Inviting ALL your family to spend the 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 visited relatives, shared a cabin or rented a vacation property with friends, 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 get invited back.
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.
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.
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 worse 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.
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 other families?