guest post by: Aunt Spicy
Imagine this... you are visiting friends or family for a few days and you are told you get to stay in the garage. Christmas. My parents house. Yep. It just doesn't sound fun. I still bring it up at family gatherings if anyone complains about sleeping accommodations. But here is the secret... my sweet Mom had created a very inviting little nook. Cars were gone, the floor was amazingly clean. There was a brand new rug under the roll-away, new bedding and pillows, a nightstand table, and a reading light. There was a flashlight (just in case) and a stand for me to put my luggage on. It was a surprisingly comfortable, and quiet, space, and I had a lovely stay. And I did not care that I was sleeping in the garage, because I was with family.
With summer and vacations fast approaching, I always think I will be the hostess-with-the-mostest to my house guests. But reality is often times tricky, it can be tough to find the balance between creating a dream guest experience verses abandoning your guests to fend for themselves.
I am definitely not the the perfect Martha-Stewart-esque hostess, but I have found a good balance for me... mainly from watching and learning when I am a guest myself.
Before the guests arrive
Communication. So essential prior to houses guests arriving. It will help ensure that you are all still friends when guests depart! Since I have to work, it is very important for me to clearly articulate when and what I am able to do in regards to playing tour guide and transportation. Same when I stay with friends who have kids and a million activities going on. I make sure to let future house guests know what to expect and factors that may play into their planning.
- Touch base with your future guests in advance. How long do they want to stay? Do they just need a place to rest their head, or are the looking for you to be a tour guide?
- Communicate what you can offer. Transportation, tour-guiding, bedding, preparation of a proper meal, access to fridge/pantry, use of washer and dryer.
- Offer to help with planning an itinerary and provide unique local recommendations.
- Determine what type sleeping accommodations they need and let them know what you can offer. Discuss food, Are their any special diet considerations?
I just got back from staying with friends in Slovakia, in a perfectly lovely guest bedroom, with a comfy bed, and chair, and reading lamp. My hostess had out a throw pillow and Scotty dog that I made for her...which instantly helped me feel welcomed and loved. If you have a guest room, you probably already have it decked out. Not everyone has the space for a dedicated guest bedroom, but that shouldnt stop you from creating a lovely and welcoming environment.
- Clean bedding. Period. Regardless of whether it is a bed or blowup mattress, good linens make all the difference.
- A couple different weights of blankets and sizes of pillows.
- If you are repurposing one of your kid's rooms as a guest room, remove the clutter and toys and create closet and counter/desk space for your guests to use.
- A chair or bench in the room, so they have somewhere to sit other than the bed.
Luggage and stuff
I currently have no closets. None. Natta. So in one of my guest rooms I have an inexpensive clothing rack (which also doubles as a coat rack for dinner parties in the winter). It is amazing how nice it is to hang up clothes if you have been traipsing around for weeks. And while we are discussing clothes, I am also a big fan of suitcase stands. Years of staying in hotel rooms have taught me to appreciate the suitcase stand. I even bought one for my parents house for when I come to visit. Inexpensive suitcase stands can be found at home and bath retailers in the US, and they fold up nicely when your guests leave.
- Closet space or a clothing rack
- Luggage stand
- Access to a washer and dryer (and a quick set of instructions on using it)
Most of my house guests are not coming to see me. It is okay, I have accepted the fact that I provide free room and board, and I am super happy to do so. And here is why: I really love house guests! Being in a foreign country, house guests are a part of my history, they are friendly faces who speak the same language and have some common thread. But I also know that, even though they are here for sight seeing, a full day of that will leave them exhausted, and they will just want to chill. So I have picked up a few puzzles and games. I also try to have easy enjoyable reading material, like Bill Bryson's travel books and magazines. And I have english channels to watch on TV! Of course, if they love the nightlife I have back up plans, events that are happening in town, excellent restaurants, local places best viewed at night... you get the idea. But I make it clear that they are more than welcome to hang out and do nothing!
One of the first things I do is sync my house guests up to my wireless. A chance to be online and get caught up makes a huge difference to a lot of people. I also leave instructions on how to use the phone (I have free calling to the US) and any other techy devises they might need. Rarely does anyone's cell phone work here, so I offer them a spare pay-as-you-go phone that has all my pertinent numbers programed in.
Part of that early communication is finding out what foods house guests like and what meals I can prepare for them. At a minimum, I try to have breakfast foods and snacks readily available. I love packing treat bags for day trips, or having a dinner ready when they get back from sight seeing (if they want).
And then the extras
Of course there are the extra nice touches, things that help move you toward the Martha Stewart side of the hostess spectrum.
- A small welcome gift. Something local or regional. I like to give people a pickle Christmas ornament, its debatable where the tradition started, but most Americans associate it with the region I am currently living in. AND it is easy to pack!
- Fresh flowers.
- Sweet and salty treats. Especially if guests are jet-lagged, having a few treats and water for the 3am munchies is always appreciated.
What are some of the things you do for house guests? How do you prepare? What are special things that you do?
Aunt Spicy believes gingham is a color, loves early morning sunshine, and needs a 12-step program for fabric-addicts. She is currently alternating between skipping and tripping her way through Europe, and loving showing house guests her new world, but missing all her Doe a Deery friends!