How can I be a truly wonderful host?
February 10, 2018 8:04 PM   Subscribe

I have a lot of out-of-town visitors who come for dinner, for the night, or for a week or two. How can I surprise and delight them? What have you truly enjoyed as a guest, that's made you feel special and loved and extra-welcomed? Things I've loved: a friend who has a giant bin of guest slippers for his please-no-shoes house; my aunt's snack cabinet (she remembers personal favorites and stocks up ahead of time with specific guests in mind). I'm a bit of a busy bee, so I'd love suggestions that don't require too much prep (or time away from my guests, like cooking an elaborate thing). Welcome signs? Treats on the pillows? Perfecting one really cool cocktail with ingredients that I can always keep on hand? Hit me!!
posted by red_rabbit to Society & Culture (39 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
My sister-in-law and brother put fancy hand lotions/pillow sprays in their guest room. It's a calming mix... I'd link to it, but I've forgotten the brand. It's something I've encountered in a nice hotel in Phoenix, AR. It's something I noticed at her house when I was last there and thought it was an awesome thing to provide for guests.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 8:12 PM on February 10

Towels laid out on the beds, providing the WiFi password without having to ask for it, providing small toiletries.
posted by ryanbryan at 8:18 PM on February 10 [10 favorites]

I tend to be cold, so extra blankets/wraps in the bedroom so I don't have to ask for them is always great.

Having a few extra things like contact lens cases, contact lens solution, etc. Tylenol, ibuprofen.

And, coffee/tea with easy instructions on how to prep.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 8:24 PM on February 10 [7 favorites]

I'm allergic to wheat, eggs and dairy and can be difficult to feed. I love when people work with my allergies as best they can and don't make it feel like an imposition. Keeping your guests favourite foods or working within any dietary needs would make you an excellent host in my eyes.
posted by snowysoul at 8:24 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]

Easy ways to heat or cool, and/or directions if necessary. Does the room I'm in have it's own thermostat? Can I open a window? Is there a small fan (or heater) I can turn on? Ceiling fan? Extra blankets? Not that you need all these options, but I always appreciate knowing how I can sleep comfortably temperature wise.
posted by kimdog at 8:24 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]

Assortment of pads/tampons tucked into the most obvious bathroom location within reach of the toilet.
posted by somedaycatlady at 8:25 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]

hmm, some ideas:

-a small basket of snacks (healthy granola bars, chips, small hard candies, etc etc) in the room for guests to help themselves - bonus if it's a local treat.

-maybe some common phone charger types on the nightstand ready to use?

-brochures of local attractions/restaurant menus, etc, so people can pick things they might want to do.

-a small pitcher and glass so the guest can bring some water in for if they wake up thirsty

-maybe several pillow options (like a bigger thick pillow, a thin one, etc)

-a small lamp by the bed for within-reach light, and a nightlight in the bathroom

this is such a cute question, i'll be looking out for others' responses (love the ideas above mine). a word of warning about treats on the pillow - i once put a lindt truffle on the guest bedroom pillow as a tongue in cheek thing, and my guest forgot about it and slept on it, melting it all over the comforter. so maybe avoid chocolate and use a mint. ;)
posted by carlypennylane at 8:26 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]

Now this was a b & b, but they made me feel like a guest in their home: everyday there was some home baked treat on the table. Felt just so homey and nice.
posted by beccaj at 8:29 PM on February 10

You may enjoy this previous similar-but-not-the-same question about being a good host!
posted by lalex at 8:40 PM on February 10

Nice bathrobes. They are impractical to pack and nice when you don't want to have to put all your clothes on to leave your room but don't feel quite comfortable walking around someone else home just in your nightclothes.
posted by InkaLomax at 8:51 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]

In the guesstroom bathroom I always make sure there are extra toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo, etc, face wash, tampons, pads, qtips, cotton facial pads, etc. Basically, all the things you might not bring if you're carrying on luggage or forgot things..
posted by atomicstone at 9:12 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]

A luggage stand. This is such a simple thing, but so missed when not present and so appreciated when it is. Especially if your guest room is short on drawer space.

Notepad and pen.

3 or 4 books of different kinds. It's always fun to see what books are around people's houses and especially if there's a thoughtful mini-selection in the guest rooms. I am a big reader but sometimes for whatever reason I forget to pack a book and I love it if a few are in the room. A mix like: a vintage children's book, a short story book, poetry, some kind of nonfiction, a memoir. Something people can dip into and out of.

A big thing is just knowing the Morning Rules. Like, what time do hosts get up, what time should I get up, will I disturb hosts if I'm up early, or delay them if I'm up too late? If I am the first one up, am I allowed to make coffee and get myself some breakfast, or should I wait for others? Is there a shower schedule I should not disrupt? Anything weird about turning the shower on/off so I don't have to struggle with a weird shower handle until I come bother you to ask? If I'm the only one up and the dog acts like it wants to go out, can I let it out? Just being sure the guest knows what to expect in the morning gives everyone a feeling of security that there is a Plan.

And what do you want done with linens - should I strip the bed (I notice some people do this as a default) or leave it made up?
posted by Miko at 9:31 PM on February 10 [21 favorites]

A nightlight in the hall guiding the path to the bathroom!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:36 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]

A place to put stuff down in the bathroom (I’ve stayed places where every surface was decorated to the hilt and didn’t have a place to put e.g. my bottle of contact solution while I washed my hands)

Toilet paper easy to find

At least one open outlet, preferably next to the bed

Bedside lamp

A hook or bar for damp towels

Clear communication about house rules because everyone’s rules seem weird if you’re not used to them and perfectly reasonable if you are

Be mindful of your pets’ behavior and messes

Bonus: books in the bedroom, extra toiletries that are clearly free to use, alone time
posted by kapers at 9:44 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]

Definitely making sure the temperature is comfortable--extra blankets, plus a fan if it gets hot. I also like to have an assortment of pillows (nothing crazy, but some places don't even have shams and then it's hard to lie in bed and read).

Agree about having bathroom counter space. I'd also add having bedroom space to put my personal items. Just some open space on the dresser, and some space in the closet plus hangers.

Enough plugs for my various chargeables. Extra chargers are a nice bonus too!

Bedside lamp (this seems obvious to me, but I've stayed places where there was none!).
posted by radioamy at 10:07 PM on February 10

Hey, these are all so great, as is the sister-thread posted by lalex!! Thank you. I asked the question searching for special things to surprise & pamper (love the ideas of bathrobes, a choice of pillows, and a luggage rack!). There are also some really excellent simple and practical things here, too - temperature and noise regulation; clear communication and nightlights; being considerate around allergies! Yess. I've got my WiFi password on the fridge, toiletries galore, two kinds of guest chargers, books, towels, blankets, reading lights & a stocked medicine cabinet. I've also got extra toothbrushes (also inspired by my wonderful aunt, who kept like 30 toothbrushes for our entire extended family & friends with our *names* on them!). Good shout on minding/communicating around pets (part of being a good host means warning people *beforehand* that my dog might chew their sandals if they don't hide them, hmmm). Keep 'em coming!
posted by red_rabbit at 10:26 PM on February 10

I think sometimes people go overboard with the nice-smelling soaps, lotions, and air fresheners. My partner is super-sensitive to fragrances, and we actually appreciate when there are non-scented options. It's especially oppressive when a room has been filled with potpourri or diffusers. I was going to say flowers on a bedside table is lovely (for me), but partner would not appreciate.

Boxes of kleenex in a guest bedroom is always appreciated. Ear plugs could be useful if you live near a highway or have a lot of city sounds some guests might not be used to. I try to provide local maps and brochures for tourist attractions. Also, I keep a spare transit pass with some money on it so that guests can easily start using the local buses or trains.
posted by amusebuche at 11:15 PM on February 10 [10 favorites]

My friends in Brooklyn keep a shelf of up-to-date travel guides to New York plus extra subway maps in their guest room, along with a luggage rack, a bedside lamp, and printed instructions on how to use the TV/media equipment in the room. I think they also have a cheat sheet with their favourite local restaurants listed. Of course, they live in Brooklyn. The local color info might not be necessary depending on your location. I love it, though.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:13 AM on February 11

A friend chooses a book or two that she thinks her guest will like and leaves them on the nightstand.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:41 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

If you have the space and budget, a mini-fridge in a guest room can be absolutely delightful -- one just small enough for some water and few cans/bottles of your guest's favourite beverages is fabulous; a slightly larger one with a mini ice tray compartment is mind-blowingly great. A family member of mine does this, and it's so nice to have a glass of ice water in the night without stumbling to a strange kitchen, or to grab a juice/tea/beer when you come to your room after a long day of traveling or exploring.

Seconding the pets-reminders! I like to draw up little cartoon signs to remind guests about protecting the cat from open windows / protecting cords and charges from the cat. You could put up a little framed or painted sign re: your dog's chewing habits; it's a cute way to help people remember and you don't have to feel like a nag.
posted by halation at 6:01 AM on February 11

Having my caffeine of choice on hand - even just a 20 ounce bottle for the first morning - is a real nicety. :)
posted by joycehealy at 6:49 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

This might be overkill, but offering toilet paper options would be AMAZING! Everyone is pretty particular about their TP, and mostly people seem to like the thick stuff, or the thin stuff, and whatever is the opposite to your preference feels like sand paper. You don't have to stock every brand of TP, but stocking a couple of rolls of brands on opposite ends of the spectrum - like Cottonelle and Scott 1000 - would be so so nice.
posted by raztaj at 7:09 AM on February 11

This is really obvious, but so helpful: if they have a car, give them a copy of the key to use while they are in town. Maybe on a cute souvenir keychain they can keep when they leave. That way, they don’t have to worry about being locked out because everyone ran out for a minute.
posted by itsamermaid at 7:15 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

I commented in the other host thread but a few things really make me feel like I have the hookup when visiting friends

- ample places for my stuff, ample outlets for my stuff, decent temperature and lighting regulation abilities within reason
- expectations about some of the stuff like mealtimes (or is it just "do your own thing") and house schedule times ("we always watch jeopardy at 6, you're welcome to join") and a bit of sensing if I need time alone or would like company.
- enough time for sleeping, showering, eating and alone time
- a bathroom full of stuff so I don't need my own stuff (but with places for my stuff)
- a key to the house if I am there for a long time and doing my own thing

I feel like there are three main hosting models which have good and bad aspects

- come to our house, you are family so the whole house is yours but we won't go out of our way to fuss over you (some people can't work with this, feel uncomfortable given free reign in the kitchen for example)
- come over, we have done the research into the One Best Host Way and that is what we have (woe to the person who wants/needs something different)
- we'll try to anticipate your needs, have a bunch of different possible set-ups that should work (can seem a little overdetermined, some people feel weird expressing all their preferences)

So some of it is about making loose normative judgments like

- most people drink coffee or tea in the morning so you won't go wrong having some on hand
- people with pets are usually understanding as to what living with pets may be like, people without pets may or may not be. Kids, same thing.
- most people aren't super sensitive to noise and light but some people might be

a mini-fridge in a guest room can be absolutely delightful

Yeah see this is a great point. I can totally see how this would be amazing but if there was a fridge in my room I'd unplug it and/or ask to move it because I'm tetchy about noise. I've been a lot of places where the nighttime routine is to run the dishwasher which is fine in a big house, often not fine if I am sleeping in the room next to the kitchen. People who offer white noise machines are always appreciated by me.
posted by jessamyn at 7:23 AM on February 11

I think having the room feel like it is meant for a guest, and not "This is our spare room, we moved the pile of board games off to the side so there is room for you" makes a big difference for comfort. So just making sure that visually, the room is clean, even if behind a closet door is the nightmare that previously inhabited the room. However since you're thinking this way I suspect you've already done that.

Personally I am always on the hunt for tea at someone's house, so having a variety of tea bags displayed near an easy to use hotpot would make me feel like I had what I needed without having to cause trouble.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:30 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

Please be restrained with anything scented. I have just a slightly acuter sense of smell than normal and I don't care for most mass-market scents--if I didn't like a scent that was in my room, especially on my bed, it wouldn't be pleasant at all.

I feel like the most awkward things about visiting someone are potentially being out of sync with their eating or sleeping schedules, so a snack and caffeine source that a guest can access without being troublesome are most important. Second most awkward is being hot or cold, so a fan in the summertime (if no A/C) and an extra blanket or throw in the winter. (Eddie Bauer puts a down throw on sale this time of year for like $50 that is very effective.) An extra pillow or two would also be nice.
posted by praemunire at 7:47 AM on February 11

I don't think that giving them a house key hinges on them having a car. In many places, there are nice walks to be had, shops in walkable distances, or places that can be reached by public transportation. If the guest is expected to spend time alone, I would give them a loaner key no matter what.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:53 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]

Seconding hooks or empty towel racks in the bathroom, preferably something right next to the shower. Also, if your light switches are counterintuitive, it would be great to label them.
posted by FencingGal at 7:54 AM on February 11

Having a fan in the room is nice even if it's not summer, I like it for the air circulation and white noise. Also, have a variety of drinks on hand (beer, wine, sparkling water) and make sure your guests know they can help themselves. And yes, let them know how the coffee set up works in case they are up earlier than you.
posted by JenMarie at 8:47 AM on February 11

I love this post and the answers, and I'm going to add my own: I think it's essential when people stay for several days that they feel free to do nothing, be by themselves and generally relax. I feel people do this at my house, but I wish they'd feel more comfortable using the living room when they want to read or watch TV, instead of sitting in their beds. Unfortunately my guest rooms aren't big enough to provide chairs or sofas. It's not a big thing, but I feel I would be an even better host if this wasn't an issue.
posted by mumimor at 8:54 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]

* chargers, ready to go, for iphone & android
* a hook for a wet towel in the bathroom; maybe also a hook in the bedroom, if there's a spot that works with your decor (and studs - no good putting it in if it's not sturdy)
* a reading lamp, plugged in, by the bed
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:14 AM on February 11

Water literally in the bedroom, if no one's said that yet. A carafe, or a bottle of water, or just a glass on the nightstand at bedtime. When people I've been staying with have done that, I have been surprisingly impressed with how together they are, and how much I appreciate it.
posted by LizardBreath at 9:20 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

Also came in to say a phone charger (or two) in the room, a reading lamp, and an open outlet and/or extension cord that reaches the bed. I use a lot of electronics at night so this is a major deal for me and I usually end up rearranging things that are already plugged into the outlets in the room.

I've commented before that my aunt is the best host I know. She has a variety of neck pillows and Sharper Image type massager pillows and the like that she freely offers for people to use. She usually buys the latest and more expensive snacks from Costco, Trader Joe's, etc; things that I'd like to try but never do because I don't think I'll finish it or because I think it's too expensive to splurge on if I won't be sharing it.

She also lives in a climate colder than mine so my warmest clothes are still not appropriate for her climate, and we like to do outdoor activities. She keeps an assortment of jackets and sweaters and rain boots for people and kids to borrow (things she's saved from her grandkids or good-condition items that she's found at Goodwill). She's kept a few games and toys for kids to keep them busy when parents need to keep kids quiet so they can have a visit.
posted by vignettist at 10:36 AM on February 11

Balance the desire to go out of your way to be a good host with the fear guests have of imposing. If it looks like you're working hard at it, your guests may feel like they are putting you out. My suggestion is to make certain things easily accessible that are handy to have when away from home (lots of great suggestions above!), say it once in a casual way, and let it flow. You set the tone for the exchange. The more mellow you are about their presence and the more cues you give to allow them to feel at home, the more comfortable they will feel.
posted by amycup at 12:42 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]

Just saw your note about pampering. I feel really uncomfortable when someone goes overboard with this stuff. If I'm staying with a friend or family, even if we aren't close, I don't want them to feel like they need to host me like I'm in a hotel.

Something that has worked is getting some special splurge of food or drink treats and positioning it like the visit was an excuse to go big for not just them but for you. Examples: I was so excited you were coming I got 10 flavors or La Croix! I decided to splurge and get us these amazing chocolates. I saw these great berries at the farmers market and was so pleased you'd be here so we could all enjoy them before they spoil. I've been saving this bottle of wine for a special occasion and this seems perfect! Etc. The key is to make it clear that you are also benefitting from the luxury.
posted by amycup at 12:52 PM on February 11 [8 favorites]

in general? Try staying a night in your own guest room. I think a lot of people don't do that, so they don't know that, say, the bed is excruciating, or the Nest thermostat doesn't work right on that floor and it's 10 degrees too hot, or that there's no conditioner in the shower... I was recently at a friend's home - someone fairly "houseproud" - where all of those things were true, and I didn't want to bring any of it up (none of them were fast fixes except the conditioner) and it was pretty awful.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:38 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]

I'm always cold at night in guest beds. I would SO LOVE YOU if you had a heated mattress pad on the bed or at least a heating pad.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 7:34 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]

Guest bike!

I had a guest tell me once that they really appreciated that we lent them a guest bike, because it meant they could get around on their own and weren't tied to the house.
posted by aniola at 10:15 PM on February 11

Thanks for all of these! Yesss I have stayed many times in my guest room. Yes to a guest bike, their own set of keys, snacks (in the room is a great touch!) and being chill & unfussy to allow proper chilling. These are honestly all really good suggestions. Love the idea of an extra sweatshirt/rainboots (in my case I actually have 2 pairs of guest flip-flops left over from other visitors coming from colder climes who realized they had to buy them). I've got plenty of femme-y things in my size to lend...but not so much for larger-than-me/more dude-ish style, will consider! Thanks so much, MeFites.
posted by red_rabbit at 11:06 AM on February 12

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