After my family moved over 800 miles and several states away, we began the tradition of hosting for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sometimes New Year’s.

While I love holidays, there is an old saying that fish and guests both stink after three days. While this can be good advice, what do you do, and how do you make the best of family time during the holidays, which sometimes last longer than three days? After almost 20 years of hosting, here are my family’s five best tips to not only survive but make the most of the time.

Set your attitude and let go of expectations

Like most things, either a positive or negative attitude sets the tone for the house and affects those around you. Unmet expectations lead to hurt, disappointment, and stress. When guests are in the home, you may need to remind yourself to let go of the little things. Remember that while you are preparing and hosting, those coming to visit are also making sacrifices to prioritize their relationship with you.

Be realistic

Sometimes this means speaking the truth in love of what you can and cannot do. For some, this may mean making arrangements for loved ones to stay in a hotel. For others, you need to tell that relative that ten days is too long of a stay, and it would be best for all if the visit is shorter. Maybe you need to ask for help with the kids or the cooking. You may need to sneak in a nap. Think through what makes sense and how to make everyone feel loved, including you.

Plan fun

It is wise to have several types of fun activities planned to break up the pace. Whether you throw everyone in the car to look at holiday lights, see a show, attend a Christmas Eve service, or play fun games, have several ideas ready to go. You can ask around or search online for available options in your local area.

Have a food plan

Nothing is worse than having hungry guests in your home and no plan. Things can get cranky! We plan ahead with some food already made. We eat some meals at home and some while we are out and about. We often have extra snacks on hand and even breakfast goodies that hungry granddads could help themselves.

Remember to laugh and treasure the moments

While hosting guests can be a challenge, it is also a wonderful opportunity. These are the days memories are made, traditions are passed down, and life-changing conversations take place. Keep your humor! And if all else fails and the visit goes down as the worst in history, it will give you some good laughs and stories to tell later.

This article is part 1 of a two-part article. Check back on December 15 to read the second part Surviving the Holidays with Extended Family written by Shelby French.