Feature

How to be a great host — for Thanksgiving or any other occasion

Do your guests a solid and be prepared

If you have ever had a bad experience as a weekend guest, you know just how awful it can be. Dog hair in the sheets, bare windows, nothing for dinner, missed rides at the airport — I have experienced all of these and more...thankfully not at the same time.

When you have friends or relatives coming to stay from out of town, make their visit a pleasure by thinking ahead and offering the same courtesies you would like to be shown. Elaborate fruit baskets and floral arrangements are not necessary, just a bit of common sense and good planning. The following 13 steps will walk you through what you need to know to make your next hosting experience a great one for everyone.

1. Check off guest room essentials. You don't need to be outfitted like a four-star hotel, but certain basics should be in place to make your visitor comfortable. It's amazing how easy it is to forget something fundamental (like curtains!), so peruse the lists below before your guests arrive.

The essentials: fresh sheets and blankets on the bed, coverings on the windows, a working light, bath towels, a wastebasket, an extra blanket and a cleared shelf or drawer.

(More from Houzz: Make your checklist for entertaining season)

Bonus items: A fan, clock, snacks, mini toiletries, and a surge protector for charging devices.

Image removed.Traditional Bedroom by Philadelphia Media & Bloggers Sara Bates

2. Double check dates. Again, so simple, but...just do it. Miscommunication about when your guests are arriving or leaving can start their visit off on the wrong foot. If you are picking them up at the airport or train station, make sure you have all of their travel info, and agree on a place to meet.

3. Ask ahead of time about key issues. If your guests have food allergies or follow a specific diet, knowing in advance will give you time to prepare. If you are not sure what to get, ask them to list a few favorite foods that you can pick up before they arrive. That said, don't drive yourself nuts tracking down esoteric ingredients you would never normally buy. The important thing is to make an effort and have something in the fridge your guests can eat.

If your guests have kids, it is kind to see if they would like you to track down any baby gear to borrow for their stay, and ask about any favorite foods to have on hand for the little ones.

4. Let your guests know what you have planned. If you have activities in mind, be sure to tell your guests in advance so they can pack appropriately. This would also be a good time to check in and see if there is anything they would like to do or see while they are in town.

5. Save your best parking spot. If parking in your neighborhood is limited, be sure to reserve your off-street spot for your guests, if they are driving. Go out ahead of time and track down an elusive street spot if you need to — just don't make your guests spend their first hour at your place looking for a spot.

Image removed.Traditional Exterior by San Francisco Architects & Building Designers Gast Architects

(More from Houzz: Browse thousands of photos for guest bedroom inspiration)

6. Offer a warm welcome. Even if a guest is coming in on a late-night flight, providing a cozy, well-lit space to come home to is the least you can do. Make sure lamps are turned on, candles are lit, and a place for plopping down and relaxing is at the ready.

7. Offer a snack and beverage. Again, this advice applies no matter the time of day or night. Traveling makes you hungry! Folks traveling from a different time zone may be feeling way off — a pot of hot water for tea or coffee, plus a selection of chilled wine and beer and a few little nibbles, should cover all the bases.

8. Show them to their room and help carry bags. Bring your guests to their room and give a little tour of the space. Point out where the extra blankets and pillows are kept, which shelf or drawer they can use to put their things, and where extra toiletries are in case they have forgotten something.

9. Explain any of your home's quirks before they need to ask! After living in your place for years, you may have forgotten how difficult it was to work the shower that first time or flush the toilet so it doesn't run all night — save your guests the agony and show them clearly how everything works.

Image removed.Eclectic Bathroom by Vancouver Photographers Megan Buchanan

10. Take extra care if your guests will be sleeping in the living room. There is nothing wrong with having guests sleep over in your living room, den, or office — just so long as you make them comfortable there. Help set up their bed in the evening, show them where they can change and stow their stuff, and let them know what time you typically wake up, so they won't be surprised. Just as in a guest room, make sure that all of the essentials are at hand (see step number one for a list), including windows with shades.

Image removed.Contemporary Living Room by Los Angeles Interior Designers & Decorators Tess Bethune Interiors

11. Empower guests to help themselves. Guests can feel awkward having to ask every time they need something. Make things easier — on you and them — by giving a little self-help tour early on in their stay.

(More from Houzz: Find cozy new bedding for your guest suite)

At the minimum show your guest where the coffee- and tea-making supplies, snacks, drinks, and dishes are kept. Show them where your garbage and recycling cans are, and where to put what. If they will be staying longer, provide a small laundry basket and show them how to work things in the laundry room.

12. Make guests feel like a part of the household...to a point. Asking your guest to wash salad greens, chop veggies, or dry dishes can help make them feel included and useful. Taking out the trash, scrubbing greasy pans, and other dirty jobs are best left to family members.

13. Allow for downtime. Cushion your scheduled events and outings with unplanned time so that everyone has a chance to relax. Be open to suggestions from your guests, but don't panic if there is a morning or afternoon spent just hanging out at home; we all need a break once in a while!

Image removed.Contemporary Kitchen by Lawrence Architecture

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