Depending on where you live and your proximity to a popular summer travel destination (the Grand Canyon? Disney World? New York City?) you may find yourself deep in houseguest season. I don’t live in a particularly touristy city, but I host houseguests frequently, and I think it’s part of the fun of having a house with room to share. In fact, in just a few weeks my husband’s brother and sister-in-law will be piling in with their three kids for a sleepover.
If you’re expecting a guest (or two, or five!), here are a few little ways I prep for them. All are small, and most help me as much as they help my guests!
In the Kitchen
First, let’s talk food, because what’s more important than feeding your guests?
1. Give your guests a meal game plan.
Houseguests come in all different flavors: there are the weekend family reunions, with every meal eaten together; there are the friends just using your place as a crash pad for a city visit; there are visits with little kids, and hence meal times are preset in granite; there are visits where your in-laws prefer to take you out to swanky restaurants every night. (Those are nice.)
I find it helpful and soothing to figure out what kind of meals a set of houseguests needs, and even to send an email ahead of time letting people know what to expect. It can be as simple as, “Hey, let’s plan on going out the first night you’re here, and I’ll handle dinner the other nights, plus some grab-and-go breakfasts. Lunches are on your own — we’ll give you lots of cafe recommendations for your days out!”
And of course, if you’re planning a big get-together with several families or groups, make a meal plan for who cooks when and let everyone sign up.
Just having a general set of expectations set in advance is helpful, and it helps me plan and shop.
2. Ask ahead about food allergies and preferences.
This is a fairly obvious to-do, but it’s worth mentioning! If you’re feeding several meals to guests, ask about allergies. And it’s also extra-hospitable, I think, to say something like, “Hey, we’ll have some breakfast things around — is there anything you really love to eat for breakfast?”
3. Delegate the coffee, depending on rising times.
Now let’s turn to the things that look and feel hospitable, but are really more for me than for the guests! If you have promised coffee to your guests (and I would argue that tea or coffee first thing in the morning is a non-negotiable aspect of hospitality) then set up your coffee and tea station in the kitchen and let your guests know how to get it going.
This allows for a variety of rising times and means that I (or, let’s be real here, my husband) won’t have to bolt out of bed first thing to make coffee for our virtuous early riser friend. Instead we say, “Here’s the French press and the kettle — you know how to use it!” Or, when we have a larger group, we haul out our monster drip coffee maker and set the timer for the earliest riser’s schedule.
4. Make a breakfast and some snacks ahead.
If I am handling breakfast, I always make something ahead — whether it’s just oatmeal, or some muffins, or a casserole. Sometimes I pull out all the stops and make cinnamon rolls. Again, this keeps it simple in the morning. Sometimes I also make one special snack, like a dip and some crackers, to pull out during afternoon activities.
5. Set out breakfast bowls, spoons, and other accessories.
Last but not least, I always set out breakfast bowls, spoons, and mugs the night before, so if guests rise earlier than we do they don’t have to go digging through the cupboards.
In Other Parts of the Home
But the kitchen isn’t the only location of hospitality. Here are a few more things I do. None take a lot of time or money, but people always seem to appreciate them.
6. Keep the wifi password prominently displayed.
The ultimate essential of modern hospitality? Internet access. We write our internet network name and password on old business cards of my husband’s and place them in the guest room. You could also tack one on the fridge for easy access.
7. Add a power strip under the bed.
Take a note from the thing hotels never seem to do, and give your guests easy access to power. Besides the total basics (clean sheets, a reading light by the bed), I find a power strip to be really helpful, especially in older homes like ours where the outlets are hard to find or not grounded. I always point out the power strip so people know there’s a spot to plug in all their devices.
8. Put some water by the bed.
I also place a carafe of water by the bed, with a glass or two. It’s a tiny touch, but one that always feels super grownup and classy — especially in the summertime when we’re always thirsty.
9. Keep all the bathroom amenities on hand.
If you have a spare bathroom for guests, as we do (our New York friends call this luxurious setup a Midwest hotel), then make sure it’s all prepped. Clean towels are a must, of course, but think what else people might need. I keep spare bottles of Trader Joe’s shampoo and conditioner in the shower, and face wipes and a hair dryer by the sink.
10. Set out flowers anywhere you can.
The last little touch for guests — fresh flowers. They’re a luxury, but you don’t have to actually spend anything on them. I have a couple teeny bottles saved, and I like to put a sprig of herbs or flowers from the yard — any pretty weed will do — and set it by the guest room bed.
What else do you do for overnight houseguests? Is there anything that makes your life a little easier, especially when guests are staying for a few days or more?