Calendars are filling up with reservations from family and friends hoping for bed and breakfast — at your place.
Whether you are lucky enough to have a spare room dedicated to guests, have squeezed a sofa bed into a home office or own an inflatable bed, you too can be a gracious host.
First, of course, clean the room the guests will be staying in from top to bottom. Make sure the blinds still work. Remove all the clutter you’ve stashed in there — especially sensitive documents such as bank statements or tax papers. No need tempting anyone to check the balance on your Visa. Make sure the closet has a foot or so of hanging space and provide some nice wooden hangers. (You can get an eight-pack for $5 at Ikea.) Provide a reading lamp by the bed if you can. Toss a cozy throw on the back of a chair, stack some magazines or coffee table books and make a little welcome basket of fancy soaps, some shea butter hand cream, bottled water and a bit of chocolate. Ask your guests, before they arrive, how they like their coffee or tea and be prepared. Fresh flowers, even a single bloom in a bud vase, show that you think they are special.
Speaking from experience as a guest and a host, I’ve compiled a list of common mistakes you can easily avoid. Don’t forget: If your friends have a nice experience, hopefully they’ll return the favor someday.
Never sleeping in your guest room: Have an adventure and sleep in your guest room tonight. Experience the joy (or sadness) of snoozing in this forgotten room. You might discover the mattress sinks to the floor or the skimpy curtains don’t close and let morning sunlight shine directly in your eyes. Or you might decide that a white noise machine is a great amenity to keep guests from hearing your TV blaring in the next room.
Using sheets from your college days: The guest room is no place for castoff sheets. The same goes for rough, scraggly towels. Give guests your nicest linens or splurge on a new set. If you want to spoil your visitors, iron the pillowcases. Too Martha Stewart for you? Okay, forget it.
Not setting out a luggage rack or bench: An open suitcase on the floor makes for a jumble of clothing and a messy-looking room. Plus all that bending down is hard on the lower back. A bench can serve as extra seating as well as a stand for a couple of tote bags or backpacks. A foldable luggage rack, such as those provided in hotels, is a terrific investment and can create a handy surface for a suitcase. Stash the rack in a closet when not in use. It’s also handy to have when you are packing for a trip.
Ignoring grungy mattress pads: First of all, I hope you have a mattress pad. Yes, even if you are using a sofa bed. This quilted pad keeps your mattress looking fresh and adds a bit of padding. We all probably don’t wash them as much as we should. (Guilty as charged.) Remember, some travel-savvy guests may inspect the mattress pad for evidence of bed bugs. Others may thoughtfully remove sheets from the bed before checking out, catching a glimpse of your mattress pad. If yours looks nasty, consider an upgrade.
Not providing tech support: Everyone travels with multiple cellphones, laptops and other devices. Leave a note in your guest room listing your WiFi code, and point out where the electrical outlets are. It’s a bad scene when guests come in late and have to hunt for places to plug in their chargers for the night. If you have a TV in the room, provide written instructions on using the remotes and cable, as thoughtful friends with a charming guest suite in the Hudson Valley did for our recent Thanksgiving visit.
Neglecting to provide a wastebasket: Everyone creates trash. Why should your guests have to trek to the bathroom just to toss out a crumpled tissue? (Speaking of which, a box of tissues in a guest room is a lovely convenience.) Nice little wastebaskets are available for under $10.