Book your flights well in advance. Different people have different strategies though. I personally prefer to book my flights at least three months in advance since we have to travel in the busy summertime. But it is definitely worth to watch the prices for a while. This year I could have saved $ 350 if I would have waited only two weeks! Here you can read more about when the best time is to buy a ticket.
Stay long enough, but not too long.
I’d recommend to stay at least 3 weeks at home. Especially if you have to deal with time change, you want to give yourself enough time to adjust to the different time zone and climate. Thinking about the length of your stay is vital. Three weeks might be too short, but five weeks seemed way too long for us one year.
Plan who you want to see and how long.
Even if you stay four of five weeks, you won’t be able to see everyone. It’s summer, the people are traveling or they have their own busy routines and sometimes it’s hard to meet up. I try to make some plans in advance but there should be always room for impromptu get-togethers and some things just fall into place once your there. I tend to have a busy schedule so I get to see as many people as possible, but I also plan on some down time to recharge.
Don’t change the location too often.
Our family lives in only a few different places, but according to my experience it is not wise to move around too many times. Try to avoid constant hellos and good-byes since they are hard to deal with for everyone involved. That’s the one thing my children always complain about when we’re here. They don’t want to drive around to visit everyone, instead they ask why people are not coming to see us. Hence the perfect solution would be to have a “base camp”. This way you’d offer a port of call to all people who want to see you. For our next visit I will definitely look into booking a vacation rental and have people visit us to reduce our travel time.
Don’t set the bar too high.
I’ve been disappointed a few times, because I pictured a reunion differently than it actually happened. People have changed and you have changed while living abroad. Every year there is a moment where I’m negatively surprised how inflexible some people are. They don’t even consider a short trip away from their home in order to see you, while others drive 600 km just to see you for two days. Stick with those people 🙂
Do not let others make you feel guilty!
Visiting friends and family is a blessing, but can be a curse at the same time. It is tough to make adequate time for everyone, including family. Some people don’t realize that it is supposed to be a bit of vacation for you and that you came to have quality time with loved ones. Some people might give you the feeling that you don’t take enough time for them and they unconsciously blame you or want you to feel guilty for that. Do not put on these shoes! Try the best to make appropriate time for everyone, but also listen to your guts! Who do you really want to spend time with and who makes you happy?
Take pictures with the people you meet.
I’m always sad when I’m back in California and I realize I didn’t capture one or the other reunion that happened back in Germany. Well, I’m kind of a photo maniac, but my kids love to look at these pictures as well and to remember these special moments. And it’s great to send these pictures to the people you’ve met once your back in your new home.
Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster.
Visiting family and friends back home is lovely and I wouldn’t want to miss this time of the year, but it is emotionally exhausting, too. The constant hellos and goodbyes can be tough. Brace yourself and discuss this issue with your children as well.
Enjoy all the things you don’t have in your adopted country!
I’m a foodie and I always love to indulge in food and drinks in Germany that I can’t get my hands on in California. “Brot & Brötchen”, “Kölsch oder Radler” in a Biergarten or “Kaffee & Kuchen” in the “Konditorei”. I love that you can walk into a restaurant or bar and just seat yourself wherever you find a free chair or that you just ask other people, already sitting down, if they’re willing to share their table with you. And I highly appreciate the very well developed public transportation system. Germans might argue that the “Deutsche Bahn” is always late, but at least there is such thing.
Find and learn new things to love about your home country.
I love the fact that only by moving away, I could see certain things in Germany in a positive way. I may repeat myself (Three Word Thursday), but I love the German honesty. Not everything is sugar-coated, things are much more real and there are a lot of unbleached teeth. You can drink a beer in public and if you go to a climbing park, you don’t even have to sign a waiver, because people are not afraid they might get sued. These are just a few things…
Learn to know yourself better.
I love to learn about my new me, the one I became in California. I consider myself stronger, more self-confident, relaxed and more positive than I was living in Germany. These changes become even clearer visiting my home country. It was good to be away from everything familiar and to make new friends where no one knew you and you could start fresh. And it is good to reconnect with old friends and find something of your old you.
Make a plan for your return.
It usually takes me a while to re-adjust to my life in California. It is sad to leave family and friends and to know you won’t see them again in a long time. It is crucial to have something to look forward to in your place of residence. Having friends over, starting a project or visiting a place you haven’t seen yet will help you to get over the re-entry blues.
More interesting articles about visiting your home country you can find on expatchild.com.