“Be our Guest! Be our Guest! Our command is your request…” We sing along with this rousing song from Disney’s popular animated feature, “Beauty and the Beast,” and probably know all the lyrics from watching the DVD over and over with our children back in the ’90s. Oh, to be that excited about a houseguest! Instead of inspiring a song in our hearts, the mere mention of houseguests can set our hearts racing – and our heads spinning. We are tempted to repaint, build on or even beg off with a million excuses. Yet, we long to see our friends and family – those dear to our hearts. So we say, “Of course, you can come! No problem!” Hang up the phone, get busy, and don’t panic.
Travelers who are stopping by on their way to the beach or to grandma’s are usually driving. They have probably had a long day in the car and need a comfortable, clean place to rest. If your house is on the way, I’m sure your friends would appreciate your offer of a place to land. There are things to keep in mind to make these friends feel comfortable.
Don’t plan evening activities
If they have been driving all day, the last thing your friends want to do is go out to dinner, go sightseeing, or meet your neighbors. You may be tempted to introduce your visitors to your new pastor, but don’t. Do stock your guest room with towels, toiletries they may have forgotten and a luxurious brand of bubble bath. Encourage them to enjoy a quick catnap or shower while you start dinner or order takeout.
Offer use of your home gym or offer opportunities for exercise
Sitting in the car is exhausting and often boring. Your guests may love to take a stroll around your neighborhood to stretch tired legs. If your guests like to work out daily, show them your exercise equipment and give a quick tutorial. Or you may even suggest a visit to your gym or health club. Make sure you check the visitor policy at your gym before you make this offer, however, to avoid any hassles or embarrassment.
Don’t make them work
As crazy as this may sound, your guests probably would love the chance to sit at your kitchen island, cocktail in hand and watch you chop vegetables. Of course, most polite guests will offer their assistance with meal preparation, but don’t take them up on it. Do set out a snack, pour them a beverage and catch up with good conversation. Make the meal a casual affair and enjoy your time together. After the meal, pour them a cup of decaf, provide a comfy chair and encourage them to relax while you clean up.
Prepare a thoughtful send-off.
Make certain you know what time your guests need to leave the following day. Find out if they have time for a big breakfast or merely want a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll before they hit the road. No matter what time they plan on leaving, get up and send them off with a hug and a reusable grocery bag with snacks like fresh fruit or granola bars and some bottled water. Make sure they know your home is available for the return trip!
A guest who has come to visit for an extended stay requires a considerably more effort—after all, your home is their destination! If possible, you will want to take this time off work. Sometimes, this isn’t possible and it will take a little more planning to entertain your guests while you are away during the day.
If your guests have flown to your city, they won’t have a car. Suggest a car rental agency or book a car for them. If you have an extra vehicle, leave the keys and maps for them to use at their leisure. Always make certain you have a full tank of gas and have checked that the car is in good shape, inside and out. Another alternative is public transportation. If your guests are from another country, they are probably familiar with reading bus and train schedules and may be more comfortable with someone else doing the driving!
Suggest some activities
Virginia has a wealth of historic sites. Out of state guests will enjoy seeing a bit of our country’s history as they take short day trips. Provide local guidebooks and offer to book some sightseeing tours for them. Another thoughtful idea is to send them some literature on your area before they visit. Information about shopping, museums and attractions will help them determine what they want to see and plan their days. Pack a road trip basket complete with maps, snacks, water and light jackets and stash it in the car the night before. This will be a nice surprise when they hit the road in the morning.
Make mealtime an event
If you haven’t spent much time with your guests during the day, mealtime provides a chance to reconnect and talk about your days. Preparing the meal together gives your guests a feeling they are “earning their keep” and also helps you out. Pour your guests a glass of wine and give them a job to do. If your guests are close friends or family, ask them to be responsible for part of the meal. They may love to make that special cheesecake you love for dessert – it’s a great way to make them feel at home in your house.
With a little notice and a bit of planning, your next house guests will feel right at home when they arrive on your doorstep. Then you too will say, “Of course you can come! No problem!” – and this time, you’ll mean it!