My advice to anyone planning to travel 3,000 miles to visit one's family unannounced is this: call ahead.
I did just that this week, flew from Seattle to Columbia, SC, to see my family, and elected not to inform them of my intentions. I let a few pals know before I left and suggested lunch one day while I was home, but my family was not told of my impending arrival.
After landing and picking up my rental car I drove to my dad's office to discover my family was preparing to leave town for a few days. Had my flight arrived half an hour later my father and sister would have already left town.
The upside was that I got to spend a few days in Charleston, enjoying the company of my parents and sister, and her darling daughter who recently turned two. She loves her uncle, and her uncle loves her, and we had a nice time with the Play-dough, though I am having my doctor call the kid in a prescription for Lunesta.
I did get to see two old pals, albeit briefly -- Mothy upon my arrival and Brother Todd before I flew out. My apologies to Rickwell, who apparently failed to retrieve an email letting him know of my diversion which I (think I) dashed off from the Treo before the battery died.
Being unemployed, I was for the first time in eight years ignoring my cell phone and not checking emails. It was a great trip.