(written/published in 2013)

The holidays are fast approaching, and chances are, if you’re not traveling in the next few months, you probably have family and friends visiting from out of town. And if you are traveling, you may have decided to open your home to strangers through services like HomeExchange or Airbnb. Whatever the situation, it’s likely that someone is going to visit your home in the next few months and put your hosting skills to the test.

At Mapkin, we’re all about adding personal touches to everyday experiences to make them awesome. Sure, anyone can wash the sheets and make the bed, but why not go above and beyond this year? Be a great host and make your guests’ experience memorable with these easy to implement tips.

1. Learn their interests before they arrive

To whatever extent your guests are willing to open up, make every effort to learn as much about them and their interests before they arrive. Are they big tennis players? See if you can borrow a few rackets to have on hand. Art connoisseurs? Do some research on upcoming exhibitions in the area.

2. Give them good directions

Travel can be stressful enough as it is, so give your guests a helping hand and tell them what to do when they step off the plane before they land. If they’re renting a car, make sure they know how to get to you from the airport. If they’re taking public transportation, make sure you update them on which transit line to take. Being too detailed has never hurt anyone. Speaking of details…

3. Get the details right

Of course you’re going to clean before your guests arrive, but don’t limit yourself to the basics. A closet full of fresh-from-the-wash towels and blankets really speaks volumes. To really go above and beyond, consider leaving a welcoming bottle of wine in the room too.

4. Leave the WiFi Password out

Chances are, your guests will want to connect to the Internet shortly after they arrive. Rather than make them search around the house for the cable box, have cards printed with your WiFi network and passcode. If you’re really tech-savvy, make a QR code, like these hosts did.

5. Don’t forget breakfast

Coffee, tea, and small breakfast items, such as personal cereal boxes or pastries will make life much easier for everyone in the morning. If you really want to impress them (and have the space in the guest room), a mini-fridge stocked with the basics will be much appreciated by long-term guests, especially those arriving late at night without time to grocery shop.

6. Provide a few bikes

Do you live in a bike friendly neighborhood?  Biking can be an awesome way to get out and explore a new place.   The trouble is, it’s not always clear where or how to rent bikes, and the stress of picking up and returning them is not always worth it.  Investing in a few bikes to keep in your garage for visitors can transform a stay from “ok” to an incredible experience.

7. Recommend places to eat

Even with all the great restaurant recommendation apps out there, nothing beats recommendations from a local.  Consider providing a list with your favorite bars and restaurants.  Better yet, check with them beforehand to learn if they have any special dietary preferences and create a personalized guide. Remember, if there is anything more difficult than trying to find a good restaurant in a new city, it’s trying to find a gluten-free-vegan-organic restaurant in a new city.

8. Create a local guide

If your guests are completely new to town, they could be overwhelmed with things to do. Make it easy for them by creating a list of the local hot spots. What places must they see before they leave? Do you know of any hidden views or scenic routes? What about events and traditions that only a local would know?

9. Make them a Mapkin

Creating a unique walking or driving guide can help your guests experience your city or town when you can’t be there with them. Consider creating a map showing them the best way to get to popular destinations downtown or a route that winds through historic neighborhoods. Add tips and notes along the way, like your favorite coffee shop or a historic landmark. If you’d like to build a personalized map for your guests, check out our app!

Have you hosted guests in your home before? What special things do you do to make their stay more enjoyable? We’d love to hear your tips too!

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