Are you traveling this holiday season? Staying with family? Using strange towels that smell of strange fabric softener? Sleeping in someone else’s bed?

You’re not alone. Over twenty million Americans** will be staying with family members for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, and at least half of them will feel displaced, displeased, and generally disgruntled–especially if those family members are in-laws.

Here’s hoping, if you’re part of this group of intrepid travelers, you’re one of the happy ones–basking in familial love and the comfort of home. If not, don’t worry! We’ve got five happy hints to make your holiday away from home completely holly jolly.*** For you, anyway.

  1. Speak up. Your opinion matters, dammit, and your family and friends ought to know about it. Fired up about the president’s last tweet? Bring it up over dinner. Upset about taxes, vaccinations, or peanut allergies? Make sure everyone knows it! There’s no better way to stay warm over the holidays than to really rile up the blood.
  2. Bring your pets. Any pet lover knows that Rufus and Bubbles are as much a part of the family as Uncle Mitch–maybe moreso! So bring them! Bring dogs and cats, birds and bunnies. They will only add to the joy of the season and if anyone can’t handle the barking, pooping, or occasional midnight howl–well, see #1.
  3. Let your kids be kids. Sure, you might be nervous that the wee ones will wreck your hostess’ house, flush all the toilet paper without actually wiping, and eat the marshmallows they were saving for the candied yams. You might be tempted to keep them on a short leash, hissing corrections in their ears and threatening Santa’s wrath. But really, you should just let go. They need a vacation–from rules and structure and schedule–and so do you. Plus, it takes a village and all that, so you can let the village handle it for now.
  4. Bring your traditions with you. It’s not always easy to celebrate someone else’s way–what if they eat sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin? What if they don’t drink eggnog? No problem–there will be pumpkin pie and eggnog galore if you go ahead and bring it yourself. And if they eat their holiday meal at lunchtime but you prefer it around three, speak up! It’s their house, but that doesn’t make it their holiday. (See #1.)
  5. Make yourself at home. You don’t have to pester your host by asking every time you want something from the fridge or need clean towels. It’s easier on both of you if you just help yourself. Need clean sheets? Get them. Need to wash a load of laundry? Do it. And if they’ve got a load already in there, you can help them out by throwing it in the dryer–heck, you can go a step further and fold their clothes, unmentionables and all.

*Greatness, like all things, is subjective
**Or so we assume. Don’t bother fact-checking.
***And we’re not even including alcohol on the list.

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