How to be the Host(ess) with the most(est).

January 26, 2010

DH and I do a lot of travelling.  Sometimes we stay at resorts or hotels and sometimes we stay with friends and family.  My preference, when possible, is to stay in a hotel, but sometimes that just isn’t possible or fiscally feasible (looking at you European cities).  This past weekend we spent some time with a couple DH knows and it was, well, less than a stellar experience from the accomodation point of view.

I am a moderately high maintenance guest.  I freely admit this.  I am too old to sleep on a futon/sofa bed (unless we’re staying in New York City or various European cities where I suck it up rather than pay through the nose for a room I will just be sleeping in) and I prefer to stay in a dedicated guest room if at all possible.  But I also get that not every person has a room they can set aside just for guests.  You take the good with the bad when it comes to free accomodation.

I do believe though, that there are unwritten rules for being a good guest.  Good guests don’t drain the hot water tank when showering.  They also don’t eat the host out of house and home.  Nor do they make countless long distance phone calls, expect to be picked up/dropped off at the airport or demand that the host take time off work to entertain them.  A good guest will try to minimize their impact on their hosts’  life (super crucial if the hosts have kids).  Good guests will try to be fairly quiet at night and not stumble drunkenly into the house when everyone is asleep (unless the hosts are out and about with them).  It’s also in poor taste for guests to leave their crap strewn about the house.  And let’s face it, it’s always polite to say that everything tastes delicious and that they slept well.  Good guests also bring small gifts (wine, fancy preserves, flowers, whatever) or take their hosts out to dinner to show their thanks for being put up for the night(s).

But just as there are unwritten rules for being a good guest, there are also unwritten rules for being a good host.  I once read, probably in Martha Stewart Living, that you should sleep (or spend a good chunk of a day) in your guest room and/or guest bath.  Afterall, if you’re not comfortable in there, how can you expect your guests to be?  Now Martha often goes over the top with, well, everything.  But I agree with her on this point.  Your guest area needs to be given a once over every once in a while.  Guests may not complain to your but why give them anything to complain about at all?

A good host will ensure that the house temperature is not just slightly above freezing.  And if, for whatever reason, the temperature can’t be changed, a good host will provide extra blankets when watching tv or going to sleep.  Slippers are a nice touch too if you don’t have wall-to-wall carpet.  I totally get that not everyone has the financial ability to have a top-of-the-line bed in the guest room but decent pillows are inexpensive and the pillow that is doing an excellent imitation of a pancake isn’t going to cut it.  Stop being a cheap ass and go to Walmart/Zellers/Target and pick up a four pack for $20.  Your guests’ necks and backs will thank you.

It’s classy to provide not only an alarm clock but also a glass for water.  You probably don’t have time to play wake up call operator if you are working and your guests may need to get up earlier than you do on occasion.  Plus, in a strange house in the dark hours of the early morning the last thing you want your guests to do is to be wandering around looking for a drink and a glass to put it in.  If your guests are staying more than a night you might also want to clear out a drawer or two or provide some space in the closet for them to hang their clothes.  At the very least, put a chair in the room for guests to store luggage or clothes on.

In the bathroom it’s always a good idea to NOT hide the extra toilet paper.  Really.  I don’t particularly want to rummage around your bathroom cupboards looking for this.  It’s embarrassing for all of us.  While you’re picking up that four pack of pillows check out the decorator baskets too.  Stick a few rolls in them and leave it in plain sight. 

I also don’t think it’s too much to ask for the host to provide a bar of soap.  I don’t like to travel with soap.  It’s messy, the case takes up a bunch of room in my cosmetic bag and it always leaks slimy water all over everything.  Even those tiny hotel soaps are good.  It’s kinda hard to wash anything other than hair with shampoo and conditioner people.

Multiple towels are nice too.  One for a guy and two for a girl.  I don’t know many women who don’t use a separate towel for their bodies and their hair.  By only giving me one towel I either have to awkwardly stand with my drippy head in the shower while I dry off or drip all over your bathroom floor while my hair is wrapped up.  Neither is a win-win situation.  And on the topic of hair, sometimes I travel with a hairdryer and sometimes I don’t.  Make it easy on your guests and have an extra one.  Just in case.  No one needs to wander around with wet hair in the winter.

And speaking of just in case, keep some of those toothbrushes you get from your dentist Oor the Dollar Store) on hand.  And some dental floss and other basic things like toothpaste, hand lotion, hair spray and a disposable razor.  People forget to pack stuff and I’d rather be rummaging through my linen cupboard at midnight than making a run to the 24 hour drug store.

It’s not rocket science but being a good host takes a little thought and effort.  I would be appalled if my guests had a miserable time in my house.  I want them to eat well, drink well, sleep well and want to come back.  I want my guests to be comfortable and enjoy their stay at my house.  Afterall, if I like you enough to ask you stay with me, odds are I like you enough to want you to come back.