With the holiday season in full swing, guest bedrooms across America will be filled to capacity with family, friends, and dysfunction. Oops. I meant the joy of both hosting and being a guest. A well-appointed guest bedroom, sleeping nook, or bathroom makes a guest feel welcomed and wanted, and gives the host some space – a win-win for everyone. Even the closest of families may not be used to bunking together, so planning ahead helps everyone. Because my family is scattered, we often stay in each other’s homes for the holidays. Here are five things I’ve learned from being hosted by the best of the best:
1 | Stock the designated bathroom with necessities
Extra toilet paper, towels, shampoo, conditioner, and soap are a must. But disposable razors, toothpaste, a blow dryer, hand lotion, and lip balm are those little extras that can minimize the chances of a guest knocking on your bedroom door at midnight after realizing she forgot something at home. My sister-in-law stocks a giant jar with sample sizes of various accouterments, which are fun to sample and feel luxuriously hotel-like. This past Thanksgiving I went looking for Tums at midnight, so I’m making a mental note to self for next time: Don’t overeat and bring my own supply.
2 | Comfortable mattress and bedding
All too often, the guest bedroom becomes the repository of leftover furniture, mattresses, and bedding. This makes sense as the guest quarters are rarely used, and this type of recycling is cost-effective; however, even your favorite piece of furniture has an expiration date. Old furniture can be reclaimed with a good scrubbing, some paint, and a mattress upgrade through one of the many discount vendors out there. Remember: A bad night’s sleep equals cranky guests, and aren’t the holidays stressful enough? Inexpensive cozy blankets, pillows, and bedding are easily available through the myriad home decor discount outlets that seem to be popping up everywhere. A cushy, pampered soft place to land when the family insanity erupts, need not break the bank and serves both host and guest.
3 | Check showerheads and faucets for drips
In some homes, the facilities attached to guest rooms are rarely used by homeowners. As a result, we may not realize that the shower head barely puts forth enough water to wash shampoo out of a buzz cut and that the toilet runs all night. I didn’t realize that my guest bathroom shower was stuck on boiling water only until my brother visited for the weekend and emerged from the bathroom beet-red. Similarly, a whiny air duct vent can make for a miserable night, especially for a guest who doesn’t know how to begin to adjust it in the wee hours. Spending time in your own guest bedroom and using the designated bathroom, can alleviate most of these hassles pre-visit. There are some issues that will never change of course: My mother-in-law still complains that our guest bathroom has no tub. We have since relocated her to the nearest hotel.
4 | Accommodate the kids for the sake of your sanity
I find that most guests with babies, toddlers, or teenagers arrive equipped with their own bag of tricks to soothe, entertain and occupy, but for older kids, not so much. I’m not sure if I feel sorrier for the child sitting on the couch bored stiff by adult conversation, or for myself, having to curb my language every step of the way. Offering a computer or tablet with internet access, movies on demand or video games are good options, but I prefer planning ahead for projects with the kids. Drawing, baking together, creating special place settings, or doing crafts that involve older kids helping younger ones, is a wonderful way to spend time together. Keep the projects simple though: My 10-year-old niece is still talking about the time my teen daughter helped her make cake pops, which involved 1000 steps and trips in and out of my freezer and pantry. We’ve shifted towards cookie decorating since then.
5 | Above and beyond treats
My sister-in-law is the consummate southern hostess and goes above and beyond. Every. Single. Time. She places water bottles and little chocolates on the nightstands prepares a basket of books and recent magazines and has gone as far as placing a basket of our favorite snacks in the room. To take it a step further, she prepares personalized little gifts for my teens, who are continually awed by her generosity and thoughtfulness. She hangs a fluffy bathrobe in the closet, stocks my favorite coffee and provides an endless supply of bubble bath and salts. (My mother-in-law would more than approve of her.) She’s even thought of a framed sign on the nightstand displaying the home’s internet password. I regularly warn her that I may never leave, but she’s undeterred.
The holidays can be stressful for a variety of reasons, including the sleeping over part of the show. But with a little planning ahead, guests may be encouraged to linger a little while longer in their designated home away from home, emerging grateful, helpful, and pleasant in the morning. And if not? At least you tried.