Monday, August 02, 2010

3 Ways to Survive the Next Family Visit

It’s that time of year again, when friends and family can’t wait to descend on their little expat. The problem is, the further you move from home, the longer your visitors come to stay. 

It’s all great and fun for the first few days, until suddenly, you really have to pee and your father-in-law is on the toilet. Again. 

It happens to the best of us. The big blowout where at about day five of their visit, you just can’t quite stand to have these people you (used to) love in your little European apartment anymore. 

I know because I’ve been there. For almost four years, visitors have come and gone while I’ve laughed, cried, and sometimes even screamed. 

Solution? Go on a trip together where you can have separate bedrooms and bathrooms. Below are a few ideas that will fit with various travel styles but still ensure that everyone can enjoy the time without driving each other crazy.

One: Rent an apartment or chalet in the Swiss Alps.

Renting an apartment costs about 1/3 of the price of a Swiss hotel room (average studio apartment cost is about CHF 60/night). The catch? You have to stay a week. Pas de probleme. Your guests are coming for at least that long, right? Yes. It’s time to get them out of your apartment and into someone elses’. Most tourist offices in Swiss resort towns can help you find an apartment that will meet your needs (i.e. two full bathrooms, etc). Or you can visit where there are apartment listings. I just spent a week in an apartment in Bettmeralp, near the Aletsch glacier, and it was wonderful. The apartment was clean and had everything we needed—including a fondue pot.

Two: Go on a Europe Cruise.

Say your family is like mine: a bunch of Americans that have big vacation ideas and even bigger checklists. A Europe Cruise is a great way for them to run around (I mean, see the top sites) while you sit back on board, European-style, with a coffee or glass of wine. Whether you cruise the Danube or the Rhine, go for 15 days or 8, river cruises through Europe can be a relaxing way to spend time with your family. And since you already live in the heart of Europe, they’re easy to get to. One company that offers a good variety of Europe cruises is Viking River Cruises.

Three: Discover your roots.

Many American families have roots in Europe. Heck, they may even call themselves Italians or Swedes even though they are through and through Americans and don’t speak a word of Italian or Swedish. One summer, my family discovered its Italian roots in northern Italy. We found a cemetery, furniture store, and monuments—all filled with our last name. We stayed in a little pension where the owner shared the same last name as one of my father’s cousins. We thought we’d fit right in. But we couldn’t talk to anyone. It was weird. And interesting. And worth it to find out we weren’t exactly as Italian as we thought.

Have you done any of these kinds of trips with your families? Or what do you recommend?


Unknown said...

Geez and here I was concerned my friends wouldn't visit only 6 months into our move here but reading this, maybe it's turned out to be a blessing after all :)
Great writing.

Chantal said...

Hi Jerome
Don't worry. They will all visit. Some multiple times...
Thanks for reading.

M'dame Jo said...

Actually, off season, when rentals are mostly empty, you can often rent studio apartments for weekends only.

We often went to Zermatt and stayed two days in a studio (like may or september).

Kathy said...

Great tips. Especially on the apartments.

I've actually always been a big fan of traveling together rather than staying together at my house/apartment, even in the US.

One time we rented a set of cabins so that everyone could have their own space. Sharing a bathroom is tough, but sharing a kitchen can be too. With the cabins it turned out to be a lot of fun to do potluck dinners from our various kitchens and grills.

Chantal said...

Cabins are a great idea! And it's good to know that sometimes apartments are also available for the weekend. Although the cleaning/linen fees might not make them quite as good a value as for the week.

M'dame Jo said...

We generally paid around 80 francs per night, so 80 CHF per person for the weekend, which is cheaper than any Zermatt hotel. I'm guessing it's still better for them to have the wash an extra set of sheets than having an empty studio... It's worth looking into it.

But if you go off season, that also means that maybe half the restaurants will be closed and that the shopping hours may be reduced. But if you're planning on hiking... who cares :)

Chantal said...

We were in Bettmeralp during the supposed "high season" and we still had trouble finding anything for lunch. Not that it mattered--most days we packed picnics!

M'dame Jo said...

I have no idea where Bettmeralp is :-/

But it's true, smaller stations often only have winter as "real" high season, as it's not worth keeping shops and restaurants open in summer.

Chantal said...

But they still like to charge you the high season prices...

M'dame Jo said...

Are you ever satisfied? ;-) Getting an apartment instead of a hotel for weekends only is pretty good, isn't it?

Actually, I think they don't. It's more expensive in the high season.

Rainier said...

This can be a great idea. I think we have to plan ahead to make it more exciting and fun.

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Anonymous said...

Won't that be more expensive if you rent an apartment and go on a cruise tour? Anyway, good luck on your next family visit.
makati office space for rent

Nautical Condominiums said...

Great article. You wrote very informative and helpful tips. I also read you other post and also M coming back soon for more informative and attractive post's.


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