Unfortunately, it’s hard to know who’s who until they’re under your roof. Obviously you’re under the assumption they’re not going to be horrible, or you wouldn’t have invited them, am I right?
Or then again, maybe they’re the “of course you’ll let me crash with you” type who somehow manage to magically invite themselves over, and next thing you know, you’re stuck as an unwitting host for their 11-day stay in your wonderful town. Because lord knows that never happens, hmm?
Let’s talk then about how to seem like a wonderfully gracious host while also protecting yourself against the Unknown Houseguest Variable.
Guest-proof your house
I know it’s somewhat cynical to suggest you hide stuff or remove things in advance, but those who’ve been burned by bad houseguests will tell you not to tempt fate. You just never know!
On the lower end of the threshold, you have to protect yourself from inadvertent munchies and taste-thievery. Those beloved snacks your childhood friend brought back from his mom’s place in Omaha, hide those. Last thing you need is a sleepy, hungry, possibly-freeloading guest rummaging through your cupboards and eating Omaha-Mama’s Yum-Yums.
Same thing goes with that craft whiskey, the single-malt, and any other alcohol you pride yourself on collecting. Keep the budget stuff out, put the good stuff away. If they prove to be a good guest, you can always bring out the top-shelf bottles by choice. After all, you wouldn’t be the first person to discover a friend is apparently a closet alcoholic, like my friend whose collection of rare gin became an alcoholic vanishing trick when a needy writer pal crashed at his place.
If you feel you need to secure valuables, then don’t let me stop you. If you’re rethinking your home insurance values, then perhaps houseguest-hosting is not for you.
Give them a great clean space
Protecting yourself doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also roll out the welcome mat so it’s a great visit with your friends/family. I say go to town and make sure they feel comfortable. Do your preparations before they arrive, so they don’t feel like they’re putting you out.
Give them clean, fresh bedding. You may not care about pet hair on your bed, but allergies aren’t opt-out just because the hosts mean well. As a reward for your efforts, you’ll not have to deal with a red-eyed, sneezy, whiny, congested guest. Same goes for vacuuming/sweeping/dusting on the day of or day before their arrival. Many guests will appreciate it.
Provide comfort items and necessities
Obviously bed linens matter, but so do things like towels, face cloths, a glass for water, and seemingly obvious items like curtains on the windows. Go figure. If they’re planning to keep busy, it might be nice to have an alarm clock in the room. Ask if they’re covered for toiletries and hygiene products, since they’re easy to forget. If you’re super-duper-nice, do like I do and keep some spare toothbrushes around, just in case.
If you’re converting an extra room for guests to stay in and you’re expecting them regularly, consider dropping by a tourist information center and getting pamphlets and maps guests can refer to during their travels.
It’s also really considerate to know what buses are available, how they can get ‘em to the big tourist centers, and what they can expect from those commutes.
Set limits before they come
There’s no reason you should be expected to be a host and entertainer every day. That’s completely unrealistic. To put it bluntly, it should be their holiday, not your burden. If you provide them with local information, security info and keys to your home, and so forth, you’ll help them to explore on their own.
Let them know before they come that you’ve got your vacations planned already, so there’s only so much time you can spend with them. Ask if you can pre-arrange to spend some time with them at their convenience, but make sure they know you’re happy to have them use your home as a travel headquarters, that they can come and go as they please, within reason. For your average houseguest, this will be all they’re hoping for.
If you have a spare TV for their room, or WiFi, they’re feel they’ve got a space to retreat to so you’re not forced to share the living room 24/7.
As someone who’s become a frequent houseguest, I’ll tell you some people feed us, some people don’t. If you’re not within a block of stores, you should be ensuring there’s some snack-worthy foods around, at least for days one and two of your visitor’s stay. I’ve been left to fend for myself with some hosts who had a grocery store next door, and smothered with treats of all kinds by others. There’s no rule saying you have to feed guests, but it won’t go unappreciated.
If you’re planning to feed them, at least inquire as to dietary preferences or restrictions so you know you’ll have “safe” foods.
Give them a tour of your place, including the kitchen cupboards, to let them know what’s where, and answer their questions while letting them know what you’d prefer they not touch.
Great guests pay off
Like most things in life, a policy of “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” is unlikely to steer you wrong. If you’ve laid out a nice welcome for your guests, given them everything they need, and extended your generosity, you’re more likely to have good, fun, gracious guests than you are ungrateful, but there’s no accounting for some folk.
With any luck, your guests will bring you wine, cook you dinner, entertain you, or show their appreciation some other way. After all, it’s generally a kindness that is reciprocated.
With proper preparation, you can enjoy a great visit from friends or family, and catch up with them while not getting too caught up in entertaining them. With great hospitality, you’ll enjoy your guests while encouraging their independence too.