In the last few weeks of summer as we enter into fall, everybody gets the itch to take a long weekend away; particularly if there hasn’t been time for a full-fledged vacation. So what do you do if you find yourself on the receiving end of a call from a friend who wants to drop in for a night or two—but your apartment doesn’t have a guest room to spare? Here are a few tips to make your apartment serve as a great home-away-from-home for friends or family, despite the small space and short notice.
If you’re going to have frequent guests, invest in a futon or convertible sofa that can be made up into a spare bed. Air mattresses are a close and very economical second for convenience and comfort (particularly the kind that have air pumps built in so they can self-inflate and deflate with the flip of a switch); but be sure to add a blanket underneath the fitted sheet to help hold in body warmth if your place gets chilly at night and since air mattresses don’t warm up quite like a solid mattress does. If you don’t have a fold-out, a sofa can still turn into a comfy, instant sleeper for one just by rolling out a soft sleeping bag lined with a clean, fresh sheet; and adding a couple of comfy pillows in fresh pillow cases. One of the nicest things you can do for a guest is to provide fresh, great-smelling bedding; so be sure to keep a clean set of sheets and pillow cases around for situations like these.
Clean towels are also a must. If you don’t have a guest-sized supply, buy a few spares, but be sure to wash them before you offer them up to your guests since new towels (and bedding, while we’re mentioning it) are sometimes treated with a variety of chemicals to help the fabric fold easily, resist fire, and/or stay fresh and crisp looking on the store shelf. It’s a good rule to have two bath towels, one hand towel and a couple of washcloths per guest. It’s important to mention that towels need not be expensive to be of great quality for your guests … WalMart and Target carry fluffy, 100% cotton towels in a variety of colors for only a few dollars each.
Stock up on staples. There’s no delicate way to say this, but you don’t want to run out of toilet paper while you have a guest in the house. Ditto for dishwashing and laundry supplies and all that you need to make a great cup of coffee just the way your guest likes it … including real cream and sugar, as the case may be.
If your guest is sharing your bathroom, put away anything you don’t plan to share, but replace it with a comparable item that they can help themselves to. You might even want to keep a guest toiletry kit on hand in a neat basket or pouch that includes travel sized versions of body wash, soap, lotion, toothpaste, spare toothbrush, deodorant, razor and shaving cream, so guests may help themselves to anything they forgot to pack. If you don’t have a spare hair dryer, make sure yours is accessible; and let them know where they can find an iron and ironing board, if needed.
When it comes to food, plan for meals that will be easy to prepare at home while your guest is visiting, so that you’ll be able to spend the maximum amount of time hanging out—outside of the kitchen; and stock the pantry with a few easy snacks. It’s a good rule to plan for one dinner out for every two meals at home, just to keep the kitchen time at a minimum—unless you and your guest love to cook together, which makes time in the kitchen a more natural part of the visiting time together. One of my signature snack moves is to fill a fruit basket for the coffee or kitchen table and make sure everyone knows they’re welcome to help themselves, anytime. Bonus tip: whatever you may lack otherwise in hosting style and guest amenities, you can more than make up for by offering up a pretty plate of cookies with a mug of milk at bedtime; a lovely salad lunch on the patio or balcony; and/or breakfast in bed!
It’s always a good idea to keep a couple of easy, inexpensive—and above all, unique to your neighborhood or town—entertainment options on tap for visits, whether they’re at short-notice or planned. Examples might include a movie or show at a historic theater, dinner at your favorite pizza place, an evening at a live music venue featuring a great local band, a walk through a park or nature trail or a pub crawl to sample local wines or craft brews. Check the paper to see what’s going on in town, like food or cultural festivals, art walks or fundraising events. Plan for down-time in between events so everyone can catch a short nap, hit the pool or just chill a home; and keep books, magazines, music, your TV remote and movies readily available for the duration of your guests’ stay.
Finally, the best way to be a fantastic apartment host is to enjoy the stay, yourself! Make an effort to set aside the stresses of everyday life and focus on living in the moment, fully enjoying time with your friend or family member. Put down your phone—except to take a few fun photos or videos to remember the visit. DVR your favorite TV shows and plan to catch up later. Use up some of that PTO you’ve been banking at work. The best way to make your guests’ visit comfortable and memorable is to participate personally in making the memories they’ll carry away with them—memories they’ll leave behind for you, as well!