Making overnight guests feel at home is possible – here is everything you need to know!
Hosting Overnight Guests Can be a Breeze
Having overnight guests can be great or it can be very stressful. Which it is depends on a lot of factors including your accommodations, your personality, the personalities of your guests, how well you know them, and the current stressors in life – just to name a few.
While there are some elements of hosting overnight guests that are hard to remove the stress or inconvenience of, it’s my hope that these simple ideas will help you find more joy as you anticipate the arrival of your guests whether they stay one night or one year.
Your Home Doesn’t Need to be Perfect to Welcome Overnight Guests
The first overnight guests to stay in our home were welcomed to an office with a futon. Since then guests have been welcomed to couches, kids rooms, and even our bedroom but never to an official guest room because we’ve never had one.
One time we hosted a homeless man for two weeks because someone from church volunteered us. You never know what will happen when you get a reputation for being hospitable…
I’ve also been hosted many times by gracious people who were happy to share their space and time with me (or at least good at pretending if they weren’t).
There are a lot of things you can do to make sure guests know they are welcome and wanted.
Here are some of my favorite ideas:
Preparing for Overnight Guests
1. Ask what your guests like to have on hand
Most of the time you know ahead of time when overnight guests are coming to stay (although I’ve had a few welcome surprises over the years). Because this is true, a great way to get ready is to ask guests what they like to have on hand.
Are there snacks they enjoy that you can pick up? Something they need to be more comfortable?
Many guests will say no, there is nothing special.
It’s still a very welcoming thing to do AND this gives you an opportunity to ask about allergies or dietary restrictions that you should be aware of.
Plus some overnight guests will genuinely have needs and will feel more comfortable expressing them when you’ve started the conversation.
2. Make breakfast self-serve & explain it to your guests the night before
I am a big fan of a self-serve breakfast because everyone seems to get up at very different times. Unless you plan to tell your guests the exact time breakfast is served and have everything hot and ready, a self-serve (continental style) breakfast is a good idea.
You can keep cereal, bagels, English muffins, croissants, yogurt, fruit, or homemade treats on hand easily.
Let them know what time you’ll be waking up but walk them through the breakfast plan the night before. Show them where you keep the coffee and toaster and make sure they know you’re completely comfortable with them helping themselves.
This way your friend who is normally up at 5 and ready to eat will feel at ease even if you sleep until 8.
3. Make your WiFi password visible to your overnight guests
Print out a little card with your WiFi password and keep it in the room your guests will be staying in. This is something we often forget to ask for until it’s inconvenient like when you need to check email late at night or can’t fall asleep and want to watch something. Setting this up for your overnight guests ahead of time is just a simple way to let them know that you thought about them before they arrived and you’re thankful they’re staying with you.
4. Provide a basket of snacks (especially if you don’ t know your guests super well)
Grab a few snack items that work within your overnight guests’ dietary needs and set them up in a little basket by the bed.
It’s always nice to have the option of a midnight snack but that can be hard to come by in someone else’s house.
Especially if you don’t know your host well, it can be very awkward to go looking for something to snack on late at night.
Minimize this feeling for your guests and keep a few items on hand for them.
Here are a couple of ideas that work really well (and have a longer shelf life in case they aren’t all used):
5. Ask if your guests have anything they want to do or see while in your area
Asking your overnight guests if they have something they want to see in your area gives them the freedom to control their schedule a little. Maybe they’ve always wanted to visit a historical site in your city or try a certain restaurant. This is a great way to get to know the things that interest your guests and even explore your area as a tourist (which is always fun).
Have a few ideas ready to offer in case they are looking them. Maybe it’s apple picking season and you can take them to your favorite orchard or maybe there is a special park with beautiful views where you can enjoy a picnic. Whatever the case, having a few ideas beforehand allows you to show off the best of your area and do things you know you’ll enjoy.
6. Ask about your guests’ schedule and explain yours
While we would all love to have life stop whenever we have overnight guests, sometimes that can’t happen. This is just something to be transparent about.
If you have work or appointments you need to keep, let your guests know ahead of time (even before they arrive if possible). Give them a few ideas of what they can do on their own and make sure you have self-serve meals available for the meals you won’t be available to cook.
Your guests may choose to go out for those meals but it’s always nice to have the option of simple meals at your house because they may have work to do or be tired from travel and just want to relax.
Some simple meals that you can easily keep on hand:
1. Cheese Platter – this lovely cheese platter will make a beautiful addition any time of year
2. Chili – this is a great option to simmer on the stove whenever a guest is hungry
3. Lasagna – This simple dish is great to make ahead and then bake up when your guests are getting hungry
4. Crack Chicken – this can be made in the instant pot for a quick dinner or in the crockpot if you want to get it ready ahead of time
7. Make sure your overnight guests have bathroom essentials
It happens to everyone at some point. You set out on a trip and realize too late that you’ve forgotten something essential. A toothbrush. Shampoo. Something that feels completely necessary.
Usually, we don’t know we’re missing these things until it’s time to use them.
Because this is true, keeping a few bathroom essentials on hand can go a long way to making your overnight guests feel comfortable in your home.
Here some ideas of what to keep on hand:
- Body Wash
- Pads/ Tampons
Add to that list anything you really love to have.
If you have a guest bathroom, keep a basket of these items on the vanity there. If you (like me!) don’t have a guest bath, keep a small basket of these items in a linen closet so you can pull it out quickly and place in the room your guests will be sleeping.
8. Fresh bedding wherever your guest will sleep
This probably goes without saying but giving your guests newly cleaned bedding is a nice way of letting them know you’re happy they are there and you’ve made sure you’re ready for them.
Change the sheets on the bed they will sleep in or make sure you’ve got well-sealed extra sheets around in case they will be using an air mattress or couch.
This is a simple touch that goes a long way
9. Explain where to find things – food, remotes, etc
Because we spend everyday in our homes and have likely played a role in deciding where various household items will be stored, it can be easy to forget that our guests don’t have the luxury of knowing where things are.
Take a few minutes to write out a list of things your overnight guests should be able to find without needing to ask.
Then make sure you tell them where those things are soon after they arrive. They may need to ask later but they’ll know you’re comfortable with them using these things and that will make it easier for them to ask about later.
Some ideas are:
- Snack food
- Television Remotes
- Communal devices (tablets, speakers, tv, etc)
- Extra towels
- Extra blankets
10. Include your overnight guests in the family
Most guests who come to stay with your family overnight (or for several nights) don’t want to be constantly entertained. You are doing them a favor by allowing them to stay with you. Most of the time, they will want to play a role in returning that favor by contributing to the house so give them a job.
If you’re cooking dinner, have them cut up veggies. If you’re doing the laundry, ask them to fold. If you’re playing with the kids, ask them to join in.
Overnight guests have the opportunity to be in our homes longer than the typical dinner or daytime guests. Because that’s true, they have a unique look into our family structures. Let them be a part of that.
They will feel more at home and you’ll genuinely get some extra helping hands.
11. Keep board games and books visible
We know how to entertain ourselves in our own homes but that can be challenging when we’re staying with someone else. We don’t want to spend the entire time on our phones (hopefully!) but it’s easy to feel like we have to if we are left to sit for awhile.
Keeping board games and books readily available allows guests to find ways to entertain themselves. They can flip through your coffee table books or play a game of solitaire. They can ask someone else to play checkers or even get a full game of Dutch Blitz going.
For some other great party games to keep on hand, check out this post.
This simply allows your guests to feel self-sufficient and at home.
12. Ask about food issues before your overnight guests arrive
We mentioned this before but, coming from someone with food issues, this is a huge blessing! I’m always happy to bring my own food with me but I really appreciate it when a host asks me about food sensitivities and either plans accordingly or lets me know they’re happy to have me bring my own food.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve search supermarkets for protein bars I could eat quickly because I had to miss most of a meal that someone served.
Often I just carry a few in my bag if I think there is a possibility I won’t be able to eat.
It’s much easier if I know ahead of time how to prepare and it always shows me that my host/ hostess is thinking ahead about how to work with my particular needs.
13. Do your shopping or planning for meals ahead of time (unless this can be a fun way to connect)
Plan your meals before your guests arrive. Think about all 3 meals of the day and make sure you know how those meals will be managed. Obviously things come up and plans change but it’s still good to have a baseline plan for what you think will happen.
It’s much easier to adjust a plan you’ve made than it is to make a whole new plan on the fly.
Keep in mind how many people you will be hosting and make a plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This doesn’t mean you need to personally cook all of these meals. You may choose to order out for dinner one night but when you know ahead of time you can think of a few restaurant options to offer guests.
This is also a good opportunity to do your grocery shopping ahead of time.
I have 3 friends who I regularly shop and cook with when they stay at my house. This has become a bonding experience for us and we enjoy the conversation associated with this shared activity.
However, for all of my other guests, I try to do my shopping ahead of time so that I don’t have to take time away from my guests to shop and so my guests don’t feel like they need to pay for the groceries if we go together.
14. Show your guests to their space right away if they bring their bags in with them
Plan to show your guests to their space quickly. While you don’t have to immediately walk them to their room, placing their bags in their space is a great way to put them at ease. Your guests know where they can escape for a minute of quiet or to change their clothes. They know where they can take important phone calls and where they can store their things, out of the way.
If your guests don’t bring their bags in with them when they first come in, there is no need to rush this. Let them come in and relax. Make them a cup of coffee. Catch up. And then tell them you can show them where they’ll be staying when the time is appropriate.
15. Put out guests towels before they arrive
Every once in awhile when we host, it’s easy to forget the basics of what our guests need. When I was young, I stayed with a friend overnight. There were no towels made available and I was too shy to ask so I drip-dried and then used my pajamas to dry off.
Of course, my host noticed soon after and felt terrible.
Now that I’m a little older, I would just ask my host for a towel but some people feel very uncomfortable asking for anything they think could be inconvenient at all.
Because that’s true, it’s best to put out some guest towels before your guests arrive. Just leave enough full towels, hand towels, and wash clothes in a stack on the bed. Your guests won’t have to ask and it again shows that you’ve thought about their needs ahead of time.
I know there are a lot of different things to keep in mind so to help you out a little, I’ve put together a little “Overnight Guest Checklist” that you can access in the resource library by subscribing below.
This will help you remember all of the little things that go a long way toward making your guests feels at ease and at home in your space.
Hosting Overnight Guests
Ultimately hosting overnight guests is really about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Consider what would matter to you if you were the one staying in a strange place. What things do you appreciate?
Whatever those things are, make an effort to provide them for your guests.
Think about times that you have stayed in other people’s homes. What stood out to you? What made you feel particularly comfortable? What do you wish they had done for you?
Make note of all those things and add them to this list so your guests can be especially welcome in your specific home.