10 Essential Tips for Hosting Overnight Holiday Guests

With the holidays here, many of us will find ourselves with a varying number of house guests staying for varied amounts of time. Making your guests feel at home and keeping your blood pressure in check are key to a good visit. Start with these 10 tips for smooth hosting this season for you and your guests.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Pre-arrival planning

Life Hacker suggests that pre-visit communication is vital to a smooth visit. A quick phone call, text message exchange, or email can make things run smoother for everyone and give you a head start as the host. Early communication can prevent awkwardness like not knowing your cousin’s new girlfriend is gluten-free and vegan when you pull out the turkey and stuffing, or looking around for old pants that will fit your Uncle Paul before the snowshoeing adventure you’ve been planning because all he brought was shorts.

1. Double check arrival and departure details and, if you’re picking them up, set an exact meeting place. You don’t want to start out the trip by being in Terminal A at 9:30, when they’ve been in Terminal F for 45 minutes.

2. Ask about food allergies or sensitivities. These days, it seems that everyone has some dietary restriction. Rather than standing in front of the fridge together playing 20 questions before breakfast, finding out who can’t eat what ahead of time means you can have at least one thing stocked for everyone. Don’t go tracking down obscure ingredients; just a simple snack will show that you’re paying attention and trying to accommodate.

3. Go over anything you have planned in advance so your guests know how to pack for seamless transitions into fun activities. If there’s a neat new indoor water park that just opened up, early notice will spare everyone from buying yet another emergency swimsuit. If you’re throwing a surprise “let’s get fancy” party, tell your guests to pack something nice. The added bonus during this exchange is that sometimes, you’ll find out that grandma’s knees haven’t been holding up so well and she’s probably not up for the all-day shopping marathon you thought you’d do together. You can get all of your shopping done before your guests arrive and plan a more low-key afternoon of finally learning to play bridge instead.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Preparing Your Home

As a host, you’re bound to be thinking about cleaning and preparing your house for your incoming guests. The list of things you feel you may need to do can quickly become overwhelming, but keep in mind that you’re (probably) not hosting the queen. Prioritize your to-do list and stick to it.

4. Not everything in the house is a must-clean area. Kitchen counters and tables should be cleared and cleaned. Offices and craft rooms, though, can probably stay a little messy. Floors should be swept or vacuumed, but shelves only need to be dusted if you have a mother-in-law with a white glove test. Public and guest bathrooms should be cleaned, but yours can go another couple of days without detailing the faucets. Mirrrors in public/guest bathrooms should absolutely be wiped down, but windows should only be on the list if a) you have time or b) they’re really, really bad. Prioritize your cleaning list and dial down the stress of having to clean every last nook and cranny.

5. Make sure your guest room is clean and inviting. Having a minimalist guest room is good, but having a cold, unwelcoming guest room is not. Though cleared-off spaces and an empty drawer or closet are important details, a little something homey in what designers call a “vingette,” a small grouping of things, can make a guest feel more at ease. An article published on Houzz.com gives tips on how to design and arrange a vignette. Having a little bedside lamp and a favorite book of short stories or a couple magazines can also be an easy way to make a guest room inviting.

6. Give your guests priority parking. If your guests are driving in, make sure they have an easy landing area. If there’s only room for one car in your driveway, you should scour the neighborhood for street parking for your car, not theirs. No one wants to finish a long drive with an hour of searching for too-small parallel parking spaces on unfamiliar streets.

7. Make sure food is readily available. This doesn’t mean you have to make a visit’s worth of food in advance, but you should at least have plenty of snacks and some easily accessible options for your guests to feed themselves. If you’re a free-for-all, “you’re welcome to everything” kind of host, point out a couple of items so they don’t have to go digging through all your cabinets. If you’re a little more wary of having your guests run rampant through your kitchen, make a little shelf of snack food or sandwich fixings to avoid an awkward, hangry exchange when your guest is hungry and not sure what’s off-limits.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Making a Guest Kit

Mis-en-place, having everything ready and in its place, isn’t just a rule for the kitchen. Having a guest kit ready is like having a “go bag” — it makes you look and feel like you’re ready for anything at any time. Surprise guest? No problem. Have to stay late at work and your three hours of pre-guest prep time shrunk to one hour? No worries, totally do-able. With just a few items in place ahead of time, your overnight guest hosting score goes up dramatically.

8. Sheets, blankets, and pillowcases. These should all be well-kept, not the old ratty ones you used to have on your bed until you finally got new ones (same goes for pillows–no one wants a single, deflated, old pillow). Southern Living makes a great point, though, about keeping sheets around in a closet, chest, or even on the guest bed: Regardless of whether or not they’re clean, sheets and pillowcases can get a stale, “unused” smell if it’s been too long since they’ve been washed. If you have a set of guest sheets, give them and the pillowcases a quick wash before your guests arrive.

9. Little travel-sized toiletries are a must for your guest kit. Traveling with shampoo and a bar of soap is always a guessing game — will my shampoo explode in my luggage, should I bring any at all? Having a little grouping of shampoo, conditioner, a bar of soap, and even a little tube of toothpaste for each guest is a warm touch of hospitality. Same goes for towels: Each guest should have their own, and as with the sheets rule, they shouldn’t be flimsy, crusty, cast-off towels.  If you have a whole family staying with you for longer than a couple nights, forgo the individual guest kits for a big bottle of shampoo and conditioner already positioned in the guest bathroom.

10. Snacks! If there’s one takeaway from this article, it should be that a really well-fed guest can forgive dusty shelves and planning bumps. There’s more to leaving a little chocolate on a hotel pillow than providing a treat; it keeps your guest’s blood sugar level out of the cranky-zone. If you’re putting out a little grouping of toiletries, throw in a small bag of almonds or pretzels or something. Traveling is hungry work!

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