The 12 Mantras for Sanity (and Joy) when Hosting Family

by Last updated Dec 4, 2018 | Published on Nov 21, 2016Travel

The more we travel, and the longer we are living abroad, the more we’re learning about hosting family. There are nuances to it that are somewhat different to traditional hosting, yet it comes down to the same primary goal – to enjoy ourselves and our families (all while staying sane) when they visit us, wherever that may be. And, we’d like to add, with some joy on top of that. Just in time for the holiday season, we want to share some wisdom we’ve gleaned from our first hand experiences of hosting family. So, whether you’re dreading hosting family or simply appreciate some encouragement, hum that catchy ‘12 Days of Christmas‘ song and read further. If anything, you’ll enjoy a good chuckle and a reminder that you’re not alone.

The 1st Mantra of Hosting Family – I Easily Prepare Myself in Advance for Hosting Family

This first mantra of hosting family is #1 for a reason – you’ve got to consciously prepare yourself in advance. Take note that the emphasis here is on ‘myself‘ – YOU. We’re not talking about logistics and details, like cleaning the guest bedrooms, doing laundry, grocery shopping and who knows what else. You’ve got to start with YOU and that is the priority over all the other tasks.

You see, before everyone arrives is when you need to ground yourself in sanity and joy. Maybe ‘sanity’ is a bit of a strong word…think ‘peace’ or ‘well-being’ or whatever feels best for you. If you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off before family even arrives, most likely you’re going to do more headless chicken running once they’re with you too.

How you prepare yourself may differ from others, yet the common goal we’re going for here is consciously choosing things that encourage feelings of peace, sound-mind, and good physical health. This means taking time for yourself to do something you like, treating yourself to a gift or item you’ve been wanting, or enjoying an activity that you like. It establishes from the get-go that you are taking good care of yourself and that, while there are many things we do not have control over, we can have control of ourselves. Days before the family arrives, it’s up to you to ‘set the tone’ for yourself and your space.

The 2nd Mantra of Hosting Family – I Lovingly Set Personal Boundaries with My Family

Boundaries with family? Some people may be appalled. That’s fine, but for many of us, heck yeah boundaries with family! Okay, so let’s be clear here that we’re talking about boundaries in the best sense of the word, not from a defensive standpoint, but a ‘check yourself before you wreck yourself’ standpoint.

Key here is, responsibility is on yourself. Setting personal boundaries is meant to be empowering for us to take responsibility of ourselves, not others. It requires us to know ourselves well, while encouraging us to not impose our opinions, preferences and beliefs on others. Think along the lines of doing your best for yourself, with your #1 resource – yourself.

Most importantly of all, it especially helps us ‘people pleasers’ who tend to have a hard time saying ‘no’ to others, especially our family. Some examples are telling your mother she can stay for up to 1 week, but no she can’t stay for 1 month; communicating beforehand to family members who smoke that your house and yard are a smoke-free environment; letting Uncle Joey know he can’t walk around the house in his white briefs – here’s a bathrobe.

A lot of times, when we take time to consider what things are super important to us, we can be better prepared to kindly communicate to our family, and uphold for ourselves, those personal desires of our’s. In the end, you’ll be able to look back and see how key they were to having a sane, and joyous, time hosting family. If you’re family gives you crap about it…hey! you love them to the extent that you love yourself – calmly tell them that.

The 3rd Mantra of Hosting Family – I Openly Consider My Partner about Hosting Family

This is a biggie. And from what we’ve learned, it can be an added plus and life-saver for one of the two. Picture this: when your partner voices to you that hosting family is best for only one week, because you both work from home and both love peace and quiet (and your family is loud as hyenas), that can really give you the added courage and bolstered resolve to set that personal boundary for yourself as well.

Again, this should be done months in advance, when the planning first starts taking place. What does your partner (boyfriend/girlfriend, wife/husband, even dog or cat) have to say about hosting family? And yes, we’re serious about the pet thing. You know what we mean and you know your pet – is your precious Rover-the-dog going to be traumatized by Aunt Wendy brining her diabolic cat, Lucifer? Yes, you should consider your pets too.

Do you travel with your pet?

This may also apply even if they aren’t living with you and depending on the amount of time they’ll be spending with you while you’re hosting your family. When you and your partner differ on how you want to host family, see it as a real opportunity to grow in your relationship together and look for tangible ways that you can meet half-way with each other. Remember, your partner is the one still with you, even after your family goes home (well…that is hopefully!).

The 4th Mantra of Hosting Family – I Frequently Enjoy Laughing with My Family

From here is where we lighten up a lot more. That and we have several more mantras to go and know you got places to be. Laughter is medicine to the body and soul. So have movies lined up that are comedies, steer clear of discussions that you know are trigger-points in your family (you know, like politics). Or maybe make sure there’s plenty of booze on hand, OR make sure that there’s no booze!

Above all, don’t take yourself or others too seriously and laugh your heart out. After all, hosting family is what some of the best, iconic Hollywood blockbusters are made of. Remember ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’?

The 5th Mantra of Hosting Family – I Maintain a Positive Outlook when Hosting Family

Whether you scoff at the ‘positive thinking’ movement or already take it to heart, we’re all willing to try almost anything if we’re starting to pull our hair out when hosting family. So at least give it a try and look on the positive, bright side of things when something occurs that is frustrating. And again we reference ‘Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation’, because it will remind any of us that it could always be worse!

The 6th Mantra of Hosting Family – I Happily Allow Myself and Others Space

Hosting family does not mean you have to be with them 24-7. Encourage and allow others to do activities of their own, have their own time, and make sure that you do the same for yourself. In some cases, this means maybe some family stay in a hotel instead of your home or an AirBnB close by in your neighborhood. Everything in moderation, even family.

The 7th Mantra of Hosting Family – I Gleefully Stash Some Treats for Myself when Hosting Family

You betcha – nurture yourself with some nice little things just for you. Maybe it’s dark chocolates in your nightstand drawer to enjoy before bed or a nice bottle of red wine to sip on with your partner before the madness of cooking dinner and while everyone else is out. If you’re an early-riser, you can enjoy a nice, quiet walk first thing in the morning and stop in for a coffee at a cafe… Have little things you do for yourself, and maybe you and your partner, in the middle of hosting family.

The 8th Mantra of Hosting Family – I Joyfully Accept Help from My Family

Sometimes when we’re the host, we feel we have to do everything, especially if it’s at our house. Either way, when family and friends offer to help, accept the help. It’s also a gift for others when you receive help from them. So let them wash the dishes, set or clear the table, cook dinner that night, and maybe hire a cleaner once everyone’s gone home. Look for ways to make it easy on yourself and it will be that much more enjoyable for others too.

The 9th Mantra of Hosting Family – I Go With the Flow

It means just that – relax and roll with it. This doesn’t mean you have to do what everyone else wants. Maybe you opt to stay home while the fam goes to play paint ball, because it’s just not your thing. But let them go play paint ball. Most of the time what happens is that you have something planned, maybe something even really nice and that took work to put together, and then something changes and people just don’t want to go…It understandably feels disappointing and frustrating, but the sooner you let it be and let it go, the quicker those feelings move on and you can feel good about letting people and things be as they are. You can also expect the best and that in the whole scheme of things, it worked out better anyways.

The 10th Mantra of Hosting Family – I Conveniently Family-Proof my Space when Hosting Family

By ‘space’ we mean your home, your car, or wherever you’re staying that you are now sharing with your family in some way. Every family is different of course – are there going to be kids, babies? Do even the grown-ups get rambunctious? Is your toddler niece potty-trained yet? Or for that matter, is your brother’s puppy house-trained already? Whatever it may be, if you picture yourself trying to delicately explain to your great gramps that the expensive crystal goblet he dug out of the kitchen is a prized wedding gift, better that you hide it, and hide it good, before they even get there.

A big one for us, that many digital nomads and entrepreneurs may relate to, is what we do with our ‘home office’ space when we host family, or any guests for that matter. Since we work from home or anywhere with WiFi, we have some serious gear in our bags: nice Mac Book Airs, speakers, projectors, GoPro and Nikon and Sony cameras easily within reach and out and about. We’ve found that it’s important to pre-empt situations by putting it away securely, otherwise your work laptop then becomes the community email and Facebook center. Not good, for multiple reasons!

The 11th Mantra of Hosting Family – I Sit Back and Relax with My Family

Sailing the Costa Blanca

Above all, remember to be present in the moment. Let go of concerns and worries about plans for tomorrow and take in the presence of your loved ones. If they bring up plans or have questions for you, ask yourself quietly if discussing those plans at that time feels good. If it doesn’t, let them know nicely that you want to discuss that later and steer the conversation into another topic. Or, enjoy discussing plans right then and there – whichever feels best.

When you’re present, and neither in the past nor the future, you free yourself up to deeply enjoy those around you and yourself. This doesn’t mean you don’t reminisce about the good old days (that’s one of the best parts of hosting family). It just means enjoy those memories by telling stories together, with appreciation and laughter, free of regrets, negativity and fear.


The 12th Mantra of Hosting Family – I Let Go of Comparison and Create My Best

While we hear plenty about ‘expecting the best’ we encourage you to create your best when you’re hosting family. And this can be done when we don’t compare. If we compare the next family holiday to trips in our past, then most likely the next trip will turn out the same way. Or if we’re comparing our family time to our friend or neighbor’s family holiday, then we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.

Each time we host family is a new time, a new experience. We can go into it with positive expectations and aware of our ability to create a great time for ourselves and remember that ‘my’ best is just that – the best that you can do.

Think of ways that you like to create and be creative, then incorporate that into enjoying and capturing the moments together. Maybe you like photography or videography and want to take pictures or video. Or maybe you love to cook and are excited to try new recipes out on your siblings (the perfect guinea pigs). So go easy on yourself, remember that there’s no formula to all this, and bring on the family!


A Family Video

Below is a short video we did for Amalia’s brother when he turned 21. It was all footage captured when he was visiting us in the summer. Videos and photography are a great way to enjoy your time hosting family and help the memories live on.

What other mantras would you add to this list? What are some funny stories you have about hosting family? We’d love to hear about them here, so please share!

Written by Amalia & Eric

Written by Amalia & Eric

Founders & Producers of Move to Traveling

We’re Amalia and Eric – a traveling couple who are living a traveling lifestyle. Do you love to travel? Perfect! Come along…


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