Christmas is just around the corner and ’tis the season to spend time with family. Since my husband, son, and I live far away from the rest of our family (at least a four hour flight), someone is usually hosting.
I know many people don’t feel this way, but I love hosting. And my hope and goal is to help everyone, with any kind of budget or personality, feel more confident about being a host.
OBJECTIVE: TAKE NOTE OF THE REASON FOR THEIR VISIT
The first thing to consider is: why are your guests visiting? For example: are your guests visiting because they want to have Christmas dinner with you? Or because they want to attend a New Years Eve party in the big city? Figure out the purpose of their visit so you can decide how to tailor their itinerary and guest room.
For example, if you know your guests are going to explore the area, pick up a map and visitor’s guide from the nearest destination management company prior to their visit. Or if they are going to be up late partying, leave some Advil and Gatorade in their room.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Before your guests arrive, do whatever helps you to relax, whether it’s Yoga or watching a chick flick while eating popcorn (my personal favorite). In any case, keep in mind that there’s no point in breaking your back because your guest will appreciate any effort you make.
Hosting is no cake walk and will take effort and it’s much harder when you have kids. My toddler loves to run around and make a mess while I’m setting up for guests. You could either start preparations at least a week in advance or hire a mother’s help for a day to get the house ready. If you can afford it, hire a cleaner before (and after) your guests arrive, it will make your life so much easier.
THE GUEST ROOM / AREA
Do the best you can to create a separate space for your guest, even if that means providing ear plugs and/or an eye mask if they are sleeping on the pull-out couch in the living room. And give them a heads up regarding the sleeping situation before they arrive so they may prepare as needed. Please remember that you do not need to give up your own bed for your guests.
When it’s time to setup the guest room, I always think back to when I worked for a luxury hotel. Every little detail can make a difference in guests’ stay, from a fully-stocked bathroom to a coffee maker.
Have you noticed that hotels use white linens and towels? Because all you need is a little bleach to remove any stains to keep everything looking very clean. I unfortunately don’t always follow this rule, but I recommend providing your guests with white pillow cases, a white duvet cover, a white bed skirt, white towels, etc. You can leave a large towel and washcloth on the bed so it’s easy to find.
Make sure you have lamps and outlets accessible to the bed. I’ve heard other hosts recommend leaving books for your guests to read, but I don’t think this is necessary with the amount of time people spend on their phones these days. A phone charger would be much more useful. Plus if you provide a visitors guide (or local magazine), your guests can learn more about your city.
Speaking of technology, please make a sign with your Wifi name and code. And make it clearly visible so guests may post photos to social media or check emails.
A very nice touch would be to leave a tray on the guest bed with some flowers, water (either in a reusable glass bottle or carafe), postcards, and a local treat. Chicago is known for it’s odd and delicious popcorn mixture of caramel and cheddar popcorn so I love giving this as a gift to guests.
If you have extra cash and space: closet space, a dresser, a luggage rack, and bath robes are all very nice additions that guests don’t expect, but really appreciate.
Please make sure this room is very clean and fully stocked, including plenty of toilet paper and a hand towel. Provide toiletries for your guests and leave them in a visible area. I usually supply: toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash or soap, hand soap, and body lotion.
I purchase normal sized toiletries (rather than travel size) because it is more environmentally friendly and it makes more sense for my wallet. Unfortunately many hotels are creating a lot of waste by using so many small plastic bottles for their toiletries. In order to do my part for the environment, I do not follow all luxury hotel standards in my home.
Most guests don’t expect for you to provide all of their meals, but it’s still a good idea to have a fully-stocked fridge and pantry. Send your guests a note prior to their stay to check for any allergies or dietary restrictions.
Focus on easy breakfast foods guests can prepare for themselves, including coffee, tea, juice, breakfast breads (such as a brioche and an artisanal gluten-free bread), jams, whole fruits (bananas, apples), yogurt, granola, cereal, and berries.
Lunch and dinner could be a time to explore and go out to eat. If you have young kids, or your guest has young kids, you will most-likely want to eat dinners at home and cook simple, family friendly meals such as pasta.
If your house is shoe-free (like ours) have a basket or spot for shoes next the front door and offer slippers or non-slip socks for guests to wear indoors.
Have a light meal prepared of soup and salad when your guests arrive. Serve plenty of water and wine. I find that after a day of traveling, most people just want to relax and eat a light meal.
I love to have candles lit around the house when guests arrive for a nice cozy feel and scent. When you purchase candles, select ones made with soy wax and a very light scent so as not to offend others’ noses.
You’re the local expert and you get to play the tour guide! Make sure to share what you love about your city with your friends and family.
But keep in mind to plan no more than one activity per day. Anything beyond that can be improvised. Planning any activities shows your guests that you were thinking of them.
With a toddler at home, I only plan for one activity per day because it takes a lot of effort to leave the house once a day. If your guests have kids, plan for extra time to get ready and out of the house.