The holiday season is prime house guest time. But there’s no need to be afraid. While having people in your home is inherently disruptive, it can also be a great time for everyone. Make the most of your visitors and make sure you are being the relaxed and engaging host that you can be with a few simple tips.
Plan Ahead (As Much As Possible)
Being prepared is critical. For guests planned long in advance, you have the luxury of spreading things out and making sure that the linens and towels are clean and prepped, and that the house has been organized, cleaned and decorated to your own standards. Get any stressful tasks out of the way before guests arrive. Put together a checklist of what you want to get done and a timeline to complete it. This makes the work a little less strenuous and ensures that you are not spot cleaning your carpets at 11:30 the night before guests arrive.
While having time to prep is ideal, sometimes life just does not work out like that. To ease the accommodation of a surprise house guest, do the leg work now. Have a fresh set of linens already washed and folded; same goes for a set of towels. Make sure you always have a few clean bath sheets and washcloths in the closet. An extra stash of things like toothbrushes and mini toothpastes can be a huge help, too, especially if things are really last minute for both you and your guest.
Pro Tip: Depending on who your guests are, there may be a sense of autonomy. If you do not have to act as resident tour guide, concierge or chef, having an extra set of keys ready in a drawer can be a great help to let them come and go on their own.
I have family overseas and we often travel to stay with each other. I love having them come to visit as much as I love the hospitality I receive when I arrive on their shores. But it has also made me highly aware that traveling in this day and age can be a long, cramped, stuffy, uncomfortable, stressful and exhausting task. Consider this when planning your welcome.
Family driving just a couple hours from out of town? Perfect, maybe a nice walk before dinner to stretch out the legs is sufficient. Family arriving on a 12 hour flight out of Hong Kong? Maybe not the right time to sit down for that four course dinner. Instead, try offering some healthy snacks to balance airplane stomach, plenty of water to rehydrate and a shower to get clean before bed.
While you might be raring to show them just how much you can do with your new web connected device or head out to that awesome exhibit at the museum, take a second and make sure you’ve considered how tired/hungry/uncomfortable you would be in their shoes. Letting everyone unwind from travel before jumping into things is essential.
Setting the Itinerary
Listen to them! Sometimes, what you think they want to see is not at all what they care about. Say you’re in San Francisco. Yes, the Art Institute is amazing, but perhaps your 10 year-old nephew does not care. So go to the Bean instead and let them take a selfie. Tourist spots can be hokey, but you cannot deny the majesty of the Golden Gate as it the fog rolls in, or how delicious a bowl of clam chowder in a bread bowl is at Pier 39.
And who knows? Going to see the things your guests want to see may just give you a whole new appreciation for where you live.
An Army Marches On Its Stomach
While you may be a coffee and bagel kind of person, some people need a full meal to start their day. Consider your guests’ habits and food needs. Keeping a group of people well fed can go a long way towards keeping everything running smoothly. Getting hangry is a real thing, people.
Pro Tip: Know your guests’ dietary restrictions. While gluten and dairy free diets can be a choice, allergies are not…and can even be deadly. Educate yourself, and do your best to ensure your guests can eat and live comfortably in your home. While you may not know everything, taking the basic steps can mean the world to those who suffer with these conditions.
If you have the time, space and resources, a personalized guest basket can be a magical thing. Small snacks like protein bars, crackers, chocolates or even some fruit and a bottle of water are a nice treat. Think about putting together a little spa experience as well. Just getting clean after a long flight or drive feels great, but take it a little further with a face mask to rehydrate dried airplane skin or a nice bath salt to soak traffic-weary driving legs.
While special touches like your guests’ favorite books, movies or music are great, sometimes the more practical things are more appreciated. An extra phone charger plugged in and ready to go at the bedside can be a total lifesaver at the end of a long day of traveling.
Think about any sensitivities as well. While a lovely scented candle can make a guest room feel like a boutique hotel, for someone with a high scent sensitivity, that can be a migraine in the making. Is your guest someone who is always cold? Make sure to throw an extra duvet at the end of the bed. Always hot? Set a floor fan in the room, just in case. Is your guest someone that needs to take medications at specific times? A bottle of water next to the bed allows them the ease of not having to wander around choking on pills.
PRO TIP: As someone who regularly shops for beauty products online and in stores, I have a surplus of sample sized products. Instead of letting them meet a messy demise in the bottom of your bag, toss all the samples you might collect in a bin in your closet (or your guest bathroom medicine cabinet). Free toothbrush and mini floss from the dentist? Perfect, throw it in the bin as well. This is an easy way to build up an arsenal of products to wow your visitors…and for packing for your own travels.
This is the biggest tip and can be the biggest struggle, especially with family. Having people in your house can be tough; staying in someone else’s house is also tough. Approach each situation with empathy, but make sure that you are communicating issues. Is your uncle clipping his nails on the sofa? Is Grandma smoking directly in front of the open door? Talk to them.
While you cannot expect everyone to operate the way that you do, they also need to understand and respect you and your home. Address issues right away; don’t let things fester just to avoid a moment’s awkwardness. Clear air makes for easier interactions. And the more comfortable you are having them there, the more comfortable your guests will be.