Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s (or Auntie’s or Grandpa’s or Mom’s friend’s, etc.) house we go! If your family is traveling for the holidays and staying at a friend’s or family member’s house, there are things you can do to make sure that it’s a pleasant experience for everyone involved. Even though most people are very happy to have guests stay with them over the holidays, let’s be honest — it’s a lot to ask of someone, especially when you are bringing little kids into their house.
I asked some friends to help me brainstorm some tips on how a family can be good houseguests this holiday season. Here’s what they have appreciated from visitors at their homes:
- Prep your kids! Make a big deal about how nice it is that your family member is allowing you to stay in their home. “We are guests in their home and if we want to be invited back, we need to use our very best manners, be helpful and appreciative.”
- Ask your hosts what their plans are for your stay. Do they have work to do? Appointments to go to? Will their kids be at daycare or school during your stay? As a guest, don’t assume that you are their only priority for your entire stay. Make sure they know that they do not need to entertain you for the entire time and that you don’t want to inconvenience them with your stay.
- It should go without saying, but clean up after yourself. Show your kids how to clean up after themselves — where the trash can is, where the toys go when you’re done playing with them, etc.
- Make the hosts a nice dinner or treat everyone to a dinner out. It can be a lot to prepare meals for out-of-town guests for a couple of days! Help them out by handling at least one of the dinners.
- Pay attention to basic household chores that you can help with. Take out the trash, do the dishes, wipe down the countertops . . . Are there easy ways your kids can help pitch in?
- Try to give your hosts a break every once in a while. A house full of kids and multiple families is A LOT. Give everyone some space; take your family for a walk, head to the neighborhood playground, or run some errands for the host. A little breathing room is good for everyone!
- I think it’s a nice touch to bring them a small gift from home. My personal favorite Charleston gift to give is a candle from Charleston Candle Company. Have your child help pick out the gift and explain why you are getting it. Teaching them thoughtfulness at an early age is a great thing to do!
- Pack your own “kid snacks” and (non-obnoxious) toys to bring — especially if you’re staying at a child-free home. Kids go through snacks like nobody’s business and have a habit of not finishing anything they open. Don’t make your host buy all of the snacks that your kids will half-eat.
- Since we’re talking about traveling during the holidays, talk to your kids about present-opening etiquette. What will you do if you open something you don’t like? What if it’s something that you already have? How do you show the gift-giver love and appreciation? Talk about it before it’s too late and they have a meltdown on Christmas Day at someone else’s house.
- Leave things as you found them, all the time. Teach your kids that if they get up from a chair, they need to push it in. Was the living room scattered with toys when you first woke up in the morning? Probably not. So teach them to put them away at the end of the day.
- Give your kids the words to say when it’s time to leave. “Thank you so much for having us” goes a long way!
- Send a refill after the trip is over. Did you end up drinking all of the sparkling water in the house? Did you help plow through the k-cups? Wash your clothes using their laundry detergent? Send them replacements from Amazon after you leave.
Prepping your kids early and often about what is expected of them while staying at someone else’s house will set you up for success. Emphasize what a privilege it is to stay over at someone’s house, and how everyone needs to be on their best behavior to make the trip fun!