For this post in the Vacation and Travel series I wanted to talk on House guests. This is on being house guests, but you can apply it towards having house guests as well because largely, the advice is the same. Since we live far from home and visit family as often as we can we have ample experience with this. We often take for granted that it’ll be easy breezy at others’ homes, but that can often turn out to be quite the opposite of how things pan out. Particularly when there are young children involved, it can really behoove us to make a few preparations beforehand to ensure smoother sailing.
While staying with family – and having your family stay with you – brings amazing memories, it can also be quite stressful with small children around and about if preparations and expectations aren’t considered beforehand. Let’s look at how we can be both be and have house guests that make the most of the time together.
(1) Discuss expectations.
I think this goes a long way into having everyone know what to expect and what not to expect. For example, people who don’t have small children may take for granted that yours have a nap time. It’s good to say something like “Hey, our kids usually sleep around x time, will it be okay if we plan to be home and not throw loud parties around then?” When staying with family over the Christmas break last year we shared the normal nap times in advance and our hostess was extremely obliging.
She had her children (6 years and up) stay pretty quiet and away from the rooms where ours were sleeping. It made all the difference because vacations are tiring enough without overtired toddlers. Also, if you plan on having your children home by a certain time in the evening, be kind enough to let your host know so they don’t plan events or activities in times that are inconvenient for you. Remember, this isn’t about ‘keeping a strict schedule,’ it’s about working vacation so you don’t have cranky and out-of-sorts kids who make you wish you’d just stayed home.
(2) Know beforehand where you’ll sleep so you can prepare.
If kids are used to sleeping in a shared room then great, if not, then you may need to let them “practice” a little. On the same vacation as above we all shared a room. Two adults, a 1-year-old and a 6 month old. We thought it would be a nightmare, but it turned out fine. The only snafu was earlier waking in the morning because, similarly to co-sleeping, if a child wakes up enough to register you’re near them, big fat good luck trying to get them to go back to sleep.
We used a separate storage room big enough to hold a crib to put down one of ours during nap time so they could get have their own space and not wake each other up and we were set. It took forethought, but it worked. We simply let our hostess know beforehand and, since she has kids of her own, she had great ideas by the time we arrived. It helped us to rest a lot easier knowing our children wouldn’t make every one in the house crazy with their lack of sleep.
(3) Consider noise.
By this I mean both how you can keep noise out, and how to potentially use noise to your advantage. If your children are used to a quiet house then going into a louder house may cause issues. I am home with the kids during the day and, well, I don’t talk to myself out loud a lot. So naturally, the house is quiet. That has meant that until this point the kids are used to going down with no talking. Put that into a house with family and you can have a recipe where your kids are so interested in the noise outside the room that they don’t want to fall asleep.
This can be remedied by putting them to sleep in a far off bedroom from the living room, or by using noisemakers. I personally installed a White Noise app on my phone (best app I ever downloaded fo free, yo) and it did the trick. It created in room noise to drown out the noise outside. Since we’ve been home in Florida visiting family for a while we’ve put old radios (and by that I mean boom boxes) in their rooms on the am frequency to white noise. That way the rest of the house can go about its normal business but the kids aren’t disturbed. Win win for everyone.
(4) Be considerate of others, particularly if jetlag is involved.
Previously in this series, I’ve touched on how to deal with kids and jetlag. Jetlag is a mean mean monster that needs to be tortured and killed. Handing children with jetlag can be trickier when you are a guest than it is in your own home because you will need to be considerate of the sleep of others. When we arrived in Florida the first week to 10 days were a nightmare. For me, mostly. I didn’t want to wake up everyone else so when my children woke or failed to get back to sleep as normal I always went to them to quiet them down or attempt to help them back to sleep.
At home, I’d let them sort themselves out unless they got really beside themselves. I wouldn’t feel the need to go back in and give the lost paci, etc. but when my grandmother’s sleep was at stake, I did. When they were finally well-rested enough again they started sleeping through normally. Know that when you are on vacation some of the normal ‘house rules’ need to be temporarily thrown out the window just so that everyone else doesn’t rue the day you came.
(5) Have your world within their world as far as possible.
Some friends of mine often stay in hotels even when they go visit family. They have great family relationships and love the time together, but have found it easier to maintain some normalcy and stability by doing this. If this isn’t financially feasible or the whole point is to be under the same roof, then I’d advocate trying to make things as similar to home as possible in some areas. For example, we went to the store immediately and bought the same foods we’d serve at home for our little ones.
That way at least breakfast, snacks, and sometimes lunch were similar and we knew they wouldn’t snub their noises at the new cuisine. If you usually do a reading or activity time during your day, why not have some family member take your place? It’ll still keep that consistency but allow some time for family bonding. I always try to keep wake times, nap times, and bedtimes around the same times as home. Of course, I’ll be flexible if I need to, but often it’s just a matter of going to eat 45 minutes earlier to have the kids in bed at a normal time.
I reiterate, I’m not trying to be a killjoy while on vacation. In fact, a vacation is supposed to bring joy! For me and my children, I simply know that too much veering from the normal routine and lack of sleep make for irritated, fussy, and unpleasant kids. That doesn’t make for a good vacation nor a good impression. In my experience, family members and friends are happy to plan things around when it’s convenient for you and do their best to accommodate your needs. I believe as a hostess, you can put these same principles into practice for your guests and give them the best time possible as well!
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