Tips For Hosting Unexpected Guests At Home

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Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and the world of fitness.

Your home is your sanctuary — that is until extra guests show up unannounced. Your aunt unexpectedly drops in for your cousin’s wedding. A dinner guest brings their extended family along for the ride without asking. College-age children show up with their roommates in tow for a free meal and overnight stay. 

If the thought of unexpected guests causes visions of a National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation disaster, read on! Even if you weren’t planning on entertaining, it’s a good rule of thumb to put a plan in place for unlikely visitors who could show up at any given time. Here’s our survival guide to remaining calm and composed next time you are called upon to overextend your hospitality in your home.

Stock Some Extras

Woman setting an extra space at the dinner table

If a guest shows up unannounced, you likely won’t have time to run to the store or get additional items. Keeping a few things on hand that a guest would use in your storage area or closet is part of being prepared to host on a dime.

  • For the overnight guest, have items like towels, toothbrushes, pillows, and soap that can be pulled out at a moment’s notice.
  • For the unexpected dinner guest, you’ll need extra plates, serving bowls and platters, snacks, napkins, cutlery, and seats.
  • A rollaway bed or extra folding table is also great to have on hand if you’re in a pinch.

You’ll be able to act fast and get your space set up looking like you knew they were on their way days ago.

Welcome Your Guests

It’s all too easy to put on a sour face, especially if you were planning on enjoying your weekend solo or had other plans. But every guest is an opportunity to reconnect or get to know someone new. Be flexible and welcoming. 

  • Greet guests warmly, offer to carry their bags, or place jackets and shoes in designated areas.
  • Don’t allow your guests to cook for themselves — insist on taking care of meals whether you are making them, eating out, or ordering in.
  • Offer your guests a beverage like water, juice, coffee, or tea after they have unpacked or put their things down to help them relax upon arrival.

Try to pause and remember times in your youth when someone welcomed you with open arms. What did they do to show you that you were welcome? It’s time to repay that kindness and mean it when you tell them how happy you are to see them.

Related: The 14 Best Sleeper Ottomans For Overnight Guests

Accommodate Them

Clean, modern guest bedroom

Maybe your guest is going through a rough patch in life, or they just need a break. Be flattered that they reached out to you, and be ready to share your guest room and home with open arms. Here are some other accommodations you might need to make with grace when a guest shows up unannounced:

  • If your guests need time to decompress, offer them the space to nap or make a call before they settle in.
  • Offer to go out and pick up any items they might need.
  • Your guests may have dietary restrictions, including gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or dairy-free. Be sure to ask before providing food and make accommodations without complaint.

Extending hospitality is more than showing someone their room. It’s the little things that make a big difference because you don’t always know what additional support your guest might need. 

Include Them in the Events

If your visitor has shown up unannounced for whatever reason, it’s best not to make them feel like they’ve crashed the party. Miscommunications can happen, and there are all sorts of reasons that someone might show up without realizing they were an uninvited guest. Give them the benefit of the doubt and move on.

  • If it’s a dinner or celebration, set an extra spot for them as quickly as possible and do your best to share the food.
  • Include them in conversations and highlight their talents or interesting things about them.
  • If you don’t know your guest very well, take an interest in what they like and show that you want to know them better.

Try to connect your visitor with other members of the group they may mesh with so that they feel like part of the event. Planning on a night out on the town? Bring them with you!

Offer Coffee or Tea

Birds eye view of open tea organizer

Sometimes, you are vastly unprepared with no additional food or snacks on hand when (surprise!) your mom shows up with her bestie to invite you out shopping later this afternoon. Don’t show her straight to the door even if you are in the middle of something. Take a moment to digest this new plan or turn of events over coffee or tea.

  • Keep a variety of caffeinated and decaf tea selections in your cupboard or a tea box full of different options.
  • Have a few bags of locally-sourced coffee (and decaf) on hand with a coffee press or kettle at your home coffee station.
  • Store some cute napkins, honey, cinnamon, and fancy sugar in your pantry in case you’re really in a pinch.

Even if you can’t offer a full meal with snacks, most visitors appreciate the chance to just sit down and have a chat.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Pour Over Coffee

Create a Cozy Atmosphere

Your guests most likely need to decompress as much as you do. Think about the decor in your living space or guest room that will add coziness and a relaxed vibe. Here are some simple additions that won’t break the budget: 

  • Add simple candles and a small matchbox on the dining room table, in the guest room, or on a side table in the living room.
  • Enhance air quality with an air purifier and hardy houseplants that make your home feel warm and inviting.
  • Keep an array of soft pillows or a weighted blanket so your guest can grab something extra if they need a bit of comfort.

These little things will leave everyone impressed! 

Even in unexpected situations, there are several ways you can give your guests a warm welcome when you aren’t prepared. Remember, this is your time to shine. With a bit of pre-planning and forethought, you’ll be ready on a dime the next time someone knocks on your door unannounced. 

You might also be interested in: Our 17 Favorite Housewarming Gift Ideas [For Any New Homeowner]

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