9 Tips for Hosting Holiday Houseguests

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The excitement you felt when your family made plans to come and stay with you over Christmas may turn to panic as arrival day approaches. You're still looking forward to seeing them, but you're beginning to wonder how you can pull off being a hotel manager, tour guide, holiday event planner, and chef at the same time. And how are you supposed to have any time left over to actually talk to your guests?The most important thing, of course, is to enjoy spending time with them. I know, I know; they spent all that money and time to come and visit you, so you want it to be memorable. But don't lose sight of the big picture.With that in mind, here are a few tips to help keep you focused on the gift of togetherness instead of putting on the perfect holiday.Meal Plan and Make Ahead. Make any holiday or crowd-pleasing dishes you can to freeze in advance. Cut veggies can sit in the fridge for a few days, so take the time to shop and chop before visitors arrive. You want to spend more time with your guests and less in the kitchen, so anything that helps you do that is a win.Get the guest room prepared with things that will make them comfortable when arriving in a foreign country: leave out bottles of water, towels, packaged snacks, extra blankets, and at least one plug adapter so they can charge phones and computers. Put plenty of extra toilet paper in the bathroom; no guest wants to find they've run out in the middle of the night while their host is sleeping! And don't forget to write them a note with the WiFi password.Pick them up with food and water: An international flight (or several in a row) can leave your guests feeling not only tired, but hungry and thirsty. Greet them at the gate with bottles of water and a snack. When you get home, reheat a simple, homemade meal, which can work wonders to soothe stomachs upset from travel and dubious airplane food.Set aside the first day for relaxing, catching up, and time-zone adjustment. Don't make any big plans that first day, and don't count on seeing them at breakfast. If they arrive the night before Christmas, schedule the meal and celebration in the afternoon. Give everyone space to acclimate.Have snacks accessible. Have easy breakfast items out on the counter, so when guests do appear, they can eat. Set out tea and have the coffee pot ready to go. Leave snacks within easy reach during their stay, because their internal clocks will be haywire and they may need to eat at random times.Don't try to do everything. You may want to celebrate the holidays the way you always do back home…tree, lights, big meal, turkey, shopping, church AND introduce the traditions of your host culture as well. You can't cram an entire season of celebration into a short visit. Pick a significant tradition from your passport country and one from your new culture, and add other things in if there's time.Celebrate simply. The best celebration is being together. Don't feel like you have to put forth tremendous effort to create a memorable visit. Allowing margin to play games, make cookies, and have long (in-person!) conversations will foster the kind of memories you want.Low key sightseeing: Choose YOUR favorite thing to do, even if it isn't the thing "everyone" does when they visit your country. If your guests want to do more than you have time for, provide a map, metro ticket, and an easy-to-follow itinerary (along with a loaned cell phone, extra currency, and directions to your house written in the local language for taxi drivers).  Get them out there on their own! It'll be an adventure. If they've traveled overseas before, they probably won't be too intimidated.Relax! If you're a stressed host, you'll have tense guests. If a dish burns, just don't put it on the table. If your house has its quirks, explain them with a smile. If something doesn't turn out the way you'd planned, no need to call attention to it. As in a piano recital—if you make a mistake, don't stop and make it a big deal…just keep playing.Perfection isn't the goal; a joyful visit is. So cross all the non-essentials off your to-do list and go play a game with your guests.Fun Resources:Christmas Traditions That TravelIt's Tea Time Somewhere: All About Christmas (Taking Route Podcast)Best Sugar CookiesMake Serving Meals Easier (and other hospitality tips!)Holiday Menu Ideas--plus recipes from scratch