How to be a great guest when you have kids
Staying with friends or family is a great way to save money when you’re taking the kids on holiday. But if you want to be invited back - with your children – here are some tips to help you be the perfect house guests.
Keep in mind that you’re invading their space
A home is a 'primary territory' and people are especially reactive to primary territory invasions, says Dr Shawn Meghan Burn, in her Pyschology Today blog.
“A person’s home is a place where they enjoy a high degree of control and can operate according to very personalised sets of rules and routines,” says Dr Burn. “Guests are therefore experienced as territorial invaders of sorts. Suddenly, we have to share our private space and our routines are disrupted. This requires adaptation, cooperation, extended presentation of our public self, all of which require cognitive energy.”
Give set dates and don’t outstay your welcome
Your host needs to know when you’re coming and when you’re leaving because, trust us, when people say, “Stay as long as you like” they don’t really mean it. Having set dates will help your host plan everything from how many meals to arrange to how long they’ll need to keep certain things locked away or out of the reach of little people. If you’ve planned a long-ish stay in one town and have been invited to stay with someone there, break up your time so you’re not with your host for the entire holiday.
Be clear about who is coming
Check with your host if they mind (if they really mind) you bringing pets to their place. A Chihuahua or a skink in a cage may be okay, but a Great Dane or a Salamander not so much. The same goes for any human extras you’re bringing on top of your kids, such as the au pair, who would love to see that part of the country, and her friend who will be the guide, and his friend and …
Your child’s entire toy collection won't fit in the car let alone a guest room, so stick to the ones they’ll get the most play out of, plus a couple of ‘just-in-case’ items you keep on hand to pull out when faced with a boredom emergency. Lego and Duplo are durable and can be contained, colouring pens and books are also worthwhile and great for the car. It can be hard to minimise your footprint when you have kids, but if your hosts have invited you all then they hopefully have an idea of what to expect.
Set expectations for your kids
Talk to your kids—before you travel—about minding their manners and being polite. Let them know you expect them to pick up their toys, to be gentle with other people’s things, to not be too noisy… Planning activities to work off excess energy can help, however you can’t expect kids to be perfect angels all the time. Again, if your hosts have invited you and your kids, they’re likely already expecting some level of chaos to ensue.
Offer to help, even when your hostess refuses
He or she may not want you to buy groceries or lend a hand at dinnertime, but it's important to offer. You can always take care of little chores, like washing the few dishes in the sink or emptying a rubbish bin when your host isn't around.
As much as your host needs to adapt to your ‘invasion’ so too do you. Try to be as flexible as you can without disrupting the household too much. Are you bowling up with an oversize campervan? Don’t park on the driveway unless your host has okayed it. Do you enjoy long, hot showers? Limit them while someone else is paying for the hot water. Having to take over your host’s kitchen to create entire vegan meals is generally considered OTT especially if they’re non-vegan. If it gets too difficult, perhaps you need to reconsider your accommodation or the length of your stay.
Bring or send a thank-you gift to show your appreciation for your host’s generosity. It needn't be expensive: a plate of homemade treats, a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates which they’re not allowed to open until you’ve all gone home… And when you get home, send a quick note to let them know how much you enjoyed your stay. You’re sure to be invited back!