Planning for houseguests over half term or Easter? Don’t fret. Whilst yes, it’s an invasion on the normal household rhythm, and yes it does require a little more than simply pumping up the spare bed and pointing them to the spare duvet, it can also be fabulously fun. Oh yes it can – it just needs a little thought on your part. Your house, you’re the host, so you get to set the tone of the stay.
Here’s our top etiquette rules for being a great host: if your guests feel welcome, they relax – and then you all have a good time.
1. Set a specific start and end date for the visit.
We learned this one the hard way during a much-too-long Christmas visit with overtired grandparents and overtired children, both of whom loved each other but who was quietly aching for some space to ‘be’. It’s a simple thing to confirm the expected leaving day before your guest arrives – even the best of hosts becomes a bad one when their guests overstay their welcome.
2. Be a prepared host.
Check your details in advance – double check the dates at least a week before, and also what time they expect to arrive (and if they’re not driving, do they need a lift from the station?). Ask about any allergies, check they know you have pets, and ask about diet requirements. no one wants to discover they have a vegan at the table just as they’re serving up roast beef…
Also check what they might fancy doing – outdoors enthusiasts will prefer borrowing your bike to a quiet afternoon in an art gallery!
3. Sleep Them Well.
What’s the first thing you notice about a hotel room or a holiday cottage when you climb into bed? A good mattress and really nice bed linen (we’re particular fans of Julian Charles if you’re thinking your ten year old duvet set with that weird grey stain at the bottom probably doesn’t quite cut it).
If you do decide to splash out and invest in a new set of guest bed linen then remember to wash it before you use it – brand new linen is horribly stiff and smells properly weird!)
4. Feed & Water Them!
Of course it’s absolutely normal for your kids and husband to rummage around in the cupboards and the fridge, and bemoan the fact theres ‘never anything to eat in here’. But guests simply won’t rummage, even if you invite them to – make sure you offer them lots of drinks and snacks.
5. Small Things Make A Big Welcome
If they will be sleeping in a spare room, then leave out a welcome tray of essentials (I wrote about this here, with loads of ideas and suggestion on Easy Steps To A Welcoming & Cosy Guest Bedroom).
If they’re sleeping in someone else’s room, make sure you empty the bin, clear the surfaces and leave some space for their things.
If they’ll be sleeping in a family room be sure to actually set up the bed for them, and be sure they still have a glass of water and a bedside lamp. Always let your guests know what time you’ll all be up and eating breakfast (and expect to go to bed!).
6. Make your home guest-friendly.
Leave spare towels where they’re easily visible (maybe different colours to the family towels). Make sure they know how to work the TV, have the Wi-Fi code, and know where the tea & coffee are. If there are children coming, then make sure you remove your breakables, and have a selection of toys/books/paper&pens ready for them.
7. Share Your Plans
If it’s just a short stay, then alter your normal schedule where possible to focus on your guests. If it’s a long stay, then make sure they know when you’ll be around – most guests don’t mind being left, but they do mind being left hanging. Let them know when you’ll be at work or have other commitments, or you’re playing taxi service for the kids. Maybe even keeping all the details on the fridge in plain sight for easy reference.
8. Give Them A Break
Don’t fill up their every minute – no one wants that. You’ll need a break just as much as your guest will! Go do something alone, but do set a time limit – “I’m just heading out for a run, I’ll be about an hour – I have my phone if you need me” or “I’m going to cut the grass and potter in the garden for a bit. Shout if you need me, or I’ll just see you for pre-dinner drinks at 6!”
9. Set The House Rules.
Don’t spend your time quietly grinding your teeth at your guest wearing their shoes in the living room. Be friendly and open about the basic rules – we all have a few, and no guest minds being told them (but they do mind that strange feeling of doing something wrong but knowing what it is). As soon as they arrive, if it’s their first visit cheerfully announce ‘we’re a no-shoes house, and please don’t let the dog out the front!’
You can’t stop a smoker being a smoker, but if you’re a non-smoking house then don’t be rude; just suggest that if they need a cigarette, you’ve left an ashtray on the patio, and there’s a big umbrella by the back door if it’s raining.
10. Entertain The Evenings!
Ask your guests what they’d like to do for the evening; they might love to sit up late for a family games night – or it might be their idea of actual hell. They may love to settle by the fire and watch a movie – or they may feel that’s a bit rude of you when they want to sit and chat with you in the local pub. Simply give them a couple of options, and let them choose.