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Do you love your in laws?
Of course you do, as frustrating and as annoying as they may be. That’s true for all of your relatives—the know-it-all cousin, the braggart brother-in-law, the aunt with her “helpful” suggestions on everything from cooking to child rearing.
However they push your buttons—and they will—they help us and our kids feel connected, especially when we live so far apart.
So take a deep breath and remind yourselves why you’ve spent hours in rush hour traffic and paid way too much for plane tickets so you can all be together for Thanksgiving.
Here’s my annual TAKING THE KIDS GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE RELATIVES AND BEING A GOOD GUEST:
Offer to stay in a hotel, especially if you’re going to visit grandma’s small condo or your single sister who lives in a tiny city apartment. Look for hotels nearby, where you might be able to find holiday deals at suite hotels like Homewood Suites by Hilton, Embassy Suites, or moderately-priced Courtyard by Marriott. Check www.vrbo.com for short term city apartment rentals—often more space and less money than hotels.
Bring the Cheerios, Tofu, organic baby food and whatever else your gang can’t live without these days. If you’re flying, call ahead and ask your host to pick up what you need at the grocery store and—this is key—offer to pay for the groceries. Tip: flavored club soda won’t stain or give the kids too much sugar.
Pack DVDS, toys and a recipe all of the kids can make together. Bring one of the many children’s cookbooks as a housegift . Bring a classic game all the kids—and grownups can play together. Scrabble anyone?
Bring along your own portable crib or rent one. You don’t want to use one that has been in the attic for 20 years and is not up to the latest safety standards. Stash a crib sheet and the baby’s night light in the suitcase. Babies often are discombobulated in a new environment and having their familiar sheet and night light can help, pediatricians suggest. Skip the crib bumpers and stuffed animals. The American Academy of Pediatrics says babies are far safer without them.
Move the glass animals, grandma’s purse, cleaning supplies and anything else fragile or potentially dangerous as soon as you arrive if you have toddlers—or just roughhousing older kids. Bring along a package of plastic outlet covers.
Grab the kids and offer to take all the cousins to a movie, playground or nearby museum to get them out of the house—and out of everyone’s hair. Grandma and Grandpa are going to need a break from the constant chaos, especially if they’re not used to having the kids underfoot. See if local museums are hosting special family workshops.
Set the ground rules for the kids. Even if they’re only in kindergarten, they can help make their beds, clear the table and pick up their toys. Little ones especially like to feel useful. If the kids haven’t visited in a long time, take them on a “house tour” with your host when you arrive to be sure they know the rules—no food in the living room, the office computer is off limits, no teasing the dog or letting the cat out.
Keep your mouth shut no matter how spoiled you think your nieces are or how terrible a cook your sister-in-law is. Do not try to discipline anyone else’s child.
Just remember, it could be worse. They could all be at your house. Happy Thanksgiving.