Basic Rules of the Road by Kathy Bertone

Find a parent who breezes through an airport with one suitcase and a carry-on, and I’ll show you a parent who left their child at home. Good planning will mean less stress and headache for you the entire visit, but there’s a fine line between dragging the entire contents of your home and leaving everything to chance. You want to be prepared, but not overburdened. So, what to bring?

Start with the basics. Consider this list and start checking off who will provide each item: you, your host, or a rental service. Thankfully, there are places, easily found on the Internet, where you can rent items like cribs and car seats (even bottle sterilizers), which can be delivered to your destination.

You   Host  Rental
_____ _____ _____ Crib or bassinet
_____ _____ _____ Playpen
_____ _____ _____ Sleeping bags
_____ _____ _____ Car seat
_____ _____ _____ Baby bottles and/ or medicines
_____ _____ _____ Specific foods/formula
_____ _____ _____ Baby monitor
_____ _____ _____ Breast-feeding equipment
_____ _____ _____ Diapers, diaper bag, baby wipes, powder, etc.
_____ _____ _____ Night-light
_____ _____ _____ Plastic sheets if your child may wet the bed
_____ _____ _____ Entertainment material
_____ _____ _____ Sports equipment, life preservers, sunglasses, lotion
_____ _____ _____ Stroller(s)
_____ _____ _____ Baby gates
_____ _____ _____ Appropriate clothing for the weather and activities planned

Share with your host the items on your list you are hoping they can provide. If you’re worried that your needs will sound like a list of demands from a spoiled ‘tweener—don’t. Most hosts will appreciate your thoughtfulness by not having to scramble to get things after you arrive. Once they know what you need, and if they don’t have it, it gives them the opportunity to ask a neighbor or friend to supply something for the time you will be there. Your host will let you know what is not available. Coordinating with them in advance is the key.

How you are getting to the visit makes a difference in what you can bring, or not. Know what is allowed on an airplane, bus or train. It is always best to call the transportation company ahead or check their website.

VISIT TIP: Take the time to research the place you will be visiting. Check to see where the nearest doctor, pharmacy, playground or park, theater, library, or pool is located. Although one would assume the host will know but Grandma may not have been water sliding in a long time!
If there are things your children can’t or won’t eat or are allergic to, let your host know. Your host will appreciate not spending time or money on things that won’t be consumed. Emailing a list ahead is a smart and reasonable thing to do. You can always add the words, “But if you were not planning on going to the market, no worries! I am happy to go after we arrive.” If your child only eats certain foods, and you are driving, bring some with you. Don’t expect your host to have specialty items unless you request them in advance.

Brush up on basics with your children before the visit. Go through the photo album and remind them who’s who. Teach, or remind, young men and women the importance of shaking hands with a solid grip and looking adults in the eye. Tell them what is not allowed and what behavior you expect, and what you hope they might enjoy during the visit. Remind them of basic manners, such as saying “please” and “thank you” and “may I?” Children are much more comfortable when they know how to behave and what is expected of them.

VISIT TIP: Help your child make, or simply bring, a gift for the host or the children of the host. Even children feel special when presenting a gift and proud not arriving empty-handed.

Don’t break your own rules just because you’re visiting. If you want your children to be in bed at a certain time, make it happen. You rule! If you don’t want them to drink sodas or watch a movie you think is inappropriate, don’t let them. Your host should respect your rules and support them.

Although difficult, do not allow your children to use electronic games or gadgets excessively. The point of the visit is for everyone to be involved with each other—to be inclusive—not reclusive. This is especially important, of course, when young ones are visiting grandparents.

When you get home have the child create, or pick out, a thank-you card for the host. No, this time email will not do. How artistic the card is makes absolutely no difference. The fact that it is handmade makes it beautiful. And the child will learn a valuable lesson from doing it.
About the author

Kathy Bertone, Naples, Florida, is the co-founder and former managing partner of a merger and acquisition firm located outside Washington, DC. For years, she and her husband have enjoyed entertaining friends and family in their three homes. She is the author of the new book, The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host, Becoming the Perfect Guest. Visit