Summer break is almost here, the country is slowly opening up, and a society tired of being masked up and locked down appears ready to venture out. That might be flying somewhere, taking a road trip, staying in a luxury hotel, or maybe visiting friends or family. If it’s the latter, take note. Being a guest and hosting guests are important roles and they both come with some standard rules of thumb. Let’s start with being a gracious guest.
BE MY GUEST
It’s fun and frugal to camp out in someone’s guest room but we’ve all heard that guests are like fish: they start to smell after three days. So, rule number 1: don’t overstay your welcome. Granted, three days may seem like a really short visit so always double-check with your host. Get and give specific dates and never, ever just assume an invitation awaits you. Just because someone you know lives in a fabulous place doesn’t mean you’re invited to visit and stay with them and for goodness sakes, never just show up. No one wants to be Cousin Eddie from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
It’s also important to be clear as to who exactly will be joining you on the visit. Opening your home to a couple is much different than doing so to a family of five with a dog or special needs visitors.
Blogger and author Mary Hunt also reminds guests to respect their host’s space and the house rules of that space. Don’t arrive with multiple suitcases, clothing that requires numerous hangars, a cooler full of your vegetarian or keto foods, and while visiting, make sure everything you bring stays in the room where you’re staying. And keep that room or space tidy. When you’re not in it, it should look just like when you arrived. You’re not staying in a hotel so don’t treat your friend’s home like one. Housekeeping won’t be dropping by when you leave the room.
As for house rules, well, they rule. If your hosts remove their shoes when they come in, so should you. If they’re non-drinkers, don’t arrive with bottles of wine and bourbon. Pay attention to where they eat and drink. If they drink their morning coffee at the table or in the kitchen, join them there. Be sure any kids you bring with you adhere to rules as well and have them pitch in and lend a hand when it comes to setting the table, washing dishes, or taking out trash. Go over manners, respect, and tidiness and let them know you expect all three from them, which includes everything from television/tablet/music choices to verbal politeness to picking up their clothes.
Arrive knowing that your hosts are just that-your hosts. They are not your tour guides, chauffeurs, or babysitters. Arrange your own transportation prior to arrival and invite them to join you on any activities you have planned. Just don’t expect them to do everything with you unless they choose to. If possible, let them know any plans or reservations you have before arriving so they can schedule joining you beforehand. Be sure to include your kids and any elderly relatives you bring with you on any and all activities and don’t expect your hosts to babysit either unless they offer.
We’ve all heard that saying when it comes to national parks and such, and it kinda applies to being a gracious guest as well. Before departing, remove sheets and pillow cases from beds, fold them, and pile them neatly on the floor along with any towels. Simply throw the comforter over the mattress and prop the pillows up. Wipe down bathrooms and offer to remove trash from your room.
As you take your memories with you, maybe don’t leave footprints but leave behind a kind gesture of your gratefulness. This could be something as simple (and at the very least) a nice thank you note as well as a small candle of their favorite scent, tasteful hand towels, or other small tokens of appreciation. Lastly, always offer to reciprocate them hosting you.
HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST
Your main goal as a host is not to make your guests feel pampered but comfortable. Take time to remove anything that might make them squirm and add things that will encourage them to relax. This might be just letting them settle in casually when they arrive to placing fresh flowers in the room where they’re staying. At the same time, don’t exhaust yourself. Be yourself and let them be themselves. Keep it simple but nice. If you’re stressed they will sense it and in turn feel stressed. Guests don’t expect a perfect house or a perfect host.
Before they arrive, ask them about any allergies…both food and otherwise…and inform them of your schedule. If you have a doctor or hair appointment, yoga or dance class, let them know so they’re aware you’ll be unavailable during those times.
Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette queen Emily Post, suggests setting a specific start and end date for the visit and to consider your guest’s interests when setting up any activities. Just because you like to hike or visit museums doesn’t mean they do. Lastly, take under consideration any little people who will be visiting and order your home accordingly. Put away any precious breakables or possibly dangerous items before your guests arrive.
We’ve all been guests at someone’s house and I’m betting we can all remember one or two homes that stand out and felt like the owners thought of everything. Was the bed dreamy? Were the towels cushy? Did you have everything you needed or forgot? These are the keys to a top notch guest room. I’ve gathered some tried and true guest room tips and ideas here for you and would love your input on anything I’ve forgotten or something that caught your eye and that you appreciated as you guested somewhere.
- Although most guest rooms, mine included, have queen beds, design experts agree that twin beds are guest room perfection. Also if there’s room, have a comfy chair nearby for both sitting and plopping things onto.
- Every guest room (or room you use for guests) needs a reading lamp. Reading glasses, depending on their age, would be a bonus treat, as would a nightlight.
- Provide at least one smart phone charger in case they forgot theirs.
- If the guests don’t have to share a bathroom with anyone else in the house, stock it up with shampoo, shaving cream, lotion, toothpaste, etc. If they share the bathroom, have all these items – perhaps travel sizes – in a basket for them in the guest room.
- A basket filled with bottled water, drinks, and both salty and sweet snacks is also appreciated and can be accompanied by a pretty carafe and glass that they can fill and refill.
- Either show them where towels are stored or bring some out and put them on the guest bed. Be sure to include bath towels, hand towels, and wash cloths.
- Have a pen and paper handy for them.
- As mentioned above, a low-key vase of fresh flowers is a nice touch to any guest room.
- To alleviate both incoming and outgoing smells, have a small candle and matches available and/or a subtle reed diffuser.
- If possible, empty out a dresser drawer and make sure there is space for their clothes in the closet along with plenty of (non-wire) hangars for them to use. A luggage rack or bench for suitcases is also a nice touch.
- For a true luxury hotel experience, provide various robes for guests to use.
- Reading materials – books, magazines, catalogs, etc. – should be stacked or laid out in a way that tells them “it’s okay to read these!”
- If you have Wi-Fi in the house, have the code written down somewhere in the guest room.
- On the Wi-Fi card that I provide our guests is also our address and phone numbers. Should they need to call an Uber or order food delivery for the group, it’s nice for them to have the address close at hand.
- If your guest room has a television, have handy step-by-step instructions for all TV remotes and include a channel guide.
- Provide guests with neighborhood info that includes nearby pharmacies, gas stations, grocery stores, florists, etc. Even though all of this is available on smart phones and computers, guests will appreciate not having to look them up.
- Give your guests a brief tour of your home, pointing out where dishes, snacks, and other items are located.
- Show guests how to use your coffeemaker. Every kind is different and this will allow guests to help themselves to the java.
- Create as comfy a bed as possible. 300-400 count sheets are as high as you need to go, goose down is fluffier than duck when it comes to duvets and pillows, and a fluffy mattress topper will ensure your guests sleep like queens and kings. Think layers too: layers of pillows and layers of sheet/blanket/duvet/folded throw. I personally prefer bamboo or microfiber sheets but 100 percent cotton is popular as well.
- Be sure outlets are available and easily accessible for a multitude of all things electronic. If several are covered by a bed or dresser, provide a multiple outlet converter and extension cord.
- Provide plenty of mirrors for your guests. Full-length mirrors come in all styles and are wonderful additions to any guest room as are magnifying mirrors.
- Two cute ideas on saw on-line for guest rooms are to provide a clear, glass vase of river rocks and a Sharpie for them to sign and date and/or a calendar for them to add their birthday and date of visit to.
In the end, you want your home to be a sanctuary and to make your guests feel at home and at ease. Treat your guests like family and your family like guests, right?
Here’s hoping that the welcome mat is out for wherever you want to go or whoever you want to host. Open your hearts, open your minds, open your eyes, and open your doors.