*This article has been updated 2017
This houseguest thing works both ways. There are terrific and terrible houseguests. There are also gracious and horrendous hosts. We feel equal time is due to both groups.
We’ve already written the article about great guest rooms, and an article about being a good guest, now we’re putting pressure on the hosts. Here are the best tips we found on being good hosts and giving your guests a good time.
Preparation: Do a thorough cleaning of your house, especially cleaning up the clutter. Stock up on toilet paper, Kleenex, soap, and the foods and drinks you know your guest likes. Ask about any food allergies or special diets. Leave the password to your Wi-Fi in their guest room.
Email your guest your address and directions to your house. Include any special instructions on getting into your house if you can’t be there when they arrive. If there are any special events or activities, let your guest know for packing purposes.
Try to do most of your cooking ahead of time. You want to be able to spend time with your guests, not be slaving away in the kitchen. It makes guests feel guilty if their host has to work so hard to feed them.
Once the guests arrive, show them around and explain any quirks of the house, especially in their room and bathroom. Urge them to help themselves, and show them where things are in the kitchen, and where you keep extra supplies like toilet paper and Kleenex. Show them how to work the coffee machine.
I recently read an article about being an ‘empathic’ host. I felt the author went overboard with suggestions of taping shows your guest would love, and leaving articles clipped from magazines the host knew would interest their guest. I feel that puts pressure on the guest to do their homework and watch the shows, but that’s just one gal’s opinion.
What I took from ‘empathic’ hosting is giving your guest what they seem to need and not imposing your expectations on them. This requires an element of honesty between guest and host and flexibility on the part of the host. For example, suppose you’ve researched a bunch of possible activities, but a guest arrives and announces that he/she is exhausted and is really looking forward to a restful weekend. No matter how much you were looking forward to a playmate, it’s not about you. The kind and gracious thing to do is to give your guest what he/she needs.
Hosting is walking a fine line between keeping your guest entertained and cared for but allowing them some alone time and independence. You should help them with getting to and from your house. Directions, car services, picking them up yourself, all that is very helpful. Adhering a bit to your schedule, but not making them feel ignored is a tightrope. Alert them to any commitments you must keep, and suggest things they might do in that time on their own.
I am a nut for party favors, so I like to leave something in their room for them that is particular to where you live. We have a house in Maine with a jam-lady who lives down the street. I like to have a jar of her Wild Blueberry Jam in the guest room as a take-home present to remember their Maine visit.
I am so excited when my friends visit and I hope I convey that. I am often told that I make entertaining seem easy, but if you plan ahead, and really enjoy your guests like I do, it really IS easy!
My advice would be that if having guests to stay is not fun for you, avoid it, because you will communicate that feeling to your guests. There are creative ways of having your friends visit that is fun for everyone. Suggest a B & B near you for them to stay, and then plan fun meals out and activities to share with them.