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20 tips for handling holiday houseguests

Guest bedroom bed
Photo credit: ake1150/Getty Images

The holidays often bring houseguests, and if you’re hosting a few people for Thanksgiving or Christmas, then you may wonder how to properly prepare your home for such a stay.

Before you start to worry you will miss something important, check out the tips below. With just a few simple touches, you can turn your house into your guest’s home.

The guest room

Your guests will have a designated sleeping space, whether it’s an actual guest room or an air mattress in the living room. Here are a few tips to welcome them to their room.

1. Clean bedding. This may go without saying, but it’s imperative that you freshly launder the bedding before your guest’s arrival — even if it’s a guest bed nobody has touched for a year. There is nothing quite like slipping into fresh, clean sheets at the end of a long day, especially for someone who has been traveling.

2. Extra pillows: Some people like them fat and fluffy, others prefer pillows to be barely there. Have a few different extra bed pillows (and pillowcases) available so your guests don’t have to roll up their sweaters to get the right kind of head and neck support when they sleep.

3. Leave out extra blankets and/or a small fan. Everyone has their own perfect sleeping temperature. If your guest gets too cold or too warm, they can add blankets or turn on a fan.

4. Give them space to unpack. Even if your guests are only staying a short time, they will probably appreciate having a place to hang up some of their holiday clothing (meaning some empty closet space with a few hangers), or to be able to put a few things away in drawers so they’re not living directly out of their suitcases.

5. Mind your pets. Not everyone is fond of dogs and cats, and even those who love pets may not be wild about your pets having access to their sleeping space. Before they arrive, thoroughly sweep or vacuum the floor and keep the door shut — and after your guests have settled in, keep your pets out. (Also find out about some hidden holiday dangers to your pets.)

6. Add a lamp. A lamp by the bed makes going to bed far easier (who wants to turn off the wall switch and navigate to a bed, in a strange room, in the dark?).

7. Offer WiFi access. Jot your WiFi password on a small piece of paper and leave in an obvious spot.

8. Add a power strip. Your guests may need to charge up their phones. Don’t force them to choose between a bedside lamp and a charged phone.

9. Something to read? Leave out some books and current magazines if they want to read and relax. (This is especially true for older family members, who might not enjoy reading on a smartphone.)

10. Have tissues handy. Just like a in a hospital or hotel, tissues are a welcome touch.

11. Provide a waste basket. Tuck a small trash can in a corner of the guest room. Where else will your guess toss their used tissues?

12. Leave a flashlight. If you leave a small flashlight in a side table drawer or on the nightstand, your guest will feel more comfortable getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. (Nightlights are another option, but some people can’t sleep well with them.)

The food

While many houseguests will insist you not go out of your way to feed them, many hosts enjoy preparing food for their family or friends. These tips can help.

13. Special diets. If you’re planning to feed your guests, ask them about special diets well in advance of their arrival date. Food allergies, celiac disease and other medical conditions require special attention, and adhering to food preferences (is your guest vegetarian?) will help them feel welcome.

14. Snacks. Even if you’re not preparing actual meals for your guests, set out a basket of fruit and other snacks the kitchen or common area, and let them know they’re welcome to partake.

15. Drinks. Keep bottled water, juice or soda in the fridge, and let your guests know they can help themselves.

The bathroom

If you have a separate bathroom, it’s easy to set it up just for your guests. If you don’t, you can still help them feel at home with a few special touches.

16. Test the equipment. If your guest bathroom doesn’t get a lot of use, make sure the sink, toilet and shower are up and running before your guests’ arrival. Let them know about any little quirks. For example, if the toilet handle needs a little help to flush properly, tape a note near the handle so you don’t leave anyone in an awkward situation.

17. Toiletries: Keep brand-new toiletries on hand on the chance your guests under-packed. Wrapped toothbrushes and travel-size soaps, shampoo/conditioner, lotions, floss or floss sticks and toothpaste are the basics. Put them on the bathroom counter inside a cute basket.

18. Clean towels. Just like clean bedding, clean towels (including hand towels) and washcloths are imperative for your guests.

19. Extra supplies: Don’t forget to stash a few extra rolls of toilet paper, and tell your guests where they are, or leave them in easy reach of the toilet.

20. Air freshener: Sometimes, guests don’t want the household to smell their bathroom visits. A small air freshener spray on top of the tank should do the trick.

Our home is your home

It can be stressful having guests stay at your home. Also, guests can feel they’re imposing a bit on your space or your family. Provide them with a warm welcome, add a few homey touches to the areas they’re staying in, and give them space — and you’ll be remembered as a kind and generous host.

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