Takeaways from Visiting My Sons at College

Some of you have entered a new season of life with a child off to college. We had our oldest attend Western Washington University in Bellingham and then our younger go out of state to University of Colorado. Both had great college experiences with a few growing pains along the way. We visited them at school a few times a year. I typically visited more often on my own than with my spouse due to his work schedule. Now that they have both graduated, I’d like to share some of the highlights I gleaned through the years.

Scheduling my visits
  • I always tried to arrange visits around their schedules. We engaged in parents’ weekends the first year and then scheduled for alternate times in the future due to all the popular restaurants and local hotels being booked.
  • My comfort level was typically a good visit every six weeks. Sometimes I’d visit them; sometimes they’d come home.
  • I kept my out-of-state visits to 3 days and anticipated for a few hours of his time each day. If there was more, that was a bonus. I was content to read, go to a museum, or bike the area solo while he headed back to his campus life.
Bring a touch of home
  • I would bring a favorite or two from home, be it some freshly baked cookies, Confectionery Store (at University Village) gummy bears, or some new athletic socks and boxers. I’ve made lasagnas in Pyrex pans that would never return from Bellingham. I’ve brought Juanita’s Chips as my carry-on because evidently the corn chips are just not as good in Colorado.
  • I’d make notes on my phone about the latest news in the neighborhood and in the family, and I’d catch him up.
So many fun things to do with them
  • I plan for a grocery shop to restock their dorm or kitchen fridges, plus a Target run to replenish personal care items. When my husband would visit solo, he would skip these errands and hand over some $20s.
  • A nice dinner out was always appreciated. I’d research restaurants in the area if they did not have a preference when we were scheduling. In some areas, a reservation is mandatory. A little prep time in setting things up pays off.
  • We’d schedule something athletic to do together. We would head out for a longer hike in the area. Hayden enjoys a round of golf. We would attend a sporting event. Longer conversations are easier to have while hiking side-by-side together or driving around doing some errands.
  • We would talk about movies and podcasts that we both share. We’d both wait to watch the latest comedy special on Netflix from Jim Gaffigan together.
  • I liked getting to know their friends and would include them in an excursion if my son gave me the go-ahead or asked.
  • Mom tip: Fraternities in general do not have a lot of toilet paper in the women’s restroom. I learned to refill my travel tissues before meeting up there.
  • We would chat about a favorite dinner from home, shop together for the ingredients at the farmer’s market, then make it together in their kitchen as their housing changed. We might also try a new online recipe.


I remember my first visit to Hayden his freshman year. I kept touching him to the point where it was too much; it had been 8 weeks and I was really missing him. Guess I will always be a Mama.

*Denise Allan is the founder and owner of Simplify Experts.


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