Visitors: How to Survive and Enjoy Guests From Back Home

When you made the big “We’re moving abroad” announcement to your family and friends back home, you probably followed up with a line such as – “It’s only a plane ride away – You can come visit whenever you’d like”…”we’d love visitors,”…How many of you are rethinking your words right now?! Did you forget that you were moving to sunny CA, in the heart of the Bay Area, minutes from San Francisco – one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world?!

Whether you’ve already been swarmed by friends and family, or are just preparing for the arrival of  your first visitors, you’re not alone. The team at Life in the Bay is right there with you, and we have some tips to share to help ease the stress of a visit for all involved.

Visits from family and friends can differ quite a bit, but we hope these suggestions are useful for anyone hosting visitors for an extended length of time.

Visitors - Airport departures

1. Be clear with visitors about your (& your kids) daily routine

Talk about when your household wakes and goes to bed. This is useful so that you don’t get exhausted staying up & entertaining until midnight when you or your kids generally start their day before 6am or (gasp) 5am. If you or your partner will carry on going to work, be clear about what days and times this happens, and if there are any special work events/late night that will happen during their visit. If you have children, will they still be going to school/daycare? Grandparents can get especially sensitive about this if they traveled a long way to see their grandkids, but often times, keeping the kids in a routine facilitates a better visit for everyone.

2. Ask about their plans to drive, or not

If they are renting a car, is there ample parking at your place? If they are not driving, is there space in your car for them? Think about carseats, luggage (if you’re planning any travel). Again, be clear about your daily routine – work, school pick-up, grocery store trips etc. Suggest public transportation options, and offer to go with them for the first trip. Provide maps of your local area, so they have some idea of where they are going and how far it is. Make sure they have your contact number (see #8)

3. Food

Everyone needs food and water every day – multiple times a day. Do you cook? Do your guests like to cook – Oh, neither of you? Have you heard of Munchery and Eat24? Make sure you at least have a few basic in the house so that your guest can get something to eat without waking you in the morning. A box of cereal, milk, coffee, tea, bread for toast. What’s a staple in your guests home country? It’s always nice to have some comfort food from home when you’re traveling.

4. Have a few things planned

The time will go fast, make sure that even before arrival you have a few special excursions, activities, meals planned. (see #1 & 3) Tell your guests in advance. Let them know if there is anything special they will need for the day – for example, an extra jacket if you’re venturing out on a Bay cruise. Being aware of the where the next bathroom stop is also helpful, especially for older and younger guests.

5. Schedule some time apart

Whether it’s an afternoon, or a weekend away, make sure your guests have some time to explore on their own. It will give everyone a break. Let them explore places you’ve already been, or go place that might not be suitable for your family – i.e. a nice restaurant, time at the spa, or a winery tour – not ideal activities with kids in tow.

6. Gather research materials

Some guests will come well prepared with a huge list of places to go and things to do, some will want to see and do everything, but haven’t researched the area at all, and some will come to just hangout. Either way, gather a few guidebooks, pamphlets for local attractions and maps. Leave them in your guest room, or in a communal area. Add post-it’s to indicate suggested activities. It’s a nice idea to invest in a good guidebook, each guest can leave notes and tips about the places they visited, ready for your next visitors. We also have a few ideas here: Where to see Marine Mammals, Hikes in the Bay Area.visitors - airport check in

7. Chores

You may start with a clean house, but by day two it’s likely to be a mess again, especially if you have little ones. The laundry and dishes, don’t stop even though your guests are on vacation, they multiply, so make sure to ask for help – even if it’s just entertaining the kids so you can get things done. It easy to show your guests how the washing machine works, and you can catch up, while you’re both tidying the kitchen after dinner.

8. Phone

Your guests will likely bring their phones with them, but will also likely incur huge roaming and data charges if they actually need to use them. Keep a spare pay as you go phone in the house for your guests to use while they are here. Keep it cheap and simple, so you’re not upset or out of pocket if it gets lost or stolen. Make sure you preprogram your own mobile number, and a few emergency numbers as well. Loading it with useful apps like WAZE, UBER, Yelp can also help to make your visitors a bit more self-sufficient.

9. Enjoy the time

It will go too fast. It’s helpful to have a few times ‘scheduled’ when you can just relax. Take a walk around your neighborhood, stay in your jammies and watch bad American TV until noon, go grocery shopping together – Just enjoy being with each other during normal daily activities.

10. Before they leave, set a date for a reunion

It’s always easier to say goodbye when you know you’ll be saying hello again in a few months. If you’re not able to physically reunite soon, then make a special point to set a skype/facetime date.


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