Having lived in our home state for most of our lives, my husband and I never really gave much thought to preparing for overnight guests. We had a spare bedroom for when someone needed a place to crash after they had too many drinks. Then we moved across the country. Suddenly, we realized that, if we wanted anyone to come visit us, we were going to need to make sure that they had a comfortable place to stay. A flight from one end of the U.S. to the other is expensive enough, we certainly didn’t want anyone to have to pay for a hotel room.
This change also happened after we had our son and I became a stay at home mom. It was the first time in my life where maintaining the home became a priority, and a reflection on my abilities as a wife and mother. After observing my mother’s methods, and hosting a couple of visits myself, I was able to compile a list of tips on how to host overnight guests like a pro.
Think about the nicest hotel you have ever stayed in and what made that experience so special. More than likely, it wasn’t just that the room looked nice, but that they had thought of every little thing. It’s all in the details and, when you are thoughtful enough to offer these amenities in your home, it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.
How to Host Overnight Guests Like a Pro
Before you even get started, thoroughly clean your home. Pay special attention to the areas where your guests will be spending the most time. Are the guest bedroom floors clean enough to walk on in bare feet? Did you dust the night stands and lamp shades? For me, this isn’t even just about the guests. It gives me a sense of pride that I am able to offer a clean and comfortable place to stay.
Need to deep clean your entire house? Check out this article (with a FREE cleaning checklist): 10 Steps to Deep Clean Your Home
Making Up the Guest Room
Whether your guests will be staying in a guest room, or on a pull out sofa, you can still make their area presentable. Wash all the bedding before they arrive, even if no one has slept in the bed. Sheets can start to smell stale after a while and freshly washed linens are definitely noticeable.
Once the bedding is clean, promptly make the bed like you have never made a bed before. Tuck those corners in, smooth out all the wrinkles, and make it look just like a hotel bed. Fluff the pillows before you put them on and make sure that there are enough pillows to suit the needs of your guests (typically no less than 2 per person).
If you have decorative pillows, make sure there is a place for the guests to put them when they go to bed. Personally, I don’t like to put more that one statement pillow on a guest bed. No one wants to spend 15 minutes un-making the bed before they can get in. If it’s winter time, fold a thick blanket at place it at the foot of the bed as well. Most of our family lives on the west coast, so these east coast temperatures are a bit of a shock, particularly at night.
Don’t forget to set out some fresh towels and wash cloths, whether it be in the bathroom or the guest room, along with a designated place to hang the them after showering. If the location isn’t obvious, make sure to tell your guests where to find them. The goal is to give them us much independence as possible. Being a good host doesn’t mean that you need to wait on your guests hand and foot, it means that they have everything that they need so that you don’t have to.
Tip: If you really want to impress your guests, put a mint on each pillow, just like many popular hotels do. It may seem cheesy, but I assure you, they will think it is great.
Accommodate Their “Stuff”
What’s the one thing every overnight guest brings with them? Clothes! You need to make sure that your guests have a place to unpack and settle in. No one wants to live out of a suitcase for a week. Make some room in the closet and leave plenty of empty hangers. Clear a drawer or two in the dresser. Place a laundry hamper somewhere in the room that they can use and a laundry basket if they intend to wash any laundry during their stay. If it’s the winter, set aside room in the coat closet and space for their winter boots when they walk in the door. Aside from clothing, leave space for the other items they bring. Perhaps a small basket for your mother-in-law to put her makeup in would make getting ready in the morning more pleasant.
Additionally, you will want to consider the items they didn’t bring. Whether they forgot, or simply expected something would be provided upon their arrival, there are a few items that are always good to have on hand. I like to keep a small basket of toiletries available at all times. This can include shampoo and conditioner, body wash, lotion, a couple of spare toothbrushes and toothpaste, and any other items that might come in handy.
Tip: This is a great place to go above and beyond. Try including a shower loofah, some travel size salon quality hair styling products, or a luxury bath item.
Before my guests arrive, I try to bake at least one delicious treat. You don’t have to be a top chef to do this. For example, one of my favorite cookie recipes is seriously one of the easiest things I have ever made – and they are always a hit! All you have to do is mix one cup pf peanut butter, one cup of sugar and one egg. Then you separate it into 12 round balls, spaced evenly on a cookie sheet. Push it down slightly with a fork to make a criss-cross pattern on the top of each cookie, and then bake them at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. They make the house smell amazing too!
Don’t forget to include some goodies in the guest room. This can be a treat that you know your guests love, such as candy or a salty snack. It’s also a good idea to include a few water bottles in case they get thirsty in the middle of the night. There’s nothing worse than trying to make your way around someone else’s kitchen in the dark, hoping they don’t wake to find you snooping around.
Entertainment and Electronics
Depending on the nature of the visit, you may want to set up a TV in the guest area, along with any pertinent information on how to operate it (channel list, general remote instructions, etc.). It’s also a nice gesture to write down your WiFi password and leave it somewhere obvious for your guests. They may not even think to login to your WiFi until after you have parted ways for the evening, at which point, they may not feel comfortable knocking on your bedroom door to get the password.
Another key item that is often forgotten, is the good old alarm clock. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. In fact, anything too fancy might lead to confusion on how to set an alarm, rendering it useless. Just make sure that your guests have a way to see what time it is and set an alarm for the morning.
Provide Necessary Information
Do you have a short window of time in the morning when you absolutely need the bathroom to yourself to get ready? Does your husband get ready at the same time every day for work? In our household, which has only one bathroom, the morning schedule is pretty rigid. If I don’t get my shower in before my son wakes up, I might as well give up on showering for the day. My husband isn’t one for getting up any earlier than he has to, so if someone is in the bathroom when he needs to get ready, he will most certainly be late for work. Make sure your guests know your schedule, not only for your benefit, but to prevent any embarrassment on their end.
If you think there’s a chance that your guests will be early risers, it may be wise to give them a quick run down of where things are should they want to start their day before you are there to help out. Show them where the coffee mugs are, where they can find breakfast options, or how to use the remote to turn on the morning news.
Plan Meals and Activities
While you don’t want to dictate your guests’ every move, it is helpful to have a general outline planned out for the meals and activities during their stay. You can still ask them each day what they would like to do, or if they have any particular meals they would like, but having something pre-planned also allows you to take the lead if they don’t have any strong opinions. I like to plan out one or two special dinners, where I make it known that the meal is already selected on those nights. For the remaining meals, I try to have a few options that are quick and easy to throw together if an alternative option, such as going out to eat, doesn’t come up first.
Another great prepare-ahead option is to have breakfast dishes ready to go. Bake a loaf of banana bread before they arrive, or cut up some fresh fruit. Breakfast casseroles are also excellent for re-heating and should last a couple of days.
In addition to creating a loose plan, try to prep in whatever way that you can. If you do have a couple of elaborate meals planned, complete all the prep in advance (chopping vegetables, separating out ingredients, etc.). Is there a chance that you may be going to the beach one day? Go ahead and pack up a bag of beach towels and other items you might need.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from both being an overnight guest and hosting them, it’s that most guests don’t want to have to put too much thought into anything. Sure, if they think of something they want to do, they expect you to accommodate if you can, but it’s not fair to place the responsibility of the entire agenda on their plate. By following these tips, you can provide your guests with the perfect balance of independence and relaxation they need.
Do YOU do anything special for your overnight guests? Let me know in the comments below!