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Benjamin Franklin said that house guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days. So how do you prevent overstaying your welcome this summer with the whole family in tow? Here’s how to be a better houseguest when travelling with your children this summer — and maybe even be invited back.

Don’t Arrive Empty-Handed

While it’s hard to think of a family arriving anywhere empty-handed, remember to arrive as you would at a rental home, with snacks, food and wine to avoid becoming an instant drain when you arrive. Of course, a welcome gift is also nice.

Tip: Do some online shopping ahead of your visit or check with the hosts if they can pick your family up a few items, especially if you have dietary restrictions (remember to reimburse them). Always ask before you bring your shopping, though. I’ve arrived with too much shopping and disrupted the ecosystem of a host’s organised refrigerator. Others do not like storing packages, even for close friends and family.

African American woman laying in bed online shopping with laptop. (Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images)
Send online shopping to your hosts ahead of your arrival. (Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images)

Bring Your Own Kitchen Supplies

Mum Rebecca Alwine suggests bringing your own kitchen supplies with you, particularly when there could be turf wars around precious plates and kid cups. “I bring my own cutlery, cups and plates”, Alwine told TPG UK. “That way no one has to worry about their dishes being broken or not having a sippy cup”. During our stay in San Francisco last summer I unknowingly gave my 3-year-old my host’s unused wedding china during a visit. And obviously, chip in as much as you can in the kitchen, even if just by taking out the rubbish and recycling.

Tip: Pack those kid cups or at least ask your host ahead of time which items are off limits and if their children have any particular favourite tableware that should be avoided.

(Photo by Yulia Soloveva)
Be prepared to pitch in and bring some of your children’s dishes. (Photo by Yulia Soloveva)

Limit Your ‘Footprint’ in the House

Shawn Burn, Ph.D., a professor at California Polytechnic State University who specialises in applied social psychology, wrote a multi-part series in Psychology Today on the pyschology of a houseguest versus host.

“A person’s home is a place where they enjoy a high degree of personal control and operate according to very personalised routines and rituals”, said Burn. She explained that it’s important for a guest to make sure the hosts still feel in control of their environment and recommends that guests can do this by making themselves scarce and limiting any sprawl of their items. She also mentions to spend time away from the house, such as when your children are jetlagged.

Tip: Use your rental car as your main storage area and bring as few items as possible into your guests’ home. Without a car? Ask your hosts where to keep your items and then explain to your children what goes where. Remember to keep it contained, limiting your house guest ‘footprint’, otherwise your family’s sprawl will naturally take over your host’s home and could leave them on edge.

The boys and I headed out for an early morning boat ride while jetlagged. (photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen)

Clean up and Clear Out

Ideally, your whole brood will be stripping beds, wiping down surfaces and sweeping up before you leave. However, if your children can’t or won’t pitch in, at least get them out of the way. Our family exercises the rule of no kids allowed while packing in hotels, Airbnbs and as house guests. In our family, I take my children out to breakfast on the last morning while my husband packs. 

Mum Shana Westlake does the same thing. “Whenever we stay at my mother in law’s house, I take the kids out while my husband packs up”, Westlake told TPG UK. “That way nothing gets left behind and the kids are not making more mess while we’re trying to clean”.

Tip: Teach your children that cleaning up is part of when you stay at someone else’s house. But with little ones, or in order to maximise your day, have one adult stay behind and do the packing (plus get some quiet time) while everyone else heads out for the final day.

(Photo by Peter Muller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Peter Muller/Getty Images)

Quickly Send a Photo Album or Thoughtful Gift

My signature move is to snap a lot of photos on my phone of the two families together while visiting and then quickly convert it into a photobook that arrives soon after we leave. By giving a keepsake of our stay, I hope to reinforce the good memories of our visit and override any disruption my family caused. If not the photobook-making kind, pick up a gift before moving on to the next destination so that you don’t forget and don’t have to ship anything.

Tip: Pick up a gift card to a restaurant you visited during your trip as a thank you gift. While out sightseeing, consider buying your hosts an annual family membership to a place you visit like a museum or aquarium as a thank you.

Bottom Line

For many families, staying with friends and family can be an enjoyable and economical way to house yourselves on holiday. Whether you’ve snagged those reward seats as a family, found a good use for your Companion voucher, paid cash for the flight with the kids or survived a drive across the UK, rest easy with these tips that once you arrive, you’ll gain the esteemed reputation as good family house guest and be asked back again.

Featured photo by Paul Bradbury / Getty Images.

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