How to Be a Good Host: 9 Tips for Overnight Guests
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Everyone wants to be a good host, but living in a small apartment can make it challenging. You don't have to consign your out-of-town guests to a nearby hotel, though. There are lots of ways that you can accommodate one or more overnight guests, even in the tiniest apartments. Here's how to make guests feel welcome in your home, with a bonus section of cute ideas for house guests that will leave them feeling loved and appreciated.
Even if you don't have a guest room, you can still fake one by rearranging things a little bit. You can accomplish a lot by simply shifting furniture around a little to provide a little extra room for an air bed and bedside table. If your guests will be staying for more than a night or two — or if you're hosting a special event party with lots of extra guests — consider clearing out non-essential items, like sports and workout equipment or your crafting gear, to a storage space for the duration.
Need more ideas on how to maximize space in a small apartment? Check out this article.
Before you do anything else, do a deep clean of your entire living space. Everyone will feel more comfortable in a clean, comfortable space. Pay special attention to the bathroom (here are some extra bathroom cleaning tips) and kitchen, where hygiene really makes a difference. While you're cleaning, check out our articles on storage hacks for small spaces that you can use to declutter and beautify your kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom. You may find ideas that will make your home more comfortable for you, even after your guests are gone.
Everyone needs a little privacy, especially in close quarters. If you don't have a guest room — or any room with a door that can stand in for a guest room — you can add privacy with a folding screen or room divider. If even that takes up more room than you have to spare, try hanging a curtain from a tension rod to close off a corner of the room.
If you host overnight guests fairly often, invest in a futon, pull-out sofa or daybed with a trundle that can be pulled out at a moment's notice. If all you've got is some space on the floor, grab an air mattress — preferably with an electric pump to save your breath for more important things, like talking and laughing with your pals. No matter which option you choose, always make up the bed with fresh linens and blankets — there's nothing more uncomfortable than sleeping on scratchy upholstery.
- On a regular sofa, just wrap the bottom sheet around the sofa cushions, put them back in place, and add a top sheet and blankets.
- Get an air mattress that's the same size as your own bed so you don't have to buy special sheets just for the guest “bed.”
- If you've given up your kitchen or living room floor to provide bed space, get the bed out of the way during the day. If it's an air mattress, pick it up — fully made — and plop it on top of your own bed. Trundle beds roll out of sight when not in use, and sofa beds fold up. If your guests are sleeping on the sofa, though, just make the bed neatly and throw a blanket or upholstery cover over it to restore it to its usual function.
Finally, make extra — fluffy, cozy, and warm — blankets easily available. Toss one over the arm of the couch or fold it at the end of the bed. That way, if your guest wakes up chilled during the night, they don't have to either wake you or shiver until morning.
Turn an end table, ottoman or bench into a bedside table for your guests to use. Put it by the head of the bed and place a lamp on it within easy reach so they don't have to stumble around in the dark to find a light switch. Add a small basket of snacks or candy, a bottle of water and a glass in case they get thirsty during the night, and a device charger with a choice of charging cords to make it easier for them to keep their devices connected.
Think of the things that make a difference to you in a hotel room when you travel, and find ways to provide similar amenities for your guest — with a personal touch.
- Prep a little basket or tote with travel-size shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotions so they don't have to be shy about using your full-sized ones in the bathroom.
- If you have a small single-serve coffee maker, set it up on the bedside table, along with an assortment of coffee capsules, creamers, sugar and tea bags, so they can make themselves a coffee if they rise earlier than the rest of the household.
- Set up a folding luggage stand — or provide a chair or bench that can be used as one.
- Make sure there are a few empty hangers in the closet or wardrobe for them to hang garments and coats.
- If they're in town for a formal event — and you happen to own one — make your handheld garment steamer easily available. They'll appreciate being able to be freshly pressed before their job interview or wedding guest appearance.
Early risers will really appreciate being able to grab coffee, a quick snack or a breakfast pastry without having to rifle through your refrigerator to find the fixings.
- Clear up some space on a kitchen counter to set out the fixings for coffee, and set up the coffee maker to brew with a press of a button (or put it on auto to start brewing early!)
- Toss a few breakfast bars and packaged breakfast pastries into pretty baskets nearby.
- Add a basket with chips, nuts or other snack foods for grab-and-go.
You may be used to your apartment setup, but your guests will be stumbling around in the dark without sufficient light for them to find their way around. These are a few ways to add light easily.
- Put a bedside lamp or desk lamp on the table beside the bed so they can turn it off or on without having to get out of bed.
- Add a night light in the bathroom so it's easy to find in the dark.
- Leave the hood light on over the kitchen stove. Yes, it really is a night light.
- If you use Google, Alexa, or other home automation — especially with color-changing lights — give your guests the most important phrases to wake them up. (In our house, "Alexa, let there be light" turns on all the living room lights, for example, and "Alexa, sweet dreams" dims all the lights to relaxing blue at 5% brightness to help sleep.)
Make it easy for your guests to find clean towels and washcloths without having to ask. You can place a folded bath towel, hand towel, and washcloth by their bed, or set up a dedicated space on a bathroom shelf, clearly labeled so they're not afraid they're using your "for show" towels. In addition, a set of over-the-door hooks on the back of the bathroom door provides space for your guests to hang their clothing and towels while they shower and dress.
The key to making guests feel welcome is anticipating their needs and providing for them in advance. This little list of extra niceties is based on lots of experience hosting overnight guests, both short- and long-term, but it should be fluid. Think of your incoming guests and their interests and needs, and tailor the list as needed to accommodate their particular likes, dislikes and needs.
- Write a welcome note to your guests that includes essential things they should know while staying in your home. For example, jot down the wi-fi password, and any passwords they may need to access streaming services, as well as the access code to lock and unlock your doors.
- Put together a little basket of sleep items that may make it easier to have a restful night in unfamiliar surroundings. Include a (new) sleep mask, inexpensive earplugs, and a personal fan that can provide cooling and a little extra white noise.
- Make a list of your favorite nearby takeout restaurants for those times they might have to fend for themselves for meals. Alos, write down the instructions to your entertainment system, and make sure the remote control is within reach. Be sure to include any passwords they may need to access streaming services on your TV.
- Build alone time into your schedule. Everyone needs time to wind down and relax, and downtime gives you a break from entertaining, and your guests a chance to make phone calls, or just relax on their own for a while.
- Finally, whether your guests are staying for one night or a week, they're going to end up with clothes they've already worn. You can make their lives easier by providing a small collapsible travel laundry bag so they don't have to just stuff their dirty clothes back into their suitcase.
We hope these tips on how to be a good host are useful, and will inspire you to spend more time with the people you love, even in close quarters. For more tips on entertaining guests, check out these other articles on our blog.