Entertain guests without the stress?
You bet. You can entertain guests without breaking a sweat – whether for the weekend, or longer – a week, even a month.
Offering a hospitable and enjoyable time to visiting friends and family needn’t be a headache, or outrageously costly. All it takes is a little bit of thought, a few rules of thumb, and you can entertain your guests in style without breaking the bank.
Summer, thy name is travel and visitors
Just as my French visitor of one month was traveling back to Brittany, a friend from the Pacific Northwest arrived in town. With only five days to show my city to its advantage – and to enjoy catching up with an old pal – I contemplated how to create a memorable stay worthy of flight delays and jet lag.
Whatever the season and wherever you live, how do you entertain long-term guests so it is stress-free and affordable?
Houseguests made easy
These guidelines require a small amount of planning, and they always work for me:
- Know your guest, know your mutual goals
- Know what’s realistic for your home
- Set expectations (rules, logistics, schedule)
- Put your guests to work!
- Go-go-go tourist agenda, or not?
- Expect surprises
- Know your budget
- Know your city
- Enjoy your time together!
Know what will make your guest at home
As for my West Coast guest, I knew his likes, dislikes, dietary habits, and that he’s curious by nature. More importantly, since this was a vacation for him, a slow pace and relaxation was in order.
For example, I know he loves all things French, having lived and traveled overseas – including the Tour de France. A glass of Bordeaux and a bite of brie in front of the television for Stage 18 was an easy and pleasurable way for us to reconnect. Add in walks, family dinners, multilingual scrabble, and time for impromptu adventures – and there you have it – five fabulous days – no muss, no fuss.
A note: As for my French guest, when you open your home to a foreign visitor, anticipate a few special items.
- Assume electronics will not work. Set out an extra hair dryer.
- If you have one, a two-way currency converter kit allows foreign electronics to function.
- A pocket dictionary left on a bed helps in a pinch.
- Don’t forget jet lag – the first days, be sure your company can catch up on sleep.
- Offer a computer for your guest to email, Skype, or Facebook home. It’s free!
Know your home, and what’s realistic
I have a small home, and no guest room, but… for a single guest, we emptied a storage closet and transformed it into a cozy room! Shelves, hanging storage, light, heat & air, art on the walls, a tiny table and a twin bed. Just enough for necessities and privacy. It was a hit! (And still is.)
If I needed to accommodate more teenagers – the couch is fine. Additional guests? I’ll recommend wonderful hotels nearby.
Kids, pets, work schedule, bus routes, smoking rules, dietary habits – it’s much easier to gently set expectations before your guests arrive, and to reinforce the basics as they settle in.
For instance, along with clean towels and an introduction to 80-pound Fido, show your guest the deck where he or she may smoke, or mention that the scratching on the door at 7 a.m. is just the dog wanting her morning walk.
Another easy, stress-reducing item?
Print out your guest’s flight or other travel arrangements, and keep them handy. That way, no one forgets time for last minute shopping, or pre-flight confirmation.
Don’t be afraid to put your guests to work!
Visitors who stay for awhile generally don’t expect maid service. My guest helped out without being asked – doing dishes, walking the dog, and he understood that my schedule requires a certain number of hours of work each morning, every morning.
A great (longer term) guest is one who pitches in – and if yours doesn’t, gently suggest with words like “Would you mind helping me with…”
No go-go-go tourist agenda
There are at least a dozen venues I could have crammed into my guest’s recent visit, but they would’ve entailed crowds, lines, and a considerable outlay of cash. Instead, I thought our time was better spent with leisurely walking, a few short drives through eclectic and well known areas, and otherwise – impromptu stops here and there, without too rigorous a schedule. And leaving room for the unexpected lets you enjoy it when it occurs.
Whether it’s a trip to the emergency room, or a chance celebrity encounter – you can bet that when you don’t try to schedule for every eventuality, you’ll get the unexpected!
In fact, I got sick one evening, but fortunately my guest did not have to drive me to the ER. It was, however, a reminder to have doctor and other emergency numbers handy, for you or your company, just in case.
As for a wonderful adventure?
Our search for a particular cornichon (pickle) took us to the local Whole Foods, and ended with culinary tasting treats throughout the store that lasted nearly a half hour, as one of the department managers led us from counter to counter, personally pointing out samples for us to try. We enjoyed époisse and gouda, two kinds of (incredible) sausage from Berkeley, California, an alternate pickle (that was delicious), “country” paté, and a shaved rosemary ham that was to die for. By the time we’d sampled everything – we didn’t need dinner!
Know your budget
Like most of us, I don’t have a lot of disposable income for entertaining house guests. But there are plenty of activities in every city that cost little or nothing at all. Parks, flea markets, street fairs, city pools, cycling, walking, art galleries and small museums – all are free or inexpensive. Entertaining on a budget simply requires creativity.
Many guests come graciously planning to cover a number of outings or evenings out. You’ll narrow down the restaurants as appropriate, and you do need to recognize your cooking skills and food budget for the rest.
Know your city
With CitySearch and similar sites it’s easy to locate activities to please your guest, including during times when you have work or other commitments. A little planning – and you can provide your visitor a nice set of options, and let him or her choose!
Enjoy your time together
Activities with my visitor?
Without rushing around, we managed one museum trip, two scrumptious dinners on the town, walks and drives through historic areas, multilingual scrabble, and cooking together. Not to mention the pleasure of watching the Tour de France!
And isn’t that what it’s about? Inviting your house guests into your real world, and making them feel welcome?