10 tips for family visits during the holidays
Every evening, my boys look forward to opening the next door on their Advent calendar to retrieve the sweet treats hidden inside. With just a handful of days left until Christmas, the excitement in our home is palpable. But that’s not the only special event we’ve been eagerly counting down the days to; my sister is coming for a visit!
The holiday season can be a particularly stressful time of year to welcome guests overseas, but it doesn’t have to be. To help make the experience merry and bright for everyone involved, I’ve compiled a list of 10 helpful tips for family visits during the holidays.
1. Make sure passports are valid for at least six months.
To avoid an emergency trip to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, have your guests check their passports to ensure they are valid for at least six months before traveling to certain overseas countries, such as Germany and Italy. To learn more about specific rules that may apply to your host nation, visit travel.state.gov.
2. Share your best jet lag coping techniques.
Remember how disoriented and exhausted you felt after your first overseas flight? Even if your family members are seasoned travelers, anticipate their needs and help them through the aches and pains of jet lag. Get them out and about, if necessary, and provide plenty of sustenance to help them to stay awake until nightfall on their first day off the plane. By staying up, they will sync their bodies with the new time zone quickly.
3. Prepare a welcome basket with a few of your guests’ favorites and healthy snacks.
Let your family members know how thrilled you are to have them visiting for the holidays by welcoming them with a personalized gift basket. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant; pick up a few of staple items from the commissary, and add in a couple of local treats (chocolates or a bottle of wine) and healthy snacks just in case they get hungry between meals. I like to include a handwritten note, along with the latest edition of What’s Up magazine for them to read at their leisure.
4. Provide a list of important phone numbers.
Just in case, it’s a good idea to write down a list of the contact information and emergency phone numbers your guests might need in case something happens while you are away. Include a copy in the welcome basket and post another on the fridge for easy access.
5. Have an extra house key made.
In addition to emergency phone numbers, it is helpful to have an extra house key made if you know you will have to leave your family members at home for an extended amount of time. They will appreciate not being confined to the house, along with the ability to come and go as they please for walks or quick trips to neighborhood establishments. Plus, since European doors often lock automatically, it will prevent your guests from getting stranded on the welcome mat when they return.
6. Supply WiFi and streaming media subscription passwords.
As a courtesy to your guests, have the passwords to WiFi and media subscriptions posted in plain sight. This way, they can stay connected and watch TV while you are gone (or sleeping).
7. Have an extra phrasebook handy
Just in case an unexpected visitor, such as a landlord, neighbor or utility representative, drops by while you are out of the house, keep a phrasebook on hand so your family members can communicate to the best of their ability. It will also be useful if your guests plan to do any exploring on their own. Note: You might want to give your landlord a courtesy call to let them know you will be having guests to avoid any issues that may arise if they see strangers going in and out of the house.
8. Make a personalized European bucket list.
When my sister came to visit over the holidays last year, I thought it would be fun to put together a short list of activities for us to check off together during her stay. It ended up being one of the highlights of her trip! She enjoyed taking photos of all of the bucket list items as we crossed them off, and it gave us both a sense of accomplishment that helped to stave off the sadness when the time came for her to head back to the States.
9. Schedule down days in between travels.
While it may be tempting to see how many trips you can fit into your short time together, make sure to include some days for downtime and recuperation between adventures. Your body (and mind) will thank you for it. See this as a unique opportunity to spend quality time with your family members … you are the reason they have traveled all this way, after all.
10. Alternate home cooked meals with ordering in or going out.
It can be particularly stressful to plan and prepare meals during the holidays with extra seats added to the table. To give yourself a little breathing room while also presenting your visiting family members with the unique opportunity to taste local cuisine, alternate nights of sitting down for home-cooked meals with ordering in or going to local restaurants. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” if guests extend an offer to help out — or even take over the work — in the kitchen. Better yet … make it a family affair!
The holidays are a special time of year to be in Europe. The best gift of all would be to give your guests magical memories they can look back on for years to come. Take a deep breath, relax and enjoy your visit!