How to Prepare for Holiday Houseguests

Last Update: February 5, 2024

The annual cookie swap. The ugly sweater soiree. The white elephant gift exchange. The in-laws.

Whether you’re hosting a party for one evening or your extended family for a week, you’re going to need to get your house in order this holiday season—literally. Read on for tips and products that will help you prepare for anything and everything. 

Start with The Basics

Give your home a deep clean. Now is the time to clean those places you usually ignore—think lampshades, behind furniture, and in between the couch cushions. If you’ve got pets, your allergic guests will be especially thankful.

Tidy up clutter. You don’t have to find a permanent home for stacks of magazines, unopened mail, and stray remote controls…but maybe just hide them?

Stock up on cleaning supplies. More people means more germs (and more messes in general). You’ll want to have plenty of supplies on hand to keep up. Reusable kitchen cloths will cut back on paper towel waste, and cleaning concentrates are sustainable space-savers under the sink. All-purpose wipes make it quick and easy to swipe down countertops and other high-traffic surfaces. 

Kid-proof your space. If little ones are coming over, check your home for any potential safety risks (like sharp corners) and put your most fragile or precious items out of reach.

In the Kitchen

Feed tired travelers. After a long day on the road (or in the air), your guests will likely be hungry, so stash a heat-and-eat meal in the pantry or freezer, or make something ahead that will keep well in the fridge (like these Fire-Roasted Fideos).  

Mind their morning routines. Make your overnight guests feel right at home with their choice of coffee (decaf or regular) or tea, plus mix-ins like sweeteners and milk or creamer

Prepare your pantry. Find out everyone’s dietary restrictions and preferences, then stock up on some crowd-pleasing snacks.

In the Spare Bedroom

Help them connect. In case you forget to share it (or they forget to ask), put your home’s Wifi password on a notecard by the bed.

Have a good bedside manner. A box or packet of tissues, a spare phone charger, and a bottle of water should suffice, but if you want to go all the way, add a chocolate or small bouquet of fresh flowers by the bedside.  

Keep it cozy. Leave an extra pillow and blanket on the bed to help your guests get comfortable.

In the Bathroom(s)

Encourage good hand hygiene. There’s only so much you can do to minimize the spread of germs at a party, but start by putting the hand-washing supplies (like hand soap, towels, and hand sanitizer) front and center.

Create an “I knew I forgot something!” stash. It’s inevitable that your overnight guests will leave something at home. Be prepared with items like extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, soap, headache medicine, floss, and lotion. Put everything in a basket or bin and place it somewhere easy to find. 

Add a spa-like touch. A bundle of eucalyptus fastened with twine to your shower head is a relatively easy way to make your guests feel pampered. You can also add a scented candle or natural air freshening spray.

Stock up on T.P. You really can’t have enough

Party Hosting Tips

Scent your space. In a small saucepan over very low heat, bring water, mulling spices, and sliced citrus (like orange, mandarin, or clementine) to a gentle simmer. Refill the water when it gets low.

Don’t overthink diets. A dairy-free pie or grain-free stuffing is safe for those with dietary restrictions, but can still be enjoyed freely by everyone else.  

At the bar, serve non-alcoholic drinks too. There are plenty of options nowadays, from non-alcoholic wine and prebiotic soda to kombucha and infused seltzers, and this way everyone feels included. 

Avoid double-dipping. Who isn’t a germaphobe these days? Skip the family-style dips in favor of single-serve bites like potstickers and mac-and-cheese bites

Save time with sustainable tableware. For larger groups, disposable plates, napkins, and cutlery makes for easy clean-up (and no risk of breakage). Compostable options reduce waste.

Have chilled water at the ready. Here’s a sustainable hosting tip that only looks fancy. Save a few empty wine bottles, wash them out, soak off the labels, fill them with water, and store them in the fridge with a cork or reusable stopper. When it’s time to eat, put the bottles on the table for an elegant touch.

Keep the vibe alive. Make a long—like, several-hours-long—playlist of your favorite tunes for entertaining so you don’t have to keep checking the music. (Here’s a tip: 150 songs = about five hours of tunes.) Need some inspiration? Here are a few playlists to get you started.

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Kirby Stirland

Kirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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