One of the perks of living in a major European city is all of the friends and family who come and visit us. Over the last nearly two years, we’ve caught up with friends and family from literally all over the world. As a result, I’ve figured out some things on how to make our guests feel welcome, especially when they travel here from so far away. Today I’m sharing five tips on how to make hosting house guests a breeze. Make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom for a helpful infographic with all five tips!
Tip #1: Create a Welcoming Space
When weary traveling house guests arrive, it’s important to have a calm space for them to relax. Whether it’s a guest room or just a temporary set up somewhere in your house, make sure you have a defined area that guests can enjoy a little privacy. I use white linens on our guest bed and I always have an extra set on hand. An extra throw blanket, white guest towels and a cool, serene color palette all help create a place that’s inviting.
The day before guests arrive, I get ready by washing all linens and re-making the bed to take out any creases and release any dust that might have gathered since our last guest. I also do a wipe down of our picture ledges and desk and refill a reed diffuser with a soft, clean linen scent.
Step 2: Set Out Some Simple Snacks
We actually have so many visitors to London that I keep a separate Google calendar that I “share” with friends and family as soon as they express an interest in coming to visit! It’s the easiest way to let people see in an instant whether we’re traveling (and therefore not able to host) or if someone else has already “booked” a slot during their anticipated travel dates.
As soon as someone has booked their plane or train ticket to come to London, I send them a “Welcome to London” e-mail with our address, UK phone numbers and easiest way to travel to our house from their arrival airport or train station. I check the itinerary to see our guests’ arrival time, and then I plan a simple spread of snacks to have on hand when they arrive. Most of our friends arrive in the morning, and I like to either do a bagel spread with smoked salmon from our local deli or a “Turkish” style breakfast with tomatoes, cucumbers, crumbled feta, olives, and baguettes (see above). After a long flight, I’ve noticed that friends rarely want to eat a heavy meal after a full night (or half-night) of travel, so a light spread is just enough to make everyone happy before nap time (or hitting the city).
Step 3: Be a Tour Guide (or Have Plenty on Hand)!
Our first guests came to visit us just six weeks after we moved to London, before we’d even had a chance to really settle into our apartment. As a result, I stocked up on all sorts of tour guides of London. One of my favorite London guides is Tired of London, Tired of Life, which lays out one thing to do each day in London. It’s a great way to catch things by season (for example, Burns Night in the fall to celebrate all things Scottish, especially the poet Robert Burns). I also love the Michelin Guide to Eating Out in Pubs, a comprehensive review book of all the cozy, delicious pubs in the UK.
If you live in a place without volumes of guide books readily available, check out your local visitor’s bureau or chamber of commerce, which may publish or collect local brochures, maps and guides of your local area. Alternatively, AAA often has information (free for members) on all 50 states in the U.S. Your guests will appreciate doing some “impromptu” planning in the evenings or during down times while at your home, and these guides are all helpful in sparking ideas on places to visit.
Step 4: Stock Up on the Essentials
Little things go a long way and don’t cost much. It’s good to have extra toothbrushes, toiletries, charging cables, converter plugs (if necessary), hand sanitizer, tissues, headphones and scissors (for cutting open obnoxious packaging around those souvenirs your guests are bound to collect). Reading lamps (like the clip on ones pictured above) are also nice to have on hand for jet-lagged night owls.
If you really want to go the extra mile, stock up on bus passes or other local transportation tickets to help your guests get around until they can figure things out on their own. Guests who don’t want to impose might not ask for these things outright, but you’ll save them precious time. Instead of making a late-night run to the pharmacy, they’ll have more time for sightseeing or taking in an afternoon tea.
5. Add Personal Touches
To maximize an otherwise very plain wall, I installed some IKEA MOSSLANDA picture ledges and framed some prints of places that have special meaning to us. In between those prints, I added some screen prints that the kids recently made for a school art project. Taken together, our art gallery is a great way to spark conversation with our house guests about the places we’ve been. I’d like to think these personal touches make staying with us over a hotel extra-special (besides, of course, not costing an arm and a leg)!
What do you think about these five tips for hosting house guests? What do you do to make your house guests feel at home?