After a few posts talking about how to prepare your home for guests, several of you commented that you were going to be the guests this week.  So to celebrate this week of Thanksgiving (at least here in America), I’m republishing this post, first written on December 18, 2009.  I just tweaked it a bit to change the time frame.  Enjoy!

With Thanksgiving Day a mere three days away, many of you might be heading out of town soon.  Your week’s plans may include laundry, packing, and closing up the home for the next few days.  Or if you’re staying home, there’s a likely chance you’re about to welcome guests in to your home life for the next few days or weeks.

If not now, then perhaps you’ve got travel plans for Christmas, or anticipate a slew of guests sometime in December.

No matter what, being a guest or hosting a guest can be stressful.

Contributor Corey Allan wrote some great tips last year about how to handle in-law stress over the holidays.  Just last week, I shared some of my tips for hosting overnight guests at home.  Mandi also shared her ideas for maintaining your home’s order during the holidays.  Last Thanksgiving, I also wrote about helpful tips for taking a big vacation with small children, after returning from our first major family vacation to Paris.

Today, I’ll focus on some ideas for being a gracious guest, and how to keep your family sane and unified while staying in someone else’s home.

1.  Be flexible — this is temporary.

Yes, routines are important for kids.  But during this short time away for the holidays, it’s okay to lax on the everyday rules and let the days linger more haphazardly.

You might be sightseeing, or your might just be succumbed to your host’s daily routine.  Either way, it’ll be a lot less stressful if you let go of your normal schedule and let the “holiday routine” take center stage.

2.  But protect the essentials in your day.

That said, there are some things that are just important to a family’s day.  With small children, I find it especially important to put a hedge of protection around naptimes and bedtimes.  Sure, there are a few days they can stay up late, and a family outing might necessitate a skipped nap one day.

But overall, our children are much more pleasant to be around when they get enough sleep.  Both you and your hosts will appreciate kids that have had enough rest.

3.  Hold on to those important holiday traditions.

Even in someone else’s home, your children might really relish in one particular thing you do during the holidays, and would be sad to toss that aside because you’re somewhere else.  Do what you can to still incorporate that tradition.

If you give new pajamas on Christmas Eve, you can still do that in your host’s home.  Perhaps you enjoy a nighttime drive to look at the lights, just before bedtime.  See if your hosts are up for joining you in that outing.

christmas family breakfast
Photo by Woodley Wonderworks

4.  Respect your hosts’ holiday.

Sure, you need to hold on to a few things that make your family’s holiday unique, but remember that you’re still a guest.  You can’t reasonably expect your parents to cater to every little thing you do in your own nuclear family.  If you’re staying with another family with children, they may feel the exact issues you’re facing — how to still do their family thing while respecting others in the home.

Don’t bulldoze your way through someone else’s home. Honor their way of doing things — who knows, maybe you’ll discover a fun new tradition you can incorporate next year.

5.  Stay reasonably minimalist.

Don’t leave your wrapping paper or cooking dishes strewn everywhere.  Don’t let your children’s toys hold hostage your host’s peaceful afternoon.  Bring a laundry bag so that your dirty clothes aren’t everywhere.

In short, don’t make a mess, and respect the space you’re in. It’s a challenge with children, of course, but this is a great way for your kids to learn to respect other people’s space.

6.  Help out.

Even if your host insists you don’t need to do anything, find some small way to help out around the house.  Empty the dishwasher (and ask where things go, unless that adds to the stress — then just put the clean dishes on the counter out of the way).  Feed the dog.  Make hot chocolate for everyone.

In short, seek ways to serve.  Your hosts have graciously opened their home to you.  Find ways to give back without making them feel like they’re not doing a good job.  Ask for guidance in the best way you can help, and your stay will be more enjoyable for everyone.

This post is brought to you by Oak Meadow Curriculum and School. Oak Meadow provides helpful homeschooling advice and resources in their elementary education materials.

Are you going out of town this holiday season?  What are some tips you can add to being a gracious guest?