20 Things…you can do to make your guests more comfortable.
My family is from the Midwest and my female elders have always been very serious about how a houseguest should be treated. I am going to take a shot at their old prep list and incorporate a few modern ideas as well. This is stuff that people have been forgetting to teach their kids for the past couple of generations. Modern beliefs tend to label manners as stuffy. I don’t think that being polite is being stuffy; I think that being polite is being nice.
1. Clean the house. I know that this is a “duh” statement, but really, clean it.
2. Fresh cleaned sheets on the guest bed and fresh clean towels. Ideally, there should be a guest bathroom where you can hang the towels before your guests arrive. If it is a shared bathroom, as in our case, I usually leave the clean towels on the guest’s bed or on a dresser in the guest room where they can be found easily.
3. In the bathroom there needs to be soap, shampoo, and conditioner in the shower. There should be tissues, hand soap, lotion, cotton balls, and q-tips on the sink. There should be an extra hairdryer available as well, usually under the sink.
4. TOILET PAPER! Especially if there are several guests visiting, toilet paper goes fast. There needs to be extra paper in the bathroom that is easy to find. Either under the sink or in a visible place like a basket beside the toilet. It is also polite to keep a box of tampons under the sink for female guests.
5. In case they are needed. You should keep a stock of extras. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, contact cases, dental floss, lotion, razors, and saline are items often forgotten in travel. Keep these things on hand.
6. Lighting is important. There should be night-lights in the guestroom, guest bath, and in the hallway. It is difficult to find your way in a strange place in the dark, and guests don’t want to risk waking anyone by turning lights on all over the place.
7. White noise. Always make sure that the guest room has a loud fan available. Some people cannot get a good night’s sleep without blocking out the noises of a strange place. Fans also provide climate control.
8. In my grandmother’s generation, it was a telephone and stationary. In this generation there need to be unused outlets that are easy to find, usually next to the bed, for plugging in cell phone and laptop chargers. You don’t want your guest to have to unplug the lamp.
9. Nighttime comforts. It is important to keep a box of tissues in the guest room as well as bottled water, and possibly a late snack like an apple or some individually packaged cookies or crackers.
10. There needs to be a menu planned when you are expecting houseguests. If guests are arriving around dinnertime, dinner should be ready when they are expected. The menu should be flexible, especially if they are staying for several days because your guests will probably want to eat out. Make sure that you have the ingredients on hand for some planned meals though, and if you don’t cook, make sure that you have good take out menus available.
11. Medicine cabinet. You need to make sure that you have a first aid kit on hand. In addition there should be ibuprofen, cough syrup, ant-acid, and allergy medicine in the cabinet.
12. Breakfast. Make sure that you have something available for breakfast, and make sure that you have coffee and tea, cream and sugar on hand.
13. Oddities. Every house has its quirks and it is hard to remember to fill visitors in on all of them. A good idea is to make a neat list, get it laminated, and keep it in the guest bedroom in plain sight. For example: The screen door sticks, jiggle it a little and it will open right up. There are fire extinguishers in the hall closet and the kitchen pantry. Don’t worry about the fish, he rarely moves, he isn’t dead. The shower handle is on upside down; turn it to the right instead of the left for hot water.
14. Dietary concerns. Find out if your guests are on a special diet and attempt to be accommodating. There are so many different ones these days that it is difficult, but it is still considerate to try.
15. Keep an ashtray available outside. Even if you don’t smoke, your guests might, and wouldn’t you rather provide them with an ashtray than have them leave cigarette butts in your backyard?
16. Entertainment. It is nice to have a television available in your guest room. In this day and age there are a lot of people who are in the habit of going to sleep with the television on. If not, make sure that you stock a few magazines and books in the guest bedroom.
17. Be familiar with your area. Know a few great local places to go out to eat. Have an idea where there is good shopping, or a place to entertain the kids. If you have a great museum, or a beach, or a zoo nearby be able to tell your guests all about it.
18. Leave plenty of downtime. Don’t over plan the visit if your guests are planning their trip primarily to visit with you. Leave lots free of time to sit around and catch up. If your guests are on vacation, they probably want to relax anyhow.
19. Have extra house keys. If you need to be away from the house and your guests want to run errands at the same time then you need to have extra keys available for them.
20. Let your guests help out. Most guests will offer to help clean up the kitchen, or to take you out for dinner. Accept these offers gracefully, you are opening up your home and your guests appreciate it!
If you are reading this and laughing at it, knowing that there is no way I can pull this all off…believe me I know. It’s not easy. We have been living in three bedroom houses with our three kids since they were born. No guest room for us…not yet. Definitely no guest bath; I dream of one, but my youngest daughter would have the guest toiletries painted all over the walls in five minutes. One of these days though…