Holidays mean full houses and that can spell stress. Calm holiday nerves by making sure guests are comfortable in their allotted space and by doing it in plenty of time.
A good night's sleep is foremost. Whether you're offering a guest suite, a spare room or a sofa bed, spend a night there.
Hosts aren't the only ones who should adhere to etiquette during the holidays. When you're a guest in someone else's house, remember to pack an extra set of manners.
Some rules of thumb:
Make your bed every day before leaving the room. "And sofa beds should be closed if they are in the family room, den or office so daily life can continue," advises Medford interior designer Jerry Atnip.
Keep your room tidy. "Usually it's your space for the time you're there, but if it's messy, shut the door," says Jacksonville innkeeper Gary Renninger Balfour. "Be courteous of the fact that it is somebody's home and they don't want it trashed."
Neaten the bathroom. If there's a guest bath, make sure counters are straightened and towels are folded and hung up. If you're sharing a bath, clear counters, stash toiletries and remove towels to the bedroom. Always clean hair out of showers, sink and tub.
Offer a hand. Before or during a stay, ask hosts what you can do to help. Upon departure, strip the bed. Leave linens in a discreet pile or in the laundry room and fluff up the comforter and pillows so the room looks presentable. You may also choose to wash linens and remake the bed, but it's wise to first ask your hosts if this is preferable.
"It's nice for hosts not to have to do the extra work," says Renninger Balfour.
And that's a sure way to get invited back!
"Notice the bed, the lighting, the placement of lamps and clocks," recommends Tim Balfour, co-owner and innkeeper with Gary Renninger Balfour of TouVelle House Bed & Breakfast in Jacksonville. "Lying down in a bed also lets you see what your guests will see, i.e., cobwebs, dust, cracks."
If the bed doesn't measure up, add a pillow top or foam memory mattress or even opt for a good inflatable mattress.
Dress the bed with freshly laundered sheets and two or three blankets. Provide two pillows per guest: one soft, one firm.
Place a small table, basket, chest or box next to the bed with a reading light and magazines or books. In a small space, clip a reading lamp onto the headboard or nearby shelf.
Clear space and hangers in the closet and obtain a luggage rack for laying out suitcases.
Add an alarm clock (with instructions), a TV or radio, waste basket and mirror. Free up electrical outlets or extension cords for computers, cell phone chargers and medical equipment.
Window coverings that provide privacy and block street lights and morning sun are much appreciated.
Special treatment may include a welcome kit of toiletries, mints or chocolates, bottles of water and fresh flowers. "Some of our hosts have put a photograph of us in the guest area—something from a past experience with them," recalls Medford interior designer Jerry Atnip.
When hosting older guests or children, free up space for easy maneuvering. Employ night lights and remove bric-a-brac. Make sure there's no 'trip' factor such as loose rugs.
Privacy is equally important for guests and hosts. Ascertain that doors are closable and locks work.
"A white noise machine can be a big help to cover up noises that might bother your guests," says Balfour. "It is amazing how much these machines help extend your sleep time."
If guests are bedding down in the family room, place the sofa bed or inflatable mattress out of sight of the kitchen and eating areas so morning dressing and meal preparation can be discreet.
"Folding or hanging screens can be used to give privacy," says Atnip.
When repurposing a den or family room into a guest room, make space by moving extra furniture into the garage or other room.
"Also clear some surface space so your guests feel welcome to put their stuff on your desk or sofa table," Balfour says. "Guys need a place to dump the contents of their pockets and women need a place to set their purse, jewelry and cell phones."
Coat trees provide valuable hanging options where no closet exists. Remember to stash away business information and other private items.
If there is a shared bath, supplement the guest area with a mirror and vanity surface for makeup and hair drying. Supply each guest with a basket for bath linens that can be carried to and from the bathroom and provide over-the-door hooks in the guest space for hanging towels.
Remain in hosting mode throughout the guests' stay (which shouldn't last more than three days). Inform guests of where extra bed and bath linens and supplies are located. Also let them know what's available to them in the fridge and how to make morning coffee.
"Set up the coffee maker before going to bed so the first person up doesn't feel they have to wait for others," says Balfour. "Setting out coffee cups and sweeteners allows guests to take care of themselves and you to sleep a little later."
Such gracious hosting will assure everyone returns to their "normal" lives with positive holiday memories.