If you live somewhere even remotely cool, chances are you’re going to have friends or family who want to come use your home as a free hotel. And why not welcome them? It’s a great excuse to catch up (and to ensure that you yourself have a place to crash when you go visit their neck of the woods).
Of course, you probably have other commitments beyond turning your living room into a gratis bed and breakfast joint. Inevitably, having a houseguest is a balancing act between managing your own hectic life and making sure your visitor is happy and comfortable. And unless your day job is being Martha Stewart, that means there’s going to be some stress involved. So what’s a busy girl to do?
Whether you have three months notice or three hours, make sure you spend a little time getting prepared. Compile a list of fun activities your guest can enjoy with or without you (sightseeing tours, good shopping locales, must-try restaurants) and print out a map noting those locations in relation to your place. (It’s actually good to keep this on file, so you can use it again next time you have houseguests.)
Also, gather any other relevant items: bus schedules, a spare key to your place, instructions on how to work that impossible-to-figure-out TV remote. The idea is to act as your guest’s invisible tour guide for all those times you have to be elsewhere.
That said, don’t get anxious about covering every little detail—you’re doing a favor for someone, not hosting a Travel Channel show. Just provide your guest with enough information so that she has some things to fill her time when you’re not home.
Be Up Front About Your Schedule
Most likely, your guest will be understanding of your commitments and won’t get all huffy that you didn’t schedule your vacation days to correspond with her stay. But nothing is worse for her as a traveler than waking up with you not there, unsure about where you are, when you’ll be back, and whether she should wait for you or go exploring on her own.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, be up front about when you’ll be unavailable. Leave a note up on the fridge outlining your schedule, so you don’t have to spend all day responding to texts of “where are you?” and “what time will you be back?” If your schedule tends to be unpredictable, at least jot down what you know for sure. And if there are times that your guest absolutely won’t be able to get in touch with you for a restaurant recommendation or directions, make that clear so she can plan around it.
Make Her Feel Special
Even with a busy schedule, you should try to make your guest feel as welcome and wanted as possible. The best way to do this is to try to work in some time with her. Maybe leave work early one day and go exploring with her, or have her meet you on your lunch break. You can even just invite her to participate in your daily activities, like your Thursday yoga class or your weekly trip to the Laundromat. She may decide she’d rather not (although, seriously, who doesn’t love a good trip to the Laundromat?), but giving her the option to participate in your everyday life will make her feel welcome without forcing you to change your routine.
If you really have no time to spare, try to find other little ways to make your guest feel special. You can stock the fridge with foods you know she loves, purchase a fun Groupon for her to go do something exciting, or get her a pre-paid, unlimited pass for the bus or train.
The most important thing to remember is to maintain balance. Don’t feel like you have to forego all of your previous commitments just because you have a houseguest, but also don’t be so busy that your visitor ends up spending her whole trip alone. If someone is close enough to you to share your home, they’re close enough to you that you can freely communicate your limitations. And if it ever seems overwhelming, just remember: You’re earning a free hotel stay in her living room later on.