit
Once your family arrives, encourage them to be themselves. When you tell them to make themselves at home, mean it.
Even though you may not be on vacation during their visit, your guests are. If you still need to work and have a partner or spouse, do not make him or her responsible for entertaining your family.
Rediscover your city while you are playing host. Even if there are activities that aren’t new to you, experience it again with your family. The setting where you live often becomes a simple backdrop, and you may have stopped appreciating the beauty or fun that exists where you live. Pick unique places to eat and shop. View your city as if seeing it for the first time. Share whatever you love about your city with the people you love.
Since your family is on vacation, find out what they want to do. Agree to do things even if it is not something you would typically do. Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone is an essential ingredient in a recipe that leads to unexpected fun and expanded horizons.
When it comes to activities like outings, events and tourist attractions, don’t plan more than two in one day. In fact, one outing is probably enough to keep boredom at bay without burning out on each other’s company or your wallet.
Make time to be away from one another. Even though you may be going on outings and eating meals together, the times in between are perfect for separating and relaxing.
Speaking of meals, Oscar Wilde wrote, “After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations,” so make sure that each family member gets at least one meal where they can enjoy a favorite cuisine or restaurant.
If your family asks if they can help you with tasks, whether it may be tidying up, washing dishes or gardening, let them. These seemingly boring tasks are a perfect time for idle conversations and catching up. It can also make a guest feel that they aren’t just a guest. Assisting with household tasks can make someone feel like part of the family. After all, they are family, so you might as well let them chip in.
If your family offers to treat you when you go out to dinner or for activities, accept graciously. They probably genuinely want to show you their appreciation.
No family is perfect, and any group of people is going to have some form of conflict or sensitive subjects. Manage conversations to avoid any uncomfortable topics. Be respectful of their boundaries.
Leo Tolstoy wrote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Whatever makes your family unhappy, be mature and thoughtful about how you approach it or avoid it altogether. Don’t bring up uncomfortable topics. If an uncomfortable topic is brought up, try not to react emotionally, even if an extremely sensitive subject arises. Often aggravating comments made by relatives are born out of love, even if it comes across as insulting or misguided.
When incidents arise, breathe and go into conflict resolution mode. If you have a partner, it can help to let them know sore subjects in advance, so they can be prepared to extend some calm energy in your direction.
However, don’t suppress everything. Share your feelings, beliefs and opinions without allowing yourself to get defensive, aggressive or overly emotional.
Retreat to the East
Whether a family visit turns out to be an enjoyable experience can be greatly influenced by your attitude. Worry, stress and anxiety are enemies of a good time. Prior to and during your family’s visit, accept uncertainty and recognize that you can’t control everything.
To avoid stress, maintain a positive mood. If you feel negativity approaching, do something you really enjoy. Distract yourself from your troubles.
The worst worries often emerge as questions that begin with, “What if.” These questions can prompt you to create imaginary scenarios in your mind that lead to more worry. If these thoughts emerge, change the “what if” to “how can I.” This will allow you to feel proactive, manage your worrying and turn it into useful problem-solving instead of just dwelling on imaginary scenarios.
The best way to disengage with worry is to stay in the moment. Focus on what is happening right in the moment and accept things as they happen. There are many Eastern techniques for creating what is known as “mindfulness.”
To practice mindfulness, sit in a comfortable position, focus on your breathing and bring your attention to the present moment. Disengage your mind from distracting thoughts and sensations. Try to keep it clear by focusing on your breathing, relaxing muscle groups or even focusing on a pleasant scene in your mind.
If you can maintain calm, even if your family is often a bringer of chaos, you have the power to influence and impact how your family communicates and behaves. Know that everything is temporary, and if things get unpleasant, this too, shall pass.
No matter what happens, if you set reasonable goals and do your best to keep the visit as pleasant as possible, know that you are helping to create a peaceful, relaxing visit. It has the potential to turn into an awesome memory that you can hold onto long after your loved ones leave.