[Hospitality filter] What has a family member done for you that made your visit the most comfortable and pleasant it could be?
May 29, 2012 1:05 PM   Subscribe

My sister is visiting my tiny apartment on short notice and staying for a week. I'm touched she chose to visit me on her vacation and want to make her stay the best. How can I be the best hostess?

I'm thinking along the lines of having a nice, clean and fluffy bath towel ready for her, having her favorite foods in the fridge...that sort of thing.

Thought about getting an air mattress, but in my experience they are not that comfortable and spring a leak quickly.

Restrictions: thin wallet and tiny apartment.

posted by Calicatt to Human Relations (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have to say, having the whole place as clean and fresh as possible, with fresh linens and refreshing beverages, has been the most welcoming elements of visits with my siblings. Maybe also have a nice vase of flowers?
posted by pickypicky at 1:14 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you live somewhere cool that has things to offer that don't exist where she lives? Focus on that. When my brother came to visit me a few years ago, I didn't even have a couch and he had to sleep next to my bed in a sleeping bag on the floor. I did the same things as you (stocked the fridge with things he liked, made sure he had all the towels/soap/whatever he needed), but still felt like it was inadequate.

But he was visiting Chicago, and Chicago is awesome. At the time, he lived where we grew up, which is devoid of any pro sports teams (or even good college teams). I got cheap Sox tickets and made sure he went and saw his first MLB game. I also dragged him into some cool museums. He got to do stuff he otherwise wouldn't get to do, he got to do them with his sister, and it turned out fine.

Cliff's Notes: it's not about the lodging. As long as you're not sending her out back into the alley to sleep, your apartment is probably fine. Focus on the time you'll be spending together actually doing things.
posted by phunniemee at 1:15 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things I always have ready for my guests when they come stay:

A basket that contains:
a washcloth
a note that says, "I am so happy you're here!" and if we have plans, a "what we're doing when" schedule, with brochures. You can get free brochures at any hotel/motels front desk.
Some kind of regional sweet. Since I am in Oregon, I usually get Moonstruck Chocolates or some kind of marionberry candy bar.
mini shampoo/conditioner/lotion/soap (I usually get a Kiss My Face or Burt Bees travel kit)
A trashy novel of some sort, just for fun.

If it is their first time staying with me, I will make sure they know where to find essentials and how to work the tv remote.

Re: Where to sleep-
I bought one of those beds that folds into a chair from Ikea a few years back. it is awesome. If that isn't in your budget, you can come by a futon mattress sometimes cheaper than a decent air mattress.
posted by haplesschild at 1:16 PM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

This thread, might be worth looking at: What Items Should be in a Guest Bedroom?
posted by backwards guitar at 1:21 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Depending on your location, get a copy of the local Time Out/Village Voice/Alternative Weekly that lists what's going on, movie times etc.
posted by cushie at 1:29 PM on May 29, 2012

Favorite foods go a long way toward making me feel at home.

Not a family stay, but related: Near the end of a draining, ill-fated trip to a foreign country (and after a long day's journey to Frankfurt for my flight the next day), I found a small pack of Gummi Bears on my pillow at the inn I stayed at. Probably the best thing any hotel ever did for me, in all of my travels.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:33 PM on May 29, 2012

Have her favorite foods (esp breakfast drink if it's different from yours - coffee? tea? etc.) Especially if you have any shared nostalgic food memories -- hot chocolate, stuff like that? Some times it's the cheapest stuff (the brand of chips and salsa you liked as kids, etc) that can strike a happy emotional chord.

At the risk of being gross: make sure there is a book of matches in the bathroom. It's awful when you're a houseguest and your host has to step in there right after you've #2'd.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:33 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

My cousin just came and crashed with me in my tiny apartment. I put out the following things on/near the air mattress for her:

- A pair of flip flops. While I did clean the place up and mop the floors, I'm too much of a slob to guarantee that I did a great job of that.
- A towel and wash cloth.
- A bar of soap in a clamshell soap dish.
- A toothbrush and travel sized shampoo (I don't know why I even got these, but it turned out she needed them because she forgot to drop them in her bag).
- A plastic travel mug for the bathroom.
- A plugged in powerstrip for phone/any other charger, and the air mattress pump. Also a note with the Wifi AP name, and password.
- A guest account on my desktop PC in case she wants to use full sized screen/keyboard or print something out.
- A metrocard with $20 on it.
- A set of keys.

I did not remember to put a six pack of nicer beer in the fridge for her though (I usually just have some cans of cheap swill at home).
posted by Calloused_Foot at 1:37 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Air mattresses have gotten a lot better -- you can get nice ones with a built in pump that blow up nice and thick and are very comfortable. My sister had a brand called "Instabed", but if you look on Amazon, they have a bunch that seem reasonable, including some twin-sized ones (if you don't have a lot of space).
posted by cider at 1:44 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have slept on air mattresses -leaky ones even -and it was fine.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:45 PM on May 29, 2012

I just hosted my brother on what was for him a very rare vacation, and while I know he appreciated the little comforty gestures I made, they ended up mattering a lot less than I thought they would. We packed his trip with adventures together and this was what made his vacation special, for both of us.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:10 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you have a friend whose place you could crash at for at least one of those nights? I always do this if possible (especially toward the end of the trip) so that people don't feel quite so crowded sharing my living space -- people who aren't city-dwellers just aren't used to it, and it can make people tired and crabby.

It also guarantees that I get some time away too, to visit with a friend and take a break from constant hosting mentality.
posted by hermitosis at 2:20 PM on May 29, 2012

To each her own, of course, but if I went to spend my vacation with my out of town sister and she went and crashed somewhere else for a night during that one week, I would be heartbroken, infuriated, and deeply confused.

Air mattresses can be great by the way... I've spent very comfortable nights on them, better than on other temporary sleeping surfaces.

You know what else can be nice for someone in a strange sleeping situation? Ear plugs or white noise, to cover unfamiliar sounds that can otherwise keep one awake in the night. I love the white noise app on my smartphone (SleepMachine Lite, it's free.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:15 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I visit friends, a part of the enjoyment is to have someone ELSE make the decisions and recommendations about what to do and where to eat. Give her choices, of course, but it's so nice to have someone who knows me guide me to their favorite places in their own town, without having to do the thinking/choosing/navigating. I trust my local friends' opinions!

That said, it is nice to have a guidebook of the city as well. Can you check your library to see if there are local guidebooks that you can loan out? This would be free and would let her possibly plan some things.
posted by shortyJBot at 6:43 PM on May 29, 2012

Yes, lots of food in the fridge! Plus some snacks, healthy and otherwise.

A towel, an eye mask, ear plugs, proper climate control, their own soap. I also recommend a trashy novel-- my sister visited me recently and the first thing we did was hit up a used book store where I bought her a Dorothy Sayers paperback, which we took turns reading the whole trip. She also really really liked that I had food/activity suggestions, but also that I was willing to take the morning/day off if we were both feeling tired. (On that note, agreed about a local event calendar-- she might see something amazing she really wants to do that you had no idea she was interested in.)
posted by stoneandstar at 9:19 PM on May 29, 2012

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