How to holiday with family or friends without killing each other

Vacationing with another family
Holidays with friends and family are the best – for small windows of time. (Photo credit: Tegan Mierle/Unsplash)

Inviting ALL your family to spend a long weekend at the family cottage seems like fun (in theory), but as some famous dude once said: Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days. If you’ve ever hosted or visited relatives, shared a cabin or rented a vacation property with others, you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve lived in England and Japan, and have entertained my fair share of houseguests. As a budget traveller, I’ve also made myself quite comfortable in the homes of friends around the world. Good guests don’t make assumptions. They follow the lead of their hosts and aren’t an inconvenience. Follow these tips and you’re sure to have a successful holiday with others.

How to spend the long weekend with family (or friends) without killing each other
Even close friends can annoy if you spend 24/7 together.

Make yourself at home?

Personally, I can’t handle when guests expect to be waited on, but others could take issue with guests rummaging through their fridge. How much do you make yourself at home? Ask. Inquire as to whether you can commandeer the kitchen for a day or rearrange their spice drawer. (I seriously rearrange people’s cupboards if they’re up for it.)

If your host wants mealtime under their control, respect that and offer to take them out for dinner or at least pay for groceries. And you rarely meet a host who doesn’t appreciate being off dish duty.

Cleaning up after guests can be a tiring. Stripping bedding and throwing it in the wash before you leave goes a long way. Some travellers I know even bring their own sheets and towels and take them home so they’re doing the laundry, not the host.

Kids love playing with other kid’s toys. That’s great, just make sure they put them away at the end of the night and that nothing has been broken. I can’t tell you how many times my daughter has found toys of hers hidden and damaged. You can see how the perpetrators would want to keep that a secret from their parents. A great adult guest makes sure this doesn’t happen and offers compensation if it does.

Miss manners

Good old-fashioned manners sometimes fall to the wayside when close friends or family share time and space together. Nothing is worse than spending a glorious summer day waiting for guests when you could be out hiking (which, unfortunately, I know from personal experience.) Putting your life on hold because guests haven’t yet flown the coop is also a drag. If you’re a guest, don’t be flaky about your arrival and departure times.

Bringing a thoughtful hostess gift can also go a long way. A bottle of Aussie plonk won’t endear you to your hosts if they’re old world oenophiles. Figure out the host’s preferences and gift accordingly.

backyard bbq
Tips count when you’re at a family reunion, too!

Tips for staying with relatives

If you’re staying with your parents or siblings, try not to revert to childhood behaviour. Admittedly, it’s hard. Treat the experience like you were travelling with friends and extend the same courtesies. And make sure you pull your fair share of the workload. Your mom might be genuinely happy to do your laundry, or she may complain to your siblings about how much work it was when your family visited.

As much as you may feel obligated to see everyone while you’re home for a visit, the worst thing you can do is over schedule your family. Expect you’re going to feel pressure and may even get guilt tripped into doing something you really don’t want to do. But remember, you have a family of your own. They are now your first priority.

If too much stimulation equals meltdowns, be firm about your family’s needs. Try to carve out time for just your unit so it actually feels like a break. This time alone helps to shore up energy reserves so you’re better able to enjoy the trip.

Hosting visitors to Canada?

Random things happen even when you’re on holiday. Who hasn’t ever tripped on a sidewalk? Or, (my specialty), stumbled down the stairs? Bizarrely, slips and falls are some of the most common travel medical claims. Because of this, I always make sure my guests visiting from outside of Canada have some form of travel insurance in place during their stay. If they don’t, I help them arrange for Visitors to Canada travel insurance before their arrival so I don’t have to play nurse. Our provincial health insurance plans don’t extend to non-residents, so Visitors to Canada travel insurance can help your guests avoid a potentially devastating hospital bill if an unexpected medical emergency happens during their stay.

I also like to send my guests a schwack of information before they arrive. I include links to:

  • Tourism Calgary, so they can easily figure out which attractions they want to hit
  • My favourite restaurants, cocktail bars and spas
  • Options for day trips
  • Local weather
  • Travel insurance for my non-Canadian guests, like this Visitors to Canada Plan

How to handle family duty trips

Sometimes (dare I say oftentimes?) going cross-country to make those obligatory visits isn’t a holiday. It may be necessary, but don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a family vacation just because you’ve taken time off work. Call it what it is (a duty trip) and plan a more appropriate family getaway another time.

Can’t afford to? Consider whether you really need to schlep your entire brood along for the duty trip. If you can’t (or won’t) go it alone, see if you can tack on a few days for your immediate family to have some fun. Everyone deserves a break, after all.

Do you have any tips for sharing spaces with others?

Holiday with family

Disclaimer, I’m a brand ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (Canada) and receive financial compensation for these posts. As always, all information shared is my own opinion.

About The Author

11 thoughts on “How to holiday with family or friends without killing each other”

  1. So true about teaching your kids to be good guests, too. We have rules for staying with people that we don’t follow at home, but I agree completely it’s better to be honest and upfront with expectations.

  2. Dianne Sivulka

    Those are great timps and timely as we are setting out on one of these trips now! Thanks for the great tips!

  3. Kathryn Dickson

    I think you’re entirely correct, after 3 days, they do start to smell. I personally cannot stand hosting family and friends for more than 2 days at a time and I limit my own stays accordingly. Great tip on sending excursion ideas ahead of time..

  4. I love that 3 day rule. I learned in Jordan it’s a Bedouin custom to not ask why someone is visiting (given shelter in the desert is hard to come by), but after three days, it’s time to divulge. For relatives of course, we usually know they’re coming and then some space, assistance and patience are key.

  5. These are great tips. And I agree — houseguests should not lose their “miss manners.” Common courtesy even if (and perhaps especially when…) being hosted by family. I love the tip on sending tourist info ahead of time.

    1. Yes, I found out the hard way it’s wise to send info on tourist attractions and travel insurance prior to them visiting.

  6. Great tips as we’ve been a host for family members and visitors at a family and friend’s house. Kudos to my American husband who could have my parents at home with us for 5-6 months every time they came to visit. My sister and her family stayed and went with us for a road trip in the US for 5 weeks. But it’s a normal custom in Indonesia. I guess when you married someone from different nationality and culture, you are more open to something new. My husband didn’t mind staying at my sister’s and we traveled together for 6 weeks in Indonesia. He didn’t even mind staying at my friend’s house that I’ve met here in the U.S.

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