The past two weeks I have written on how to host houseguests. A month ago, my kids and I drove from Harrisburg to my dad’s camp in Ontario, Canada to visit my family and friends. We have been playing the part of the houseguests and today I would like to write through that lens and share what I have most appreciated about my hosts and the hospitality they have offered to my family.
- Kid-friendliness. My parents home is a grandkid’s dream. Nothing too breakable, lots of room to run and plenty of toys and activities. Did I mention the snacks? Not everyone has a kid-friendly home since many children are now grown and moved on, but it is possible to have a kid-friendly environment. I would like to note a particular house we stopped at during our trip. We were visiting an elderly couple of my dad’s who have a lovely home full of breakable collectables. Everywhere. I feared my kids would break at least one so my dad and I were constantly asking the kids not to touch anything. Kindly, the wife disappeared for a moment and returned with a few boxes of toys that distracted my children long enough for us to have an adult-friendly conversation. Not only was it considerate of her to bring out the toys, but it was sweet that she even had toys in her home to begin with! If you have no children but do have parent-friends: keep a little basket of toys and/or books tucked away in a closet. Your parental friends will thank you profusely.
- “Extras.” It happens every time. A forgotten toothbrush, a missing hairbrush, no shampoo. Whoops. What was I thinking when I was packing? Keeping a few “extras” around the house isn’t clutter, but helpful if you intend on hosting houseguests. I was relieved when we ran out of kid’s toothpaste that my parents had a spare bottle to use until I could buy a new one. Another helpful tip: if you have a pool at your house, keep some extra bathing suits around in a bag tucked in a closet. You may have an unexpected guest who would gladly join you in the pool if there is an extra suit lying around.
- A genuine “my-house-is-your-house” policy. I am currently housesitting for some friends of mine this weekend. Before leaving (and any time I visit them) each family member made it a point to mention that anything I need is mine. Does that mean I will rummage through every cupboard and drawer and eat them out of house and home? No! This genuine attitude of extending their home to me makes me feel loved and welcome. There is no strange tension that I cannot sit in a certain chair or that I cannot grab a glass of water at my own will. I can relax and let the worries of my day subside knowing that I am with family. Besides, there is no sense hosting someone in your home if you are not willing to truly open it up and open yourself up to your guests.
- Would you like something to drink? A simple question but one I always look forward to. I am an avid tea drinker. Sitting in the living room, tea cup in hand, catching up with a friend is one of my most cherished communal activities. I love hearing how people are doing and sharing in my day. Not a tea drinker? Even a glass of water will do (though I recommend keeping a box of tea on hand for that one friend…).
- Intuition. Being able to read your guest, or at the very least guess what your houseguest needs is a great skill to have. When it’s late and I am ready for bed, it’s always good to hear from my host “you look tired, you should get some rest.” Or offering a snack even when it’s not asked for. Letting your guest be alone for a bit to rest before the next activity or being open to talking. My mother does this well when I visit her. Maybe it’s mom instincts but I sure do appreciate it. No pressure to socialize, just being together is satisfying enough.
What do you appreciate most from your favorite host(s)?