How to Have the Best Parents Weekend

September’s turmoil is almost over. Bed Bath and Beyond has been depleted, dorm move-in has been successfully accomplished, and classes are in full swing. As parents, we can stop worrying about the transition to college and plan the visit.  If you live close enough to your college age child and do not want to wait until Thanksgiving to see them, well, it’s time for a little journey.  Some schools have an established Parents Weekend or you might just be heading to school on your own…either way, here are some things to think about.

parents weekend college campus Bring food, after all they are teens, need I say more.  If you bake, you are a goddess. If you can’t bring provisions, the grocery store makes a nice family outing.

In my informal poll, okay my Facebook page, there was a strong feeling that “Parents Weekend” was not really the best parents weekend, that the crowds and the staged events were not the optimal atmosphere in which to visit offspring.  Personal opinion will need to prevail.

If you are going to take your kid and, perhaps, their friends out, book early, really early. You will be unpleasantly surprised how fast reservations for hotels and restaurants in a college town will fill up for Parents Weekend.  I reserved a hotel for parents weekend the night my son picked his college, a touch neurotic you say?

If your kids left  their heavy things home, heavy coats, gloves, boots, hats and the winter comforter, it is time to bring them.  They may have moved into their dorms during a 90+ degree heat wave but by the time they come home for Thanksgiving there may be snow. You are still the parent, do they have the right clothes? My kids both underestimated the “nice” clothes that they might need for fraternity rush or dances and dinners.  Sometimes jeans and a tee-shirt just don’t cut it.

Ask about any expensive (in college student parlance) items they might need.  My kids were out of things like razor blades. I call those necessities, they called them expensive.

Don’t clean their room or bathroom, no matter how much it is killing you.  This is their turf, not yours and if ever there was a moment to turn a blind eye, it’s that bathroom.

campus dorm

If you have a hotel they may want to sleep there for a night.  They are just getting used to the crowds, noise and chaos of their dorms and on visiting weekends there can be a roommate’s siblings in their room as well. A roll away bed in your hotel might look pretty nice.

Alcohol.  Buying alcohol for under 21s is, of course, illegal and even though your college kid may not have imbibed in high school, or at least very little, it would not be a surprise to find out they are drinking in college. They may ask you to buy a bottle of something before you head home. Be ready with your answer, Parents Weekend is not a moment to start making family policy decisions.

It may be difficult  to sit around in their dorm room, particularly if they share it with others, so do a tiny bit of research about activities in the area.  This may be no more than a lunch reservation or scoping out a park, but your student may not have left campus yet and after he gives you the 20 minute tour, what’s next?

Things have changed in the very short time since you child left home.  He or she has had a major life experience, prepare yourself.  There are may be subtle and perhaps slightly uncomfortable ways in which your relationship has shifted. Be open-minded, take a very deep breath and remind yourself that each stage of their lives has been a period of adjustment.

If there was one subject about which there is parental consensus it is that kids will not want to spend as much time with their parents as their parents might hope. Get ready to look around the surrounding area or go to a movie. College kids have parties, sports, activities and academics to squeeze in during a visit.  They will be nice about it, but at the first sign of a good party or an a capella practice, parents will be dumped and, when we really ask ourselves we know, this is entirely as it should be. Have you gone on a Parents Weekend? What would you add to the list?



  1. says

    We actually got meet our son at a family event halfway between our hoise and the college. It was a perfect meeting because he came on with others and we seperately as well, but we got to spend time together. We did bring him a stockpile of poptato chips and gummie worms though.

  2. says

    Thanks for posting, Lisa. Just getting ready to head to parents weekend next month and this was helpful to read. I am more of a “wing it” kind of person but did actually jump on some of the things you mentioned about reserving early as we were warned by some other parents that you’ll be eating at McDonalds for every meal if you don’t have some reservations. I am really looking forward to seeing my daughter acclimated to her new home and to meet her friends and their parents! I may have more to add to the list after I experience this, but thanks for the heads up!

  3. says

    Lisa, this is an excellent list. You’ve covered just about everything. My only addition is that parents must keep in mind that most college students sleep late. If you’re expecting to meet your child for breakfast before 9 a.m., rethink that idea. Believe me, you’ll be happy you did.

  4. says

    If you have a daughter, be prepared for clothes shopping! Actually, now that I think about it, be prepared for that if you have a son, too.

  5. says

    Terrific tips. Parents’ Weekend is coming this Friday.
    We booked our room back in June, but we’re still debating on going because we’re not interested in the Parents Club planned activities as much as we’re interested in visiting our son and meeting his new friends.
    He’ll be initiated into his frat this week too, and Saturday will be the parents’ portion of that– whatever that will be.
    Thanks for reminding me to bring the blanket and a jacket. He won’t get snow on the GA coast, but the nights can get chilly.

    • says

      Sounds like a wonderful weekend planned. I think you are so right that the “parents” events are never as nice as all the wonderful time to reconnect.

  6. says

    I used to love when my parents visited. And so true about buying razors. Toilet paper too! My mom and dad tended to come on weekends other than the official parents weekend so we could have more quality time and I was a plane flight away.

    • says

      It blows my mind that I have to supply toilet paper to both my college kids. This summer was like setting up two independent apartments with tp, cleaning supplies, instant food….

  7. Carpool Goddess says

    We have Parent’s Weekend coming up in October and I can’t wait! I find it’s always a good idea to let them know in advance that you understand they won’t be able to spend all their time with you, so it alleviates any guilt they may be feeling, especially when you’ve flown across country to see them.

  8. Helene Cohen Bludman says

    Great tips, and I like the comment about college kids’ sleeping routines. My husband and I were able to have breakfast and take a walk around campus while my daughter was asleep. By the time she got up it was time for lunch. :)

  9. says

    We once made the mistake of signing the *three* of us up for a career counseling session, in the morning. Luckily I had lots to learn about rewriting my resume. the Girl slept in! Take notes on ALL the good restaurants and diners around town. Even if you cannot get a reservation Parents’ Weekend, we found we were pretty welcome to return to campus at odd weekends with the offer of a meal for child and roommates. And you know, it turns out they will get up before noon for a diner brunch – pancakes, bacon, French toast….!


  1. How to Have the Best Parents Weekend | The Blop... says:

    […] Lisa writes: September’s turmoil is winding down. Bed Bath and Beyond has been depleted, dorm move-in has been successfully accomplished, and classes are in full swing.  […]