If your guests need nothing else from you, they need to know how to find your home and get through the door. How tricky can that be? You’d be surprised. Here are some ways to plan for your short-term guests’ arrival.
Provide clear directions for reaching your home
Your street address and a link to a Google map might be enough. But if your home is difficult to find or your guests are navigating a new terrain and new language, they’ll need detailed instructions.
Ask guests how they’ll be traveling. Then send them crystal-clear directions for getting to your home from the highway, airport, or train or bus station. Be specific. Instead of saying, “Get off the freeway at San Rafael,” say, “stay in the right lane for the Central San Rafael exit. After you turn, get into the middle lane.” Include landmarks or signs that will let them know they are going in the right direction (“You’ll pass a shopping center on your right and a high school on your left.”) Warn them about anything that might make locating your home more difficult, like an unlit sign or spotty cell phone coverage near your home. If they won’t have a car, send information about bus, subway, shuttle, or taxi service.
Arrange for guests to get in
On our first visit to the New York loft we’ve stayed in several times, our host asked us to arrive before she left. She showed us around, explained how things worked, answered our questions, and made sure we knew how to use the keys. Now she simply mails us the keys in advance so we can let ourselves in.
But what if you’ve already left on your trip and can’t greet your guests in person? There are a number of options:
- Arrange for a “greeter.” Ask a relative, friend, neighbor, or housecleaner who is familiar with your home to meet your guests, let them in, show them around, and make sure they know how to use the keys. Give the greeter and your guests one another’s contact information. Make sure the greeter knows the guests’ names, arrival details, and anything else he or she needs to know.
- Send the keys ahead of time. Mail keys early enough so guests receive them before they start on their own trip, which might be days or even weeks before they reach your home. If time is short, use an overnight delivery or mail service to make sure they get there on time. Double-check the address. A misdirected package could leave guests stranded on your doorstop. If there is anything tricky about your locks, include instructions. For security, do not put your own return address on the envelope. Use a friend’s address instead.
- Leave the keys where guests can pick them up. If you live in a building with a doorman or front desk staff, leave the keys with them. Otherwise, you might be able to leave them at your office or with a trusted friend, neighbor, or relative. Give the keyholder your guests’ names, contact information, and approximate arrival time, and let him or her know how to reach you in case of problems. Provide guests with the keyholder’s contact information and clear instructions for retrieving the keys. Include timing restriction such as hours when an office will be open, and the keyholder’s contact information.
- Put the keys in a secure lockbox. Send guests an email with instructions for finding and opening the lockbox (be sure not to include your address in the email). Try it out yourself to make sure it works, and make sure to give the guests the correct code.
- Use an electronic keypad or a wifi-enabled locking system. If you plan to rent out or exchange your home often, it might be worth installing a system with a code you can change after each guest. You won’t have to worry about keys getting lost in the mail or about the possible proliferation of duplicate keys to your home.
Make guests feel welcome
It’s nice to walk into a hotel room to find a welcoming gift: a basket of fruit, bottled water, perhaps a bottle of wine. Those gifts say: “We want you to enjoy being here.” You can welcome your guests in the same way. Greet them with a friendly welcoming note. Leave some fruit, crackers, cheese, cookies, bottled water, sodas, wine or beer, and perhaps some bread, eggs, butter, jam, cereal, and milk. You’ve worked hard to get to this moment, and knowing that you’ve done everything you can to help your guests feel welcome lets you make the most of your own vacation.
Check in with guests after their arrival
Unless you’re halfway up a mountain with no cell phone service, give guests a call a day or two after they arrive to make sure they are settling in and answer any questions. That personal contact reminds them that you want them to have a good stay in your home. Knowing that guests are settled and everything is okay helps you enjoy yourself as well.
What’s Next: Coming home