12 Tips for Hosting Holiday Guests Like a Pro

Host without stress, no matter the size of your home and the crowd you are hosting

Cropped hands of mid adult man cutting meat in slices on dining table at home during holidays
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Channel your inner Ina or Martha and master your holiday hosting duties this year. Whether you're putting-up a few out-of-towners for the weekend or hosting the entire extended family on the Big Day, we know you can make it through the festive season without a single comment from your mother. From setting up a guest bedroom (when you don't have one) to the power of delegating, these are the rules to live by for thoughtful hosting. Here, our 12 hosting tips to get you through the holidays.

1. Cook Ahead!

The most important thing anyone can do to make it through the constant coming and going of holiday house guests is to prepare as many foods in advance as possible. Be it freezable soups, ready-to-bake cookies or preparing your main dish for Christmas dinner the night before, you will be very thankful that you did the work during a quieter stretch of days.

2. Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry

Stock up on foods that your house guests can help themselves to, such as dry goods for breakfast or late-night snacks. You don't have to make everything (or anything) from scratch: Buy some good granola, nut butters, jams, a quality loaf of bread, spiced nuts. If you want to be a little "extra", then put everything out in a basket with bowls, spoons and napkins so your guests can find everything easily and help themselves. This goes for beverages, too: keep your fridge stocked with bottled water, seltzer or soda, and make a full pot of coffee in the morning so people can pour their own. If you are in the mood to make something, we love these crumbly streusel-topped jam bars because you can make them a few days in advance and they can sit out at room temperature.

3. Leave a Welcome Note

If you're hosting guests from out of town, in addition to leaving a few essentials in their room like clean towels, an alarm clock, a hairdryer and basic toiletries, write them a note with helpful tips for their stay. Maybe it's where to find the nearest coffee shop or lunch spot, your wifi password, instructions for the TV, or a few suggested activities – either way it will make your guests feel welcome (and save you from answering these questions later).

4. DIY a Guest Room if You Don't Have One

If you don't have the luxury of a designated guest room, try to make your guest's "room" feel as welcoming as possible. So, whether it's an air mattress in your office or a sofa in the living room, dress it up like a real bed. Designate a "nightstand" for them (this can be a cleared-off table or book shelf or a stack of books) and set out an eye mask or ear plugs if your guest is sleeping in a common area. Also, investing in an inexpensive folding screen goes a long way for giving your guest a little privacy. It can easily be folded up and stored when you're not hosting.

5. Free Up Closet Space

If you have guests staying with you, especially if you don't have a separate guest room (see #4), free up some space in a closet for them to stash their things. Tight on closet space? Then set out a foldable valet stand (we like this sleek, lightweight gold one) and an empty basket for dirty laundry.

6. Stock Up on the Little Things That Make a Difference

Be it fresh flowers and a carafe of drinking water on your guest's nightstand, a scented candle in the entryway or bathroom (caution: don't over-do it on the scented candles), peaceful music playing in the morning, a spare phone charger on the dresser or a full jar of fresh-baked cookies in the kitchen, these little touches will stand out.

7. Skip the Paper Napkins and Plates

It's the holidays – this is the time of year for real silverware and linen napkins. If you don't have enough for the crowd you're expecting, then rent them from a nearby rental house (it's cheaper than you think AND they wash them for you) or check out a thrift shop and go for the mismatched look. We love these inexpensive, but chic, dinner plates and flatware from Ikea.

8. Invest in a Coat Rack (It's Worth It)

If you're hosting a large crowd for the holidays and you don't have spare closet space, then consider renting or buying an inexpensive coat rack for guests to hang their coats. Your guests don't want to rifle through a pile of jackets at the end of the night just as much as you don't want everyone's coats on your bed.

9. Stock Each Bathroom with Plenty of Toilet Paper

And avoid someone having to make the awkward ask mid-party.

10. Create a Timeline for the Big Day

If you're hosting the whole family for holidays or you are having a cocktail party for 50, plan out your "run of show" a few days in advance. This should include everything from when to pop the roast in the oven to when to light the candles.

11. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

As much as we'd like to believe that we can do it ALL, everyone needs a little help now and then. Appoint a family member to do the vacuuming or set up the glasses on the bar. If you're preparing a big feast, ask a friend to help people find a drink when they arrive or hang up their coats so you can attend to the food in the kitchen.

12. Take Deep Breaths

While this is supposed to be the most "wonderful time of the year", the holidays are stressful. Take a moment for yourself before and amidst the chaos. Whether it's a glass of wine on the couch or screaming into a pillow in your bedroom, try to relax! If you skip one of the appetizers or the pie crust gets a little too burnt, no one will remember. If you are relaxed, your guests will be relaxed.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles