It's nearly holiday time, and many of you are probably planning on having company over at some point during the next few weeks. Even if you'll be hosting family who you're completely at ease with, adding extra people to your space and routine can be frustrating for you and your visitors. Hotels, of course, know a thing or two about how to make guests comfortable, and it's surprisingly easy to incorporate their ideas into your home.
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1. Do some “pre-search”
Take a little time to speak to your guests before they arrive. Find out some of their preferences. What do they eat for breakfast? Do they drink wine or beer? Does anyone have any allergies? By researching guest preferences in advance, you can fill your pantry and guest rooms with small touches that will surprise and delight your visitors.
2. Clear some space
Perhaps you're like me, and the drawers and closets in your guest bedroom are filled with clothes that you pray will someday fit you again. Where are your guests supposed to put their clothes? Before their arrival, clear out some space so that your company can unpack and spread out a bit.
3. Get a luggage rack
Maybe you really don't have any spare space, or maybe your guests are staying for only one night and don't want to bother to unpack. Luggage stands can come in really handy, as they allow your visitors to get their suitcases off the floor and out of the way. To find one, just enter "luggage rack" or "suitcase stand" into an Internet search engine — you'll see plenty of choices.
4. Freshen your bedding
Gone are the days when rock-hard mattresses and scratchy sheets were standard fittings for hotel beds. Now, many hotels brag about offering a fabulous “sleep experience.” They use top-of-the-line sheets and duvets and mattresses with fluffy toppers. If you love the bedding at a particular hotel chain, check the company's Web site, because chances are you can order it for your home. Make the bed with lots of layers in varying weights and tuck a spare blanket in the closet, because room temperature is one thing houseguests grumble about behind your back. Also consider providing a variety of pillows — firm, soft, feather and allergy-proof — as pillow tastes vary greatly. Your guests will dream about how wonderful you are while enjoying a blissful sleep after a long day of traveling.
5. Place towels on the bed
My mother-in-law does this, and I think it's a thoughtful touch. She lays out towels and washcloths on the beds in the guest rooms, so that visitors who are unfamiliar with the house don't have to go digging around in cupboards trying to find them.
6. Supply some toiletries
Hotels provide complimentary toiletries because these items are often hard to pack and are easily forgotten. Provide new travel-size products such as shampoo, soaps, deodorants, razors and toothpaste in your guest bathroom.
7. And a couple of bathrobes would be nice, also.
Do you really want to see your father-in-law in his briefs as he stumbles into the kitchen for an early morning cup of coffee? If you provide inexpensive, freshly laundered bathrobes for your guests, modesty will be preserved and everyone will be happy.
8. Speaking of coffee ...
Most travelers have come to expect a coffee maker in hotel rooms. If you've got space on top of a dresser or table, consider providing one in your guest room. Mini coffee makers are fairly cheap, and you can find cool single-serve pod-style coffee makers for only slightly more. Just remember to provide mugs, sweeteners, creamers and stirrers, also.
9. While you're at it, how about a mini-bar?
OK, so maybe a mini-bar is a bit much. But you'll be the most popular host around if you stock a little basket with a few snacks and some bottled water.
10. Consider the in-room entertainment
Print out a channel directory for your cable or satellite provider. That way, your guests aren't frantically flipping channels as they try to find their favorite show just before it starts. How about hooking up a basic DVD player and stacking a few of the latest releases next to it? Don't forget an alarm clock/radio combo. Better yet, you can go all-out and provide the latest trend in in-room entertainment: a docking station for personal music players. And a white-noise machine can be very helpful, because many people can't sleep when they're getting used to all the unusual noises in a strange house.
11. Instructions can be helpful
When something in a hotel room is tricky to operate, you'll often find a small card nearby that gives simple operating instructions. You can provide the same, saving your guests some frustration and saving yourself the time spent having to explain everything. For some reason, I find plumbing challenging. I can't count the times I've stood in a new shower, trying to figure out how to turn it on, or get hot water or more pressure. I finally give up, throw my clothes back on, and go searching for someone who can explain the intricacies of on/off and hot/cold to me. And I know there are plenty of folks out there who are technophobes and dread encounters with strange remote controls. Operating instructions would really impress us and make us feel much more comfortable in your home.
12. Share ideas for outings
Stop by a local hotel, the Chamber of Commerce or a tourism bureau and grab some brochures for local restaurants and attractions. If you give your guests enough ideas for fun things to do in your area, maybe they'll get out of your hair for a little bit and give you a couple of hours of privacy!
13. Get rid of the embarrassing stuff
Before anyone arrives, take a few minutes to check your medicine cabinets, bathroom drawers, under your bed or mattress and in bedside table drawers. This is where embarrassing and personal items lurk, and it is best if you remove them in advance. While you'll probably never know that your wife's old college roommates have been giggling over your hemorrhoid cream, hair regrowth pills and old girly magazine collection, it's best not to give them the satisfaction in the first place.
14. Hire help
Want to get the full hotel experience? Hire someone else to do the dirty work. Hire a cleaner to tidy up before, during and after your guests' stay. Pay a friend who's a great cook or a caterer who offers small-scale dining options to make a few easy heat-and-serve meals. Give the kid next door a few bucks to unload your company's car and take all their bags into the guest bedroom. If you've got the money, hiring other people to take care of housekeeping, restaurant and bellman services frees you up to relax and have fun with your friends and family.
Creating an inviting and comfortable home may take a bit of work and a little extra money, but the effort is well worth it. Your guests will certainly talk about what a wonderful host you are, and they're likely to return the favor at some point. And if you do a really great job of turning your house into a hotel, maybe you can start charging Grandma a modest room rate every time she pops into town unexpectedly!
Amy Bradley-Hole has worked in the hotel industry for many years in many different positions and at all types of properties — from small luxury boutique hotels to large resorts, both in the United States and abroad. E-mail her or read more of her articleson Tripso.com.