Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Last year's holiday travel season was an unsurprising bust (thanks, Covid), but A LOT of people are planning on making up for it this year. That's according to a recent PWC survey showing 52% of participants planned on spending the holidays away from home. The survey also found the majority of travelers plan to stay with family or friends, which means if you're not the visiting party, there's a good chance you're on the hook to host.
Staying home for the holidays sounds great when you consider all the headaches tied to peak travel season. But hosting holiday guests for any amount of time isn't easy either. Cooking, cleaning, entertaining — being the host with the most takes a lot of time and effort, especially with a large number of guests.
Getting your home ready well before your guests arrive makes the endeavor a whole lot easier, and gives you time to spend with your guests and actually enjoy yourself.
Start on these 6 steps now and make the most of your holiday gathering.
Ready their room
The guest room should be the first thing on your list — it's the first place your guests will want to go when they get there, and you can get it ready well before they arrive. Start with a good dusting and toss the bed linens in the wash, then clean and sanitize all the surfaces and the floors, too. Once the cleaning is done, stock the room with extra pillows and blankets, phone chargers, and any other little amenities to make your guests feel a little more at home. Huffpost says to take notes from hotels and create a "miniature necessities station" with things like shampoo, lotions, and other basic necessities for your visitors. Also make sure to offer a designated space for their belongings, whether it be an empty closet or another space large enough for suitcases to be tucked away. While your guests have come to spend time with you, they'll still appreciate having a private space during their visit.
Speaking of space, you may find it limited while your guests are in town. Take the time to make room throughout the house before your guests — and all their stuff — even arrive. Remove as much clutter as you can from all the high traffic areas of your home. If there's too much to know what to do with, realsimple.com recommends using decorative baskets to store little things like electronics, linens, and other items you use on a regular basis but don't want out on display. Consider rearranging furniture to accommodate more comfortable seating, and relocating expensive artwork or fragile decorations to a safer place in your home. Make sure you have a convenient place to store your guests' coats, shoes and bags, and make space in the bathroom for their essential toiletries. Adding a little more space in your home goes a long way in accommodating all your guests, and helps keep everyone more comfortable.
Meal prepping is all the rage for fitness enthusiasts and busy working professionals, but it's a real game-changer for seasoned holiday hosts, too. Taking the stress out of deciding where or what to eat, and limiting the time you have to spend in the kitchen while your guests are there is well worth the time and effort it takes to meal prep. There is no gold-standard in meal preparations — do as much or as little as you can based on your preferences. That could mean as little as one trip to the grocery store to get any and all ingredients you'll need to throw some things together, or planning and preparing whole meals in advance.
Keep in mind any diet restrictions or food allergies your guests may have — and don't be afraid to ask if you don't know — and try to have something available for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Preparing items that can be frozen in advance, like soups, casseroles and baked goods are a huge time-saver, as are pre-cut vegetables and butchered meats. Lastly, start stocking up on everything you'll need for your holiday meal, along with canned and dried goods to limit the number of trips to the grocery store while your guests are in town.
Liven up your living spaces
A good house cleaning is an obvious must when you're hosting family and friends for the holidays, but adding a little flair to your home will make your holiday get together all the more memorable. Holiday lights and decorations always add to the holiday spirit, but new throw pillows, rugs and blankets can add a little more flair to impress your guests. Flowers and potted plants are an easy way to make your living spaces even more vibrant, and scented candles can add a bit of warmth and feel-good aromas during the winter months. Last but not least, make sure you have enough lighting throughout the home, replacing light bulbs and adding night lights to guest rooms, and make sure your fireplace is ready for action at a moments notice. Creating a warm, welcoming setting for your holiday get together will make all those moments extra special.
Keep it clean
No matter how prepared your are, there's always cleaning to do, especially when guests are in town. A thorough house cleaning a week or two before your guests arrive will save you time in the long run, but make sure you give all the rooms in your house a final once-over a day or two before they show up to stay on top of things. While you're at it, Closetbox recommends assembling an "emergency cleaning kit," including proven stain removers, multi-surface cleaners, dusters, carpet cleaner, etc. to take care of any spills and messes that happen on the spot. Stock up on laundry and dish detergents, hand soaps, paper products and disinfectants, too. And don't forget about your indoor air quality — it's cold and flu season, and Covid is still rearing its ugly head, after all — so make sure your Home ventilation system is in working order, with clean ducts and fresh air filters.
Maintaining indoor air quality is key, especially with more people coming in and out of your house. Attic fans go a long way in removing stale, polluted air trapped inside your roof, and running a whole house fan when the temperature outside is comfortable will remove any lingering viruses, pathogens, cooking odors and other pollutants dirtying your living spaces in a matter of minutes! Maintaining a clean house will not only keep you, your family and guests happy and healthy throughout the holiday season, but makes the post-gathering cleanup much less burdensome.
Host with most
Hosting a holiday get together is one thing, hosting a memorable one is another. When all your other preparations are done, take time to make a list of things that will really stand out to your guests. Make your mark on lang-standing traditions or start your own to make the holidays special for everyone. Focus on the little details like creating a special music playlist with their favorite songs, or snag a copy of their favorite movies or games. Make note of any fun community events they'd like to attend, or plan special outings to keep them engaged and entertained throughout their visit. Keep their favorite snacks on hand and take them to their favorite restaurant, or plan to serve a special meal or two just for them.
Lastly, keep a number of generic giftable items, like mugs, blankets, scarves or even gift cards wrapped and ready to label for any unexpected guests, or those who may not be getting something for whatever reason. These little details make your guests feel more welcomed, loved, and likely what they'll remember the most, making you stand out as the host with most.
Hosting the holidays is no easy feat, but it doesn't have to be a nightmare. Getting an early start on your hosting duties is the best way to ensure your holiday get together is memorable for all the right reasons, and that you'll be able to enjoy yourself, too.
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