6 Tips for Surviving Overnight Guests at the Holidays

posted: 12/19/16
by: Blythe Copeland

Whether you're hosting a houseful of people this holiday -- or just a few that feel like a full house -- make sure everything runs smoothly with these must-dos, from getting the guest room ready to keeping everyone entertained.

Bed, pillows and bedside table with lamp

1. Prepare your house

Getting your home ready for guests doesn't have to be a last-minute task. Start early by making sure all the sheets and towels are clean, making the bed, and even cleaning the guest room (and then closing it off to kids and pets). Give the bathroom a deep clean days in advance, so that you only need to give the surfaces a quick spray right before guests arrive. And try to anticipate and prepare for other overnight needs so you aren't fumbling at the last minute: spare toothbrushes, available plugs for charging wireless devices, extra blankets and pillows.

Happy multi-generation family walking in the countryside

2. Get out of the house.

Whether your guests are staying for just one night or a full week (or more), you'll all have a better time if the days have a little structure. Be ready to offer suggestions for local activities, favorite restaurants, parks, or sightseeing options that you can all do together, or that your guests can do alone if you're staying home to accommodate the kids' nap schedules. You don't have to come up with a to-the-minute itinerary -- flexibility is key when you're hosting -- but you also don't want your out-of-owners sitting around all day with nothing to do. If you'll be at work and they're entertaining themselves, have an extra set of keys so they can come and go on their own.

Grandmother, daughter and grandchildren preparing a meal together

3. Put them to work

Scrambling to finish your massive holiday to-do list? Consider all those extra hands as extra help. Put grandma on present-wrapping duty, send your uncle to pick up your online grocery order, have your cousin stand in line at the post office let your sister-in-law oversee the kids decorating sugar cookies. Most guests who visit during the holidays are happy to pitch in and get involved with cooking, cleaning, and the rest of the preparations -- plus completing your holiday tasks together will lead to plenty of memorable moments (and maybe even a few new family traditions).

Pot of Soup

4. Stock the refrigerator and pantry

Keeping everyone fed will help minimize meltdowns from the kids (and, okay -- from the adults, too). Instead of coordinating three sit-down meals every day, stock up on breakfasts, lunches, and snacks that are easy for people to prepare on their own schedule, like bagels, cereal, lunchmeat, cheese, sliced vegetables, hummus, crackers, granola, and yogurt. Make a double batch of your favorite soup so people can grab a bowl for lunch or dinner, and prepare a breakfast casserole so you won't have to worry about feeding a crowd before you've even had your coffee.

Multi-ethnic group of family and friends gather together at grandmother's home for Christmas dinner or a holiday party. Food dishes and wine on the dining room table. African and Latin descent family members.  Aunt tickles little boy, who is sitting in grandmother's lap.

5. Communicate in advance

Avoid last-minute surprises by touching base with your guests before they arrive: Find out if anyone has a food allergy or special sleeping requirements, if your brother has made plans to meet up with his old high school friends when you're planning game night or if your great-aunt is bringing her dog along. This is also a good time to make your own requests -- whether that means asking people to bring their own pillows so you don't have to buy more or putting a ban on conversations about politics, you set the tone for your own home.

Shot of a multi-generational family exchanging gifts at Christmas

6. Relax

Every family get-together has its little frustrations and annoyances, and those can feel magnified when people are staying for several days. But if you want to enjoy your time together, choose wisely what you let upset you. Hang up the wet towels, slip a coaster under that cold drink, let the kids stay up for an extra book at bedtime, and let your favorite tv show languish in the DVR for one more day -- just focus on the time you're spending with your loved ones and let everything else go.