6 Ingredients for a Pleasant Family Visit
One of the perks of traveling is being able to visit family and friends along the way, but can also be stressful to merge two different family schedules, routines, and lifestyles. As we’ve visited several homes on our voyage across the states, I’d like to offer up some suggestions on how to make a family visit dynamic, and not a disaster.
Recently we crossed through Arizona, and took a detour to visit my brother and his family on the very southeastern edge of Phoenix. After many days of traveling, mostly in the cold, it was great to be in warm weather, and with familiar faces. We really enjoy our visits with my brother David and his wife Amber, and this visit is a great example of the 6 essential ingredients for a wonderful family visit.
Ingredient #1: Only plan one activity per day
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a family visit and want to go see and do everything in town, especially because you are with people you want to create special memories with. Unfortunately, doing too much can cause parent burnout and meltdowns among the kids. Pace yourself and do one activity a day. I like to alternate between small and large trips. If we go to a museum one day, then the next day we do something smaller, like go to the park or take a short hike. Resting in between big activities will keep everyone’s energy level up. This past trip my brother took the kids rock wall climbing one day, to the shooting range another day, and then we did a big family hike on one of the last days we were there. The kids had something to look forward to each day because we spaced it out and each activity only took 1-3 hours per day.
Ingredient #2: Don’t over schedule – give kids some free time
This goes along with #1, but includes time at home as well. Every moment of the day doesn’t need to have an agenda to keep the kids busy. Some of the best moments between cousins have been when they come up with an idea on their own. When they were younger they’d build forts or play hair salon. Now that my kids are teenagers, their tween cousins are enthralled just sitting beside them and watching them put on makeup. They bond more when moments just happen naturally. Additionally, giving everyone free time allows each kid to carve out some down time when they need to be alone and recharge. After playing with kids all day, Hannah craves time to read a book in her room. Then in a few hours she’ll be ready to come back and engage with the next family activity.
Ingredient #3: Kids still help with chores
Even though we are in someone else’s house, I make sure my kids help with the household chores. We have been invited in and are creating more work for our hosts, so it’s important to me that my kids ease the load as much as possible. They help set and clear the table, do the dishes, clean up the kitchen, and help with our family laundry. Besides the work ethic it instills, it shows our host our gratitude for their hospitality.
Ingredient #4: Know when to hold’em and when to fold’em
Anytime you are traveling or staying with someone, it’s difficult to maintain your normal family routine. Bedtimes, eating habits, naps, family rules, etc. are thrown a curveball the second you are in a new environment. Instead of getting stressed over the wrench thrown into your routines, take a moment to decide what you can be flexible on during this “holiday away from home” and what’s absolutely essential to keep intact. Whether it’s staying up for 30 more minutes past bedtime, or eating more treats than usual, find your balance between creating fun memories and family routines.
Ingredient #5: Plan some adult alone time
It’s no fun visiting family and spending the whole time herding the kids through fun-filled days, and not carving out some adult alone time. Arrange childcare and make sure to go out and have some adult fun as well. Even if you can’t get away from the house, plan some time to play games or chat over a special dessert. We love playing card games and board games. We team up guys vs. girls and have a friendly competition, laugh, and catch up on adult conversation. It’s one of the highlights each time we visit.
Ingredient #6: Leave on a high
There’s a saying that “the best part of a family visit is the day they arrive and the day they leave”. No matter how much we love hanging out with our family, and they love having us there, it’s important to not overstay our welcome. The kids were having such a good time playing with their cousins and enjoying the warm winter weather, they pleaded with us to stay for a few more days. However, knowing our internal clocks, and that my brother and his family needed to get back to their life and routines, we left as planned. There’s usually a “honeymoon” phase each time the cousins get together and we try to leave right around the time that euphoria is waning. Leaving while everyone is still on a high keeps the memories fond, and builds anticipation for the next time you visit. Next time your family extends an offer to stay longer, keep these things in mind.
All images via Shannon Watt