Beside the obvious things like cleaning the house from top to bottom, the patio furniture, manicuring the garden, there are a host of other things you can do to make your guests feel loved and welcome. I moved to Arizona from England in 1999, so I've had more than my fair share of guests come off an eleven hour flight to visit me and inevitably stay at least two weeks to make the long journey worth their while! The truth is I love it, so I do everything I can to make them a return visitor - having a background in the hotel industry helps!
The Guest Bed
It's important for guests to have a comfortable bed. Plenty of squishy pillows, a plump duvet, fresh bedding, extra blankets if necessary. Even if you never do this for yourself, you should iron your guests' sheets, pillow cases and duvet cover. This makes it obvious that the bedding is absolutely clean and fresh, plus it makes the bedding feel smooth and luxurious.
Make sure the pillows are clean. You can have them professionally cleaned if you don't want to do this yourself. I have down pillows and have always washed them myself at home in the washing machine with a gentle non biological detergent. They can go in the dryer on a medium heat, and although they take quite a long time to dry thoroughly, they will return to life plumped and like new. Always use pillow protectors. Plain cotton is best (it breathes better) and you can pick these up at Target or Bed Bath and Beyond.
Finish by "dressing the bed", in other words decorate it! Once the bed is made... perfectly, add some big euro pillows that your guest can sit up and lean against if they want to read or watch TV in bed. Add some smaller decorative throw pillows in a matching color scheme or contrast for a pop of color. Perhaps a cosy throw folded neatly at the end of the bed that can be used as an extra layer to snuggle up with if it's a little chilly.
The Night Stand
Ensure the night stand is clean and uncluttered with most importantly a lamp that has an easily accessible on and off switch. Put out a coaster that they can place their water or morning coffee on and a clock so they can see the time easily if they wake up in the night. Perhaps a trinket tray for safe keeping of rings, watch and jewelry.
If possible, remove any of your own clutter from the drawer or cupboard (if there is one). This way your guest can use the space for their own odds and sods. This is my thing and it may be very old fashioned, but it's a tradition that stems from my younger years when I both worked and stayed in hotels often, there was always a bible in the drawer of the nightstand, so for me a guest room isn't complete without it.
The Room Ambiance
Make sure there is sufficient lighting in the room besides the bedside lamp on the nightstand. Check that all light bulbs are good and replace any that are blown out.
If you have carpet in the room, make sure it's clean. If you have a heavy traffic area that gets heavily soiled, you may want to have the carpet cleaned a few days before your guests arrive.
Remove personal clutter unless it's aesthetically pleasing. Piles of papers, old magazines, general rubbish and household goods that accumulate and are dumped in the spare room are unsightly and not conducive to a relaxing getaway for your guest. It's fine to place family photos, or interesting treasures around the room as these add character and personality, perhaps symbolic of your relationship with your guest. When Kirsten my BFF comes to stay, which is almost every year, I place a picture of Ringo in her room. He was my dog in England before I moved to the US and Kirsten would babysit him when I traveled and so became very fond of him. It's a nostalgic comfort to see his photo.
For guests who are visiting you for the first time in your current location, it's always nice to place some local books or magazines of interest in their room. When I have friends visit who haven't been to Arizona before, I put a selection of books about the history of Scottsdale, the Grand Canyon, things to do and see in Arizona. If jet lag causes them to wake up in the middle of the night, at least they have something useful to do until they fall back to sleep!
Fresh flowers go a long way to making their vacation accommodation feel extra special. A vase of fresh colorful tulips, fragrant roses or showy lilies can make the room feel like a five star resort. For a bedroom bouquet I prefer a monochromatic theme - same color, same flower. It's okay if the color contrasts to the color scheme of the room, the bouquet may be the pop of color you need!
Make sure there is sufficient space in the closet or wardrobe for your guest to hang their clothes. Your spare bedroom closet may be full of your own stuff which is fine, but clear some space for them. Also make sure the closet is clean, you may not have been in it for a few months, so the rails and shelves probably need to be dusted.
Also make sure you leave a nice selection of hangers for your guest. I always put out some padded hangers, skirt grip hangers, some strut hangers and some regular caped hangers.
Ensure your guest has some drawer space for their t-shirts, underwear, and other folded items. Also some surface space to place their personal bits and pieces on.
If your guest is travelling from abroad where the voltage is different, it's a good idea to have an electrical converter available so they can plug in their electric toothbrush, flat iron or other electronic gadgets.
Amenities and Refreshments
Bearing in mind that guests have different needs to yourself, try and cover everything so they will be at their most comfortable possible whilst away from their own home.
Put an amenities tray in their room. This should consist of a bottle of mineral water perhaps in a small ice bucket if you have one. A glass to drink their water from. A bar of dark and/or milk chocolate. Perhaps a small plate of cookies, and/or a piece of fruit. You don't have to put this out every night of their stay (perhaps the water), but once they have found their way around your home, they can help themselves to snacks when you're not available.
Don't forget the bathroom amenities, some fancy soap or other unique beauty products you may want to share with them.
The Guest Bathroom
Make sure you have soft plump fresh towels for your guest. I keep a set of towels for guests that hubby and I are not allowed to use. Put them out the day of arrival, folded neatly over the towel rails, hand towels, bath towels and wash cloths.
Buy a nice bar of soap for your guest. Perhaps a nicely wrapped French milled soap that you can place by the sink in a soap dish and another by the bath or in the shower tray.
Make sure you have plenty of extra toilet rolls stashed in the bathroom cabinet under the sink. The last thing your guest wants to do is wake you up in the middle of the night to ask for toilet paper!
A hair dryer is a useful amenity to keep under the bathroom sink for your guest. It's unlikely they brought their own and it saves them having to bother you to borrow yours.
Ensure there is a waste bin lined with a plastic bag so your guest can throw away bathroom products without worrying about spoiling your canister.
Place a plant such as an orchid in a rustic container so your guest can have a spa like zen feeling each time they visit the bathroom! Plants or flowers in the bathroom also add ambiance.
If you have a shower curtain, make sure it's spotlessly clean and ironed, and the liner is clean and fresh and set inside the bathtub so your guests don't have to negotiate how to work the curtains!
Check in advance if your guests have any allergies. Also check what they like to eat for breakfast. Breakfast is probably the one meal of the day that throws a person off kilter if they don't get something close to what they're used to. For example, do they prefer tea or coffee, do they have a diet soda addiction, do they eat cereal or toast and what do they have on their toast. When people eat a breakfast they are comfortable with, it sets them up for the day ahead. This is very important for your guests' comfort.
Always get a few of your guests comfort foods in, even if they're not your own. I never drink diet soda, but my best friend is addicted to it, so I get a family pack in for her visit.
Whilst you may go out for lots of meals with your guests, go shopping prior to their arrival and get in at least two or three possible meals that you can make at home. That way you have something that can be rustled up in the event of an unplanned stay at the house.
Schedule some fun events or trips you can do with your guests during their stay which you know (or think) they might enjoy. Have some plans or ideas up your sleeve to entertain them so you all have some fun activities to share and look forward to.
Have a selection of restaurants to hand that you think your guests would like. I make a note of some of our favorite restaurants that would be good for different meals that we might want to go out for whilst our guests are in town. Bear in mind cost, style, ambiance as well as food likes and dislikes.
In addition, I always schedule a few gatherings with various of my local friends so that my guests can have interaction with other people besides the hubby and myself. This often leads to new life-long friendships being made.
The ultimate cherry on top is to have a gift or gifts awaiting your guests after their long arduous journey. This is my favorite part. Between visits I accumulate small gifts for my girlfriend when I am out shopping and I see something that I know she would like. I set them aside and by the time her next trip comes around I have a fun array of gifts to wrap up and set out on her bed. The first thing we do after picking her up from the airport is unpack her suitcase whilst sipping on a glass of wine, share outfit ideas from the things she's brought with her, and then open our presents (she always brings me loads of gifts too!).
Other gift ideas for guests might include a graphic t-shirt representing your local city or state, Walgreens has these for less than $10. You can estimate what size your guest would need, but it's a fun thing to wear when they're just hanging out or for bed time. Fridge magnets are another fun type of souvenir that are representative of your locale, maybe a coffee table book of photographs from your part of the country. Wrap the gifts up nicely and place them on the bed for when they arrive.
One last thing... buy or make a card in advance ready for their departure. This is your opportunity to turn this visitor into a repeat guest or ensure they never come again. Just kidding! I always like to leave them with a goodbye note, just a few words to say how much we enjoyed their visit and here's to looking forward to the next time - you get my drift. Inevitably this card brings my girlfriend to tears when we say goodbye to her at the airport on her way home, but they're good tears!
Thank you for stopping by!
Karen Serino is a life and style blogger, sharing fashion, fitness and fun for youthful women in their forties, fifties and beyond.
Click the picture below to see my interview with the lovely Jonet Wooten from Fabulously Chic Over 50