WHEW! I just had a spate of overnight guests this summer, so I've been thinking about the art of hosting people from out-of-town. Each guest was different and the revolving door presented different joys and challenges. We hosted many kinds of relationships for overnight stays - from intimate to casual. Thinking ahead on this type of hospitality helps to smooth the waters and make the stay more fun for everyone. Otherwise, you are left exhausted!
Deanna Miller wrote on this topic on Nov 3, 06, entitled “Entertaining Out of Towner's” and it was a good write up. I would add these tips:
Provide a spare house key on fun LARGE keyring, so it is more likely to get returned instead of going with your guest back to Seattle! Or, have a place where the key is hidden.
Various amenities that make your guest comfortable:
Fan / space heater so they can “tune” the room
Bedside lamp/ night light
Free drawer space
Ironing board / iron
Hamper / laundry bag
Travel size non-scented liquid soap (hypoallergenic)
Guest water bottles
Extra toilet paper – easily located
Basket with snacks & paper napkins
ALMOST MORE IMPORTANT: from an interpersonal standpoint, here are some ways to make the visits more pleasurable:
Leave a welcome note on their pillow.
A handwritten note, mentioning something specific about how you look forward to their visit with you is sure to start your visit right.
Share your itinerary.
Guests may be with you for a myriad of reasons- from purely visiting you, having job interviews, professional conferences, or attending weddings, and so forth. If you, as the host, have scheduled appointments during their visit, tell your guests in advance (you may choose to invite them along.) Ask if they have schedules as well. If you can use a calendar posted in a common area during the visit, this may help with traffic in your home. If you have meals at certain times and want to include your guest, make sure this is clear.
Creature comforts- food.
If you can, extend free grazing to your guests, it will help them feel more comfortable. Give them an orientation to your pantry and fridge. If there are particular items that are off-limits either store them elsewhere, mark them or state clearly that the items are reserved for something special. A guest who eats all the strawberries will be embarrassed when they were to be a feature of tomorrow morning's breakfast! Ask if your guest has any special requirements, and try to provide options if you can.
You may choose to invite them out to dinner at a restaurant, or they may invite you. By convention, it is always the one inviting who pays. A polite protest can be met with the assurance that "You are our guest for dinner."
Creature comforts - pets.
Make sure your guests know it if you have pets. If they are allergic or have phobias, give them a graceful out to make other arrangements. If guests do not care for your animals, etiquette does not require you to exile important members of your household, but you can try to strike a reasonable compromise. Discussing what pets you have and their normal involvement in your lifestyle ahead of time should handle many of these issues.
The phone, TV, video games and the computer.
Figure out what your comfortable with and notify guests up front about what they can use, how much, and under what conditions. Many guests come with phones and laptops, but think about your items and how hospitable you can or cannot be with them. Providing tourist literature for your town and maps in a basket in their room might keep their Internet requirements at a more reasonable level.
Creature comforts- privacy and bedtime.
Some of us are early-to-bed types or are light sleepers. It is fully within your prerogative as a host to mention ahead of time that you have “quiet hours” in your home. You may ask guests to switch to low-key activities after a certain hour to respect the rhythm of your home.
You may want to provide your guest a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign. You may want one for your door too! Just be sure to let your guest know that if they need you that they can wake you.
Your kids, their kids, our kids!
Depending on the age and temperment of the kids, this potentially adds a dynamic that is only for the sophisticated. Many people find this too complex to manage, and if you are one - it is within your rights to give them a graceful out to make other arrangements.
You do not want to scold or babysit your visitor's kids. All of these types of communications are best discussed with the adults and the parent of the child should take responibility and "the lead." Make sure children are briefed on house rules (no running, jumping, or screaming; where snacking is allowed; what's off-limits; when quiet hours/bedtime is) as you give a rundown of what fun things there are to do. If something will upset you if it gets broken - best to put it away safely during the visit.
At best, you can have a slumber party-like atmosphere for the kids, and it will be fun for them.
One thing about hosting people in this way- it has potential for building lasting memories of an intimate nature, memories that cannot come from hotel stays. People are knit into your life in a meaningful and significant way that is uniquely YOU, because it is sharing in a most personal way.