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Parents coming to visit? This tech can help

Make family visits smoother and less stressful with a few smart upgrades.

David Priest Former editor
David Priest is an award-winning writer and editor who formerly covered home security for CNET.
David Priest
3 min read

So your parents text you to say, Surprise! They're coming into town to "see how you're settling in" to your new apartment.

Three reactions: one, you love your parents, but you don't have time to entertain them all weekend. Two, you don't really want the 'rents going through all your stuff while you're at work. And three, your roommate wakes and bakes, and you don't have time to go home and air out the apartment before they arrive.

The good news: smart home tech can save you from all these problems, even on short notice. Here's what you need.

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1. A smart air purifier

If you need to air out your apartment, a smart purifier could help. It's not going to get every odor out, but it's a start. On the high end, you have $500 Dyson's Pure Cool Link -- a smart fan and purifier that'll tell you exactly what the air quality in your apartment is. Plus, you can activate it remotely, so as soon as you get that surprise text, you can start clearing the air for the folks.

For a more affordable product with the same features and one-fifth of the price, you can get the WeMo app-enabled Holmes air purifier.

Chris Monroe/CNET

2. A smart lock

Smart locks are convenient if you want to let your parents into your flat while you're still at work. With devices like the August Smart Lock or Schlage Sense, you can send temporary keys that so that the folks can get inside. It's also a benefit if your parents are prone to lose spare keys.

Another cool feature: if you're not sure when you're parents are arriving, smart locks can send you a notification when they're unlocked.

Sarah Tew/CNET

3. A smart remote

If your parents are anything like mine, they always seem to have trouble with new TVs , so a smart universal remote might be a lifesaver. If you have a Logitech Harmony hub and remote (running from $100-$350), for instance, your folks will be able to call up Netflix with a voice command to Alexa -- and the input will even switch for them.

Even a basic smart TV like Vizio's could make starting various streaming services a little easier for the controller-challenged relatives.

Chris Monroe/CNET

4. A window/door sensor

This is a simple one, but it has two great uses. First, if you can't install a new lock in your apartment door, this sensor will still send you a notification when the folks arrive. But another great benefit: if you're worried about your mom going into your room while you're away, either to snoop around or "just tidy up," you can use this handy sensor to get a notification. That way, you can call and let them know you're aware of the intrusion.

The one downside with sensors like these is that they're typically part of a larger system. Some security and smart-home systems that support them include SmartThings, Scout and Abode.

5. A drawer lock

If you have anything you want to keep away from prying eyes, and you don't want to dish out hundreds of dollars for a safe, a retrofit drawer lock could help. The Smart Armor Cube, for instance, is available now for preorder for $80.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

6. An Echo Dot

Not only is an Echo an easy way to keep the parents occupied while you're at work (it can provide info on local attractions, for instance), but it also offers helpful info like the Wi-Fi password. Just download the Wiffy skill, and your parents can ask Alexa for the password any time they need it.

7. A smart plug

At the end of the day, parents visiting is about spending time with family. But remember, you're an adult now, which means you get to say when it's time for lights out. If your parents forget to switch off your lamps, connected plugs can let you control all the lights with a single Siri command or button press.

Plenty of smart plugs are on the market, ranging in price and features. Check out all the options here.