Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Got Visitors Coming to Stay .... What Do You Do??????????

At lunch yesterday, a new friend to Dublin asked the group if we could recommend things her guests might enjoy doing while they are here for 3 weeks.

Such an open question.

To answer it properly, you have to ask a few more questions.

How long are they staying with you?
How old are they?
What are their interests?
Are they on a budget?
Do they want to spend all their time in Dublin or do they want to travel?
Do you have a car that fits 6 adults and 3 kids (she has 4 20-something's visiting, plus there's 5 in her family)
Where do you live? (Public transport options to be considered)

While we all offered numerous suggestions, and various websites to research, the conversation made me think about what happens before the guests arrive.

When we had our first guests, we were so concerned with what to with them when they arrived, we weren't always as ready for them to arrive as we could have been.  Grabbing brochures, Googling things to do and m aking the beds, preparing the bathroom, stocking up the fridge is the easy bit.

Next time the girls got together I asked them 'Got visitors coming to stay? What do you do?"

We agreed there are many kinds of guests, and we have all had all types.

Those who know what they want to do and those who have no clue. Those who think even tho they are staying in your home, you are there to wait on them hand and foot, and those who overstep mark from being helpful and enter the intrusive area, and those whose offer of help is always appreciated.

The conversation got really interesting with the different points of view about guests who arrive with very little thought about what they might like to see/do. The general consensus is that's ok for a short visit, but when it's more than a week, they really need to have a few things planned independently of their hosts before they come. Suggesting guests pre-booking tours before arriving ensures they get the times/dates they want and can sometimes save time and money.

If you are working, or you have pre-arranged events you don't want to (or can't) change, someone suggested telling guests so they can plan around you. Another said as her husband travels a lot, and she sometimes goes with him. She lets her friends know if she's not going to be home while they are there - they are welcome to stay without her being there, but will be responsible for the house and food shopping/cooking etc. "I don't run a B&B' she said.

It got me thinking how do we prepare for guests?

We're much better 9 years on, having had over 60 people stay with us (combined number across 4 countries) for between one night and 3 months.

We're more relaxed.

We're more organised.

We're confident to say 'I'm happy to drive you but we won't come into (insert tourist attraction) as we've already been'.

We don't stand on protocol, in other words every mucks in and helps. Some are more helpful than others, and I hope we've (that is I) have learned to go with the flow more.

MrsB has a 2 week max stay rule and is never shy to implement it. I've heard her say 'you're welcome to stay but please, no more than 10 days'.

My late aunt used to say, some guests are like fish, they go off after 3 days.

Here's how we prepare for guests. A lot of stuff is a once-off thing that's used each time so it's not as much work as it looks. There's also tips from friends.

It might sound like I'm referring to strangers but we're not. None of us run B&B's. We all open our home to family, extended family and friends. Some ladies go further and have had friends of friends stay, or grown up kids of friends (who they haven't seen since the kids were tiny). The group all agreed that they've all been 'surprised', 'shocked', 'disappointed' and more - and that's talking about their immediate family! Nearly all of us admitted to having people/friends/family stay with us who we would never have back again - the reasons varied, but we all agreed you never really know someone til you live with them.

Maybe by implementing some of these you'll have a more enjoyable time with your visitors.

  • Pop into the local tourist office and grab as many brochures as you can. While the Internet is quick'n'easy to navigate, having something tangible is sometimes easier. 
  • Make a folder of all the brochures. A great tip from MrsS is to include print outs from tourist sites of more detailed information of specific places referred to in the brochures just in case guests want more background. 
  • Obviously, the time of year plays a very important role in what you can do with guests, especially in the northern hemisphere. Many places 'close down' over winter (for obvious reasons) so you'll need to have wet weather/snow options.
  • MrsB said they had a cupboard overflowing with all preloved, outgrown snow gear when they lived in northern Europe. It was bulky clothing and heavy, so she said to guests not to bother packing that sort of thing cos they had it all. If they ran out of gear, she'd ask friends to loan suff. 
  • Invest in an inexpensive mobile phone; with a prepaid SIM. Pop in your mobile phone number, your address, a taxi number, your doctors number and address, your husband/partners mobile phone number; and maybe a friend's too, just in case. This saves guests international roaming charges which can be outrageous, removes the 'I didn't have your number' excuse, and ensures everyone is always contactable. Most people offer to top up the prepaid SIM before they leave, ready for the next person.
  • Prepaid transport cards are becoming more and more popular in cities all over the world. Oyster Cards (London), Suica cards (Tokyo and Yokohama), Leap Cards (Dublin). Have a few spare for guests to use so they are not rummaging around for local coin currency. Again, most guests top the card up before they leave, ready for the next person to use it. 
  • Give guests a pocket-size city map to use.
  • Give them a pocket-size transport map to refer to. If you can get a timetable, that will be of great help, especially when you are expecting them home for dinner.
  • The two above maps can of course be downloaded onto phones, but using them eats up precious battery time and those nasty global roaming charges might kick in. Plus, you never feel more like a tourist than when you have a crumpled map in your hands.
  • Make a list of all the FREE stuff guests can do in your city centre, or surrounding areas. They will be so appreciative.
  • Google festivals, or fairs to see what's going on that's unique at the time of their visit and suggest they take advantage of them (you too!)
  • What's On while you have guests? Find out what exhibitions are on at Art Galleries, Museums; or what theater performances are happening, or what's on at comedy venues. TicketMaster, Ticketek, and other ticket selling websites are really helpful (you can subscribe to most of them for regular updates which saves time)
  • If you're guests include KIDS find out what their interests are and have some arts'n'crafts, board games, puzzles, DVD's etc ready just in case the weather fails you (you can tell how conscious of bad weather we've become)
  • Have a section in your FOLDER dedicated to kid friendly activities, tours, and tourist attractions. 
  • Have spare (inexpensive) umbrella's available for guests to borrow as they are one thing most people do not travel with as they can be cumbersome.
  • If you are wanting to dine at particular restaurants, BOOK as soon as you can, and a babysitter/child minder if you need one. Saves on disappointment, trust  me!
  • Cities usually offer some form of multi-day tourist pass to major attractions.
  • Be able to recommend tour guides, or operators or hire car companies if your guests want to go further afield than your time allows.
  • Be honest with your guests if you've done whatever it is they want to do but you are more than happy to take them and sit in the car and read while they enjoy. 
  • Before they arrive, ask guests if they have any dietary needs. If they are very specific needs, ask around for recommendations to restaurants on their behalf before they arrive. 
  • If it's inconvenient to collect them from the airport or train station, explain and give written details on how to get to your place quickly and cost effectively. Explain where and how to buy tickets (will they need local currency? credit card?). Sometimes a hire car (limo driver) is cost effective and they will meet your friends at the arrival gate and help with luggage. 
  • Precook meals and freeze them so that all you have to do is defrost and heat up, adding vegetable or salad on the night. Cooking for an extra couple of people for a few nights isn't that difficult if you are organised. You don't want to be out all day and come home to cook. 
  • If you are working and unable to join your guests on their days out, they'll need a spare set of house keys and alarm codes. Don't laugh. A friend forgot this and her guests were left on her doorstep (not literally, they went for dinner) til 8pm when she and her husband returned from a work function because they forgot to give their guests the alarm code. They had they keys, but no code. 
  • Keep your family routine going - kids after school activities, homework and bedtime routines etc. It's really hard to do when guests are with you for a short stay, but still needs to be done.
  • Depending on well you know the guests, and your personality (and their's) show them around your kitchen so that they can make themselves a coffee, or a snack. You don't want to be waiting on them hand'n'foot (or maybe you do?)
  • Some families are early to bed, while others are night owls. Invite your guests to go to bed when they feel like it. 
  • Before everyone retires for the night ensure everyone is aware of the next days happenings - time leaving for school or work, what time people are expected home, if people are home for dinner or not (and time) etc so that guests fell like they are part of what's going on. If you're going on a day trip, make sure people know what time you will be leaving the house, so they can work out their morning routines (especially important based on number of bathrooms and people in the house)

One of our most precious things we do with visitors, is have them sign our Visitors Signature Book. 
It hold so many special meanings for us.

Every single person who has stayed with us, be it for one night or months is asked to sign the book towards the end of their stay. W

The funniest thing said during the conversation was that since "having so many guests stay with us, we might not be the best of hosts, but we are definitely very good guests".

I'd like to think we are both. 

With friendship


  1. Woweee!!! that list is fantastic. you should be a homestay consultant :-)

    1. Why thank you Miss Margarita, that's very kind of you. Maybe we could run a B&B in our retirement LOL xo