How to Ace the Houseguest Puzzle, Even With Kids
My husband and I recently had guests — three adults and three children — come and stay with us for a week. While we had a lot of fun with our guests, we were also left with a $600 deficit in our monthly budget (mostly due to food and gas expenses), as well as a broken refrigerator and a garbage disposal clogged with broken glass.
We are a family of four with no immediate family close by, so not only are houseguests inevitable at our place (and honestly very welcome!), but we are also frequently traveling and staying with friends and family ourselves. After this recent round of guests, though, I was left wondering how I could have helped them be better houseguests and what I can do to be a better houseguest when traveling with my own kids in the future.
I reached out to Lizzie Post, the great-great-granddaughter of etiquette guru Emily Post and co-president of The Emily Post Institute, for her suggestions on how to be the best houseguest or host when children are involved. Luckily, here are 12 easy ways to ace the houseguest puzzle — and they don’t involve having to replace half your kitchen.
Do Some Prep Work
When you’re a host expecting kids in your home, help your guests know what to do without needing to tell them.
That means putting a little thought before they arrive into what changes you can make in your home so that things remain (relatively) unaltered. Put helpful labels around the house, or create a list of tips — for instance, a list of WiFi passwords or instructions on how to work the TV — especially if you’ll be at work during the day.
Put Away Your Prized Possessions
While it might be impossible to hide away every little thing, you can be sure to tuck away anything that’s super valuable.
Case in point: Our recent young guests found the 100-year-old typewriter that I inherited from my grandfather to be a little too irresistible.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
While it’s not necessary to babyproof your entire home if you don’t have a baby yourself, guests traveling with little ones might find it very helpful if you at least cover up easy-to-reach sockets and maybe invest in a baby gate or two if you have stairs.
Plus, by doing the bare minimum when it comes to babyproofing, you’ll be freeing up your friend’s time to spend more of it with you.
Get in the Right Mindset
Traveling as a houseguest with kids in tow means adhering to two mantras, says Post — be forward thinking and flexible.
Flexibility comes once you’ve arrived at your destination, but in terms of being forward thinking, consider all the areas where problems might arise on your trip, and be prepared to discuss them ahead of time with your host.
Start With Scheduling
You know your kid’s schedule better than anyone, so if your child gets cranky at 4 p.m., consider ahead of time what you can do to try to hamper that crankiness.
Think allowing extra snacks, some downtime watching videos or encourage them to do something physical to exert a bit of pent-up energy.
Bring (or Ship) What You Know You’ll Need
If your kids have specific food needs or prefer certain snacks, plan to pack at least a day’s worth of those items, so you’ll have stuff on hand if you can’t make it to the store to stock up right away. Better yet, have any specific food or entertainment items you’ll need shipped to the house, so it’s all there when you arrive.
When my sister visited last year with her then four-year-old son, the first words out of his mouth when he walked in the door were, “Do you have any four-year-old boy toys?”
As the mom of an infant girl, I was relieved when my sister pulled out the suitcase filled with age-appropriate toys that she had shipped to their first destination. Problem solved.
Ace the Sleeping Arrangements
If the adults will be staying in a guest room but the kids are staying in the living room where you all will be hanging out during the day, Post suggests offering to help with the transition to ensure the task will be done how you’d like.
She says to say something like, “So sorry, but since this is the living room during the day, we’d love to help you put things back into living room status, and put the room together for sleep at night.”
Settle on a Schedule
For people sleeping in common areas, it also helps to address any scheduling needs, and give them all the information that allows them to make good choices, rather than telling them what they need to do.
For example, you might say, “Jim is up at 7:30 for work, so unfortunately, you might hear him, but feel free to sleep in later. We usually don’t get started until around 9.”
Make Concessions for Meal Times
Do some grocery shopping ahead of time, but also plan to do a bit more once your guests arrive.
“Ask if there is anything in particular they like, or suggest doing a potluck-type meal one night if they’re not stepping up and offering some money for the food,” says Post. “Also, say things like, ‘We wanted to leave room for you guys to go out and do a couple meals on your own,’ to get the burden off your plate for a meal or two.”
Go With the Flow
If you brought tons of toys and your hosts want you to visit the local theme park instead, go with the flow. This is especially true when it comes to sleeping arrangements.
“People are often inflexible about those sorts of things, and that’s not appropriate as a guest,” says Post. “Remember that good hosts are trying to accommodate you as best they can.”
Cover the Basics
Prepping kids for what’s going to happen — who you’re seeing, what the house is like and what things are on the to-do list — is always a good idea pre-visit, says Post. “Describing experiences ahead of time can help make them feel more comfortable as well as help them realize that those plans might change,” she says.
It also helps to remind kids of simple manners, like saying “please” and “thank you.”
Suggest a Sitter
Remember that visits are often for the adults, especially when it comes to staying with friends, and oftentimes, kids come along because that’s a nice bonus (or it’s necessary). To that end, make sure the visit isn’t just focused on you and your family’s needs.
“Carve out time for the hosts, even if it happens after the kids go to bed,” says Post. “Or you might have to ask the husbands to take the kids for a bit so you can hang with your friend, [or vice versa] or even suggest a sitter for one night.”