The holiday season is fast approaching. Maybe too fast. Amidst the celebrations and festivities there are also responsibilities and expectations. Hosting house guests is a perfect blend of this responsibility-and-reward dynamic. While it can be exciting to have friends and family visit, it can also be stressful trying to make everything perfect and ensure your guests are comfortable. But fear not, with a little bit of planning and preparation, you can host your house guests with ease and enjoy your time together.

First, it’s probably important to point out that we all approach hosting guests differently. Some may be old pros at hosting. Perhaps some of us consider a few dust bunnies as pets, knowing guests will be comfortable with them as well. Others are perfectionists, invested in every detail, scouring the internet for the latest trends in gracious living. And others, want take-backs. Yes, it sounded great when they offered to host six months before, but now that it’s go-time the introvert in them wants to fade into the ornament-festooned background. To make sure you and your home are ready for your visitors, we've compiled a list of top tips to help you prep for their arrival.

Communicate Expectations

It's important to communicate your plans and expectations with your guests. Start with the understanding about the length of their stay and the number of people to expect. Open-ended visits inevitably lead to stress.

Life commitments continue even when you have visitors. Communicate your work and family activity schedules to your guests. Establishing realistic expectations removes the guilt that may be experienced when having to step away from hosting, and it is also appreciated by your guests who are trying to make their own plans. Additionally, if you are introverted or need some downtime during their stay, don't hesitate to explain this to your guests. They will likely understand and appreciate your honesty.

In the spirit of life moving on, there are also certain circumstances that arise and are unavoidable. Perhaps your house is on the market and you need to keep it “show-ready.” Let guests know that it needs to be tidied regularly, that luggage should be kept in closets, or that there may be a few times it needs to be shown is important.

Schedule Activities

When it comes to activities, ask your visitors about their preferences and interests. Encourage them to give you some definitive ideas as opposed to “anything will be fine.” Explain to them that getting ideas makes your planning easier. This will help you plan outings or suggest solo activities for them to enjoy during their stay. Remember, it's not necessary to entertain them every moment of the day - it's okay for them to have some downtime too.

Plan Fuss-Free Meals

If you’re not careful you could lose valuable time with your guests toiling for hours in the kitchen. Plan for several self-serve meals during their stay such as sandwich makings, breakfast foods, or homemade pizzas. Stock up on snacks, lean into leftovers, and rely on restaurants. Using a combination or all of these strategies will help relieve the pressure on you and allow you to enjoy your company.

Prep Guest Rooms

To make their stay as comfortable as possible, be sure to provide extra blankets and towels and make sure there are enough pillows. If you are using blow-up mattresses, pull them out from closets and test them to make sure you aren’t caught off guard by a “flat tire.” Create space for their luggage by cleaning out closet space or freeing up a surface of the room.

Create a Welcome Kit

A welcome kit doesn’t have to be anything formal, but pulling together a few things for your visitors will help them to feel comfortable so they can function independently and not impose upon you for the small things. A kit can include the wi-fi password, spare key, directions to the remote, location of the coffeemaker, and any scheduling expectations. If they are first-time visitors don’t forget to first give them a tour of the house.

Make a To-Do List

Avoid the trap of perfectionism by making a to-do list and scheduling specific time to prepare. This will help you stay organized and alleviate stress. Remember, it's okay if everything isn't perfect – the most important thing is the quality time you spend together. By implementing some simple strategies, you can ensure a pleasant stay for both you and your guests. Happy hosting!