"Have grandchild, will travel." That's the motto of many long-distance grandparents. They eagerly agree to travel in order to see their children and grandchildren, and most of the time that means staying with the family. Clear communication and good house guest etiquette will ensure that visits with long-distance grandchildren go smoothly, making grandparents more likely to get what they want most--an invitation to return.
1. Get approval of the dates and length of the visit.
Ask, don't tell. Let your children know what dates you are considering before you start making arrangements. Don't put them on the spot. Offer to let them check their calendars and get back to you. Also give them a chance to say whether the length of the visit is acceptable.
2. Suggest a tentative schedule.
If you'll be combining your visit with other social events or business meetings, be sure to let your hosts know. If you would like to take the family somewhere special, make the suggestion ahead of time. If you would like some time to explore on your own, share that ahead of time as well. Ask the hosts what they have planned for the time in question, and accommodate their plans.
3. Provide your own transportation if possible.
If you will be arriving by plane, train or bus, consider renting a car. Parents with children and careers will appreciate not having to pick you up and chauffeur you around. Also, you'll have an easy escape if the togetherness gets to be too much. You also avoid the sometimes ticklish situation of driving someone else's car.
4. Settle the lodging question.
Most grandparents want to stay with their children. Getting to observe the daily lives of their grandchildren is one reason to visit. If your children simply do not have room for visitors, book a room. If you stay with the family, be prepared for crowded quarters and less-than-optimum sleeping conditions. If you are a finicky sleeper, book a room.
5. Come prepared.
If you require a certain diet, pack your own food. If you need a certain kind of pillow or a small fan or a humidifier, pack it. Be sure to pack any medication that you need. Once you arrive, figure out how to store your medication safely.
6. Be neat and help with household tasks.
Keep your area neat, and make up your bed. Corral your toiletries. Offer to help with household tasks, but don't tackle big cleaning or repair jobs unless you are asked. To do so can be seen as implied criticism of the housekeeping standards of the household.
7. Arrange for private time.
Give the hosting family some privacy by spending some time in your room, if you have your own room, or finding a spot on the porch or patio where you're not privy to everything that goes on in the house. If things get tense, announce your intention of going out for a little while.
8. Don't monopolize the grandchildren.
If there's a baby in the picture, don't be greedy. The parents may be ready for some respite, or they may be very protective of their time with their infant. Be sensitive to their needs, even if they aren't expressed openly. They will probably be happy for you to spend lots of time with older children, but don't encroach on their special times, like bedtime and cuddle time.
9. Offer to babysit.
Many young couples rarely get a chance to go out, so offer to babysit. If the parents take you up on your offer, follow their instructions to the best of your ability. No skipped baths or jumping on the bed!
10. Send gifts after the visit.
Lots of grandparents make a habit of arriving with gifts, but it makes more sense to send gifts later. Often you will have a better idea of what the family needs and wants. Also, grandchildren should learn to appreciate their grandparents as people, not just as bearers of gifts. Of course, these reasons aren't going to change the mind of any grandparent who really wants to bring gifts!