Saturday, December 26, 2009

Preparing for Overnight Guests: A Detailed Checklist to Help You Prepare

Recently I wrote about how we can have overnight guests and actually ENJOY their visit (IMAGINE THAT!). Although lengthy, I am including Part 2 here. If you truly want to make your guests feel welcome (and special), I hope you’ll take the time to read this. I believe you’ll find some useful ideas here.

As you'll read below, I think it's important to provide good reading light for guests. You can't see it from this photo, but both sides also have clocks. We covered the wood tables with glass from our local glass dealer to protect furniture from drinks and other items. You probably can't see the image in the framed photo, but it is one I cherish taken of myself with 2 of my college roommates.

Our guest room is not very large, so when we purchased furniture for this room, we purposely did not choose a chest of drawers or dresser. Ken and I felt that the drawers in the "bednight" stand and some space in the closet were ample for guest needs.

Note the various reading materials. This last photo shows the bench used for guests' suitcases and a magazine rack filled with various current magazines (the rolled up items you see are brochures of our beloved Orrville!)

It’s true, we can enjoy overnight guests, and I certainly write from experience. We have been blessed with hundreds of overnight visits from family and friends during our 25 years of marriage. At some point (maybe when we downsize), I’d love to have a guest house. I can already envision it and I think it would be wonderful to have for guests to enjoy. Some day maybe that will happen. For now, I am thrilled that we have a dedicated guest room and I try to take full advantage of that space when we have guests.

Sometime early in our marriage I managed to compile a list of items to keep in the guest room. As time has passed and Ken and I have stayed with others and also in many bed and breakfast establishments, I have honed this list even further. Although not conclusive, this list is a great start. And while not every item will make sense to every person, I think you’ll find some useful ideas here. As always, use what works for you and your family and toss the rest.

Ideas for Guest Room

Linens – clean sheets on the bed or pull-out are a must. I love to have freshly washed sheets on the bed when we have overnight guests. If the bed linens are clean but the bed hasn’t been slept in for a while, I rewash the sheets so they are fresh and clean-smelling. Your laundry soap, fabric softener and dryer sheets are important in this process. Linen spray is also a nice addition. A little goes a long way, as you don’t want the fragrance to be overpowering for those with sensitive noses or allergies.

An extra blanket at the foot of the bed or close at hand will be a comfort to those who tend to get chilled easily. Be sure guests know where these items are stored – especially if they are not in the area designated as “their” space.

I'd like to add here, also, that a nice, bright room is always welcoming to guests. At the same time, I like guests to be able to darken the room if they want to nap or sleep in the next morning. (As a sufferer of migraine headaches, I always prefer a room that can be made very dark.) Plus, some guests just sleep better in a dark room. In our Guest Room, guests can opt to leave the blinds open, as our backyard is very private or close the blinds. Additionally, they can 'un-do' the curtains to make the room nice and dark.

A Place for Their Belongings
Space in a closet, if possible, with a few hangers is a sure way to welcome guests. An extra drawer or two is really nice, also – especially for guests who stay longer than a couple of days. As I mentioned before, the readily available over the door hangers are a real plus when space is at a premium.

A stand for suitcases or carrying bags is very nice, too. Many of these fold for easy storage under a bed or in a closet when not in use. In our guest room we use a sturdy wooden bench which I painted to match the furnishings. It gives our guest a place to hold a suitcase or bag so that the contents are more accessible. Having this available also protects other furniture in the room.

Some Important Basics
A clock is also a must, I’ve learned. In the past, I’ve not always remembered to put one in our guest rooms, and inevitably a guest will ask if we have an extra one to use while with us. Friends of mine mentioned that the bed and breakfast where they stayed in Amish Country had clocks on BOTH sides of the bed. They both appreciated the thoughtfulness of the innkeeper. A radio is also a blessing for many. Of course, a clock-radio can kill two birds with one stone. Depending on the guest, sometimes we also put a small CD player in the guest room with a variety of CDs available for use.

A night light is also a must for guests, as it helps someone unfamiliar with the house when they need to be up at night. We have them placed strategically throughout our house so that we can easily maneuver the entire house without turning on overhead lights. A reading light is an addition we light to provide also. Sometimes guests have trouble sleeping in new surroundings and having a light to read by helps them to relax. We always keep a flashlight in the bednight stand, too, just in case… (and yes, you read correctly; I did mean to say “bednight.” When our son, Matthew, was small he instinctively created so many phrases that became part of our family vernacular…we refer to them as “Matthew-isms.” As parents we sometimes referred to a “bedtime” snack or a “night stand,” the small table next to the bed. As a toddler, Matthew combined these and referred to any such thing as a “bednight” whatever – just fill in the blank…!”

Back to overnight guests…. We also have a small bookcase (which I painted to match the sturdy wooden bench) filled with a variety of reading materials. A magazine stand in the room is also supplied with a variety of magazines which I recycle periodically. We keep a Guest Book in our guest room, too, so that people can add messages, if they’d like, and also so that they can read comments of previous guests. It’s fun to look at those entries later and remember our visits with our guests.

Welcome Baskets
I often will put a welcome basket in the guest room, too. In this basket I place fun little items I think the guests would like. For some, it might be a coffee basket, for others snacks or even small trinkets of use.
Some other items to consider:
Paper, pens or pencil
Disposal camera
Ear plugs
Local newspaper, map or other pertinent shopping or event information
Church information and service times

Guest Bathrooms
In the Guest Bathroom (or at least the bathroom being used by guests) should have some basic staples visible and readily available. Some of those items are:
Towels / hand towels / washcloths (I also include bleachable washcloths for make-up removal, for guests, if they choose to use them.)

Soap, shampoo, conditioner and other personal hygiene items are a thoughtful addition to the guest bath. Extra toothbrushes, small tubes of toothpaste, etc. are also a real blessing for the guest who forgot the necessities but may be hesitant to ask for supplies. I always put items in a basket on the bathroom counter in the guest bath and indicate guests are to help themselves. Small samples from hotels, “freebies” in other gifts and items are excellent for this purpose. I also keep other products like mouthwash, lotions, personal sanitary items, etc. available for the same reasons.

If you don’t have small children (or your guests don’t), it’s nice to leave a box of matches in the bathroom to help get rid of unpleasant smells. Many sprays are also available to neutralize odors. I like to keep both on a small tray on the back of the guest toilet. I also have a candle on the tray, should guests wish to use it. (Again, I remove matches when small kids are in the house.)

Some Other Needs
A hair dryer and toilet plunger should also be made available to guests. Of course, all of these items could be included in one linen closet, where a guest is invited to use whatever items within it that he or she needs. An iron and ironing board are also items guest sometimes need to use. At the last Bed and Breakfast we stayed in, the innkeepers kept a lot of these “usual” needs in a hallway bureau. It was convenient there for all guests to use. If you have space, it’s a wonderful convenience to keep items in a central location such as this for your own family as well as guests.

Meal Times
Further, it’s always nice to make guests aware of meal times as well as where quick available snacks are located. Guests will be more comfortable helping themselves if you first point out where snacks and drinks can be found. Sometimes we use a write on white board to list menus and approximate times for meals. It’s just a fun way to communicate these items while letting your guests know you’re looking out for them. This is not to say that we are ‘formal’ about such items. These things seem so obvious it seems silly for me to list them. Yet, I have been a guest many times when such obvious gestures were never extended.

Help! I'm Not a Morning Person, But My Guests Are!
I try to set the coffee pot up the night before for any guests who make it to the kitchen before I do in the mornings. I place cups, spoons, sugars, and a small pitcher for milk on a tray near the coffeepot. Sometimes I’ll include a note for guests to help themselves.

I often also lay out bagels, English muffins and cereal for the light eaters who want to eat as soon as their feet hit the floor in the morning. Lots of times we make big country breakfasts for guests. Usually, though, we don’t do that until about 10 a.m. to give everyone a chance to get up and get moving. Juice, coffee and a bagel, fruit or other snack can help tie them over until we get breakfast made.

Phones, Computers & TVs
Phone usage is not as big an issue as it once was, since nearly everyone has a cell phone these days. However, it’s still very nice to let guests know where phones are located, should they need to place a call.

We've learned that guests often want to check their email or Facebook while visiting. We can accomodate that easily, but not everyone is comfortable with that thought. Remember that you may be able to visit your local library or university campus where your guest can have temporary access.

A television, too, is one of those amenities we take for granted. Although it’s nice to have one in the guest room, watching TV as a ‘family’ can be fun, too. You don’t want your guests to stay in their room ALL THE TIME!

Use of Laudry Facilities
It’s also good to let guests know if they can use your laundry facilities – especially if they are staying a few days or more. If they know where the laundry supplies are kept, they will be more comfortable washing a quick load, if needed.

Prepare for the Kids Who Visit, Too!
Having toys to entertain the younger crowd can be a blessing – to the parents and TO YOU - especially if you are not used to little kids! Just a few toys for various ages will be all you need. You can pick up games, puzzles and past-times at garage sales and just keep a basket in the basement or garage where you can pull it out when needed. (On a side note, the extra alarm clocks, etc. can also be found at great prices at yard sales, clearance bins, etc.)

Over-the-top Hospitality
For truly over-the-top treatment of your guests, there are even more things you can do. For example, you can provide the weather forecast (especially useful for any upcoming outdoor plans). Ken and I have stayed in luxury hotels where the next days’ weather forecast was included with the chocolates on our beautifully turned down beds. Talk about special treatment! Like many upscale hotels, you can also place unisex robes and slippers in the guest room or guest bath. We don’t wear shoes in our home and my husband has often spoken of purchasing some simple unisex slippers for guests to use while at our house. He has often spoken about this after his trip to Japan a few years ago where this is commonplace. We haven’t done that – yet – but I do love the idea!

To really pull out all the stops, you might consider a “Thank you for my quiet time” sign for guests to put on their door to let everyone know they want to sleep in, take a nap or otherwise want to be alone for a little while. A small beverage tray made available to them to take upstairs with them is also a nice touch.

You’ll also want to be sure guests have access to your home in the event you are away. An extra key or the garage door code can be a lifesaver for a busy family when visitors arrive.

And finally, two things I like to do when guests come to visit are probably my favorite. If possible, I like to have a snapshot or photograph framed in the room where guests are to sleep. It truly speaks volumes about how you’ve looked forward to their visit and how you welcome them into your home. I also like to have small gifts, wrapped and at the ready. I might leave them in the room with a note to welcome guests or leave them outside their bedroom door to find in the morning. Fun! I usually shop clearance and sale tables for some fun, timeless gift items for this use.

There are lots of ideas here, and I have used all of them at one time or another. I do not recommed using all of these ideas at once, however! You would probably have guests who questioned your sanity (probably rightfully so), or guests who never wanted to leave! I doubt either of those would be a healthy goal, but if you can take away even one idea to use, it will help your guests to feel comfortable and more welcome in your home. Use the ideas you like and tweak them to fit you, your home and family and your personality. We all have different comfort levels with entertaining and all things surrounding it.

If you have ideas you’d like to share, please leave a comment here or email me at I love hearing from you!

Happy Hospitality!

Please be sure to check out Part 1 of Preparing for Overnight Guests posted on this blog on 12/10/09.


The Ski's said... do you have vacancy now???? I want to come stay over at your house!!!! : ) Love the thoughts....and think that your family would make anyone feel welcome anytime!

Vanessa said...

Hey Janeen,

Of course! You'd be welcome to our Guest Room or the 'retreat' on the lower level (a.k.a. Matt-cave). We have invited friends to use the basement sometimes to get away from 'real life' when they need a break. It doesn't have a kitchen, but it is entirely self-sufficient otherwise! Have Grandma and Granpa keep Reid and Ellie and you and Brian 'check in' for a getaway - across the street! ;-)
Love you guys!

Anonymous said...

I can certainly attest to your wonderful accomodations. I was just telling Chelsea how comfortable your bed was...we were looking at mattresses for her today. and your picture on the stand...was that my favorite pict of you, Joyce and me? =) I love that picture as well!! Lynnette

Anonymous said...

I can certainly attest to your wonderful accomodations. I was just telling Chelsea how comfortable your bed was...we were looking at mattresses for her today. and your picture on the stand...was that my favorite pict of you, Joyce and me? =) I love that picture as well!! Lynnette

Vanessa said...

Hi Lynnette,
Thank you for your sweet comments! Yes, that is the picture of the three of us when you and Joyce were here the first time - was that 3 summers ago? It's one of my favorite pictures!
Would love to see you!!
Love you guys,
~Vanessa :)