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December 10, 2013

Hosting Holiday Guests Survival Guide | Sponsored By Hampton Hotels

We have a tiny house - it is charming, and cozy, and I love it.  But, it is tiny.  Soooo tiny, as Emma would say.  As we're planning the addition to our house, I'm dreaming of the day (hopefully someday soon...) when our entire family can come stay with us for the holidays.

There’s so much about the holiday season that is exciting, but if you’re hosting guests for the holidays, it can be stressful and overwhelming…even for the most seasoned hosts!

Right now, we only have one full bath, a very small kitchen, and the only room for toys is right in the middle of the living room.  I don't let our small home keep us from entertaining - we just have to be creative about it.

For that reason, Hampton Hotels and I have partnered to celebrate little holiday moment makers by providing “Hamptonality” to travelers this holiday season. Whether staying at the local Hampton or with family and friends, Hampton is here to help hosts create those lasting moments that everyone looks forward to around the holidays – reuniting with family, reminiscing about the past, and partaking in general holiday merriment!

Here are just a few holiday hosting tips for this holiday season, which will help hosts create lasting memories for their guests and celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

Tip 1: Be the best OFF-SITE host ever…
Let’s be honest. You love your friends and family, but cramming everyone into your house for days at a time can be stressful and add to your already lengthy holiday host to-do list! If you simply don’t have enough room to host all of your holiday guests or you just think everyone would be happier with their own, comfortable space, consider booking them at your local Hampton.  With more than 1,900 locations, Hampton Hotels is the perfect place to stay no matter where your guests may be traveling from.

Tip 2: Surprise your guests with welcome treats
I always like to make sure my guests know how excited we are to have them for a visit by surprising them with a little treat when they arrive.  One of my favorite ways to greet them is with something personalized with their name on it, like a decorated sugar cookie or a festive welcome sign. I love staying at Hampton Hotels because they take a similar approach. They often add a personal touch for a guest’s stay by offering a favorite local snack or fun local item when guests check in.

Creamy Caramelized Onion Dip

Tip 3: Be prepared with lots of snacks
We all get a little grouchy when we're hungry - adults and kids alike!  Anticipate those moments by having snacks planned for afternoons and before dinner to keep everyone happy.  Be sure to include fresh options like fruit and crunchy veggies, along with dips, filling cheeses and more decadent treats so you have something for everyone!

Tip 4: Post the plan
I post a schedule for everyone to see so they'll know what to expect during their stay.  Don't overbook your guests, schedule plenty of free time for them to do their own exploring or relaxing.  Channel your local Hampton front desk concierges and be your guest’s hometown concierge by providing them with a list of activities to do in the area.

Tip 5: Make time for exercise and fresh air
We all feel better with some fresh air in our lungs. I'd be lost without my daily walk with Mr. Darcy to clear my head and invigorate my spirit.  Invite your guests on a walk with hot coffee (or hot cocoa!) and everyone will feel refreshed!  Suggest an evening stroll through your local neighborhood to check out the holiday decorations.  Guests at Hampton can also get energized and make time for a workout as most locations boast fitness centers and swimming pools.

Tip 6: Make time for resting
The holidays can be very exhausting - especially for your guests who have traveled near and far.  Make sure to schedule down time for resting in the afternoons or early evenings.  An afternoon nap can feel like an indulgent treat for exhausted guests.

Tip 7: Plan a daily ritual
I like our guests to feel like they’re on vacation, so after our big breakfast, I let them explore during the day, then invite everyone to meet up for an “at home happy hour.”  I play holiday music, have a game for the kids, and the adults can enjoy some nice wine and cheese while everyone swaps stories from the day.

Tip 8: Plan one special night for the adults
The holidays are really all about the kids, but it can be really nice for the adults to get some time for themselves, too.  Hire a babysitter for the night for the children (or let the grandparents take over), so the parents can enjoy a special night out on the town.  Everyone (even the kids!) will appreciate a night of freedom.

Tip 9: Big breakfasts
Serving a big breakfast in the morning seems to make everyone happy!  When we host guests, I prepare big bowls of fresh fruit for nibbling on in the morning, and then make some fresh waffles because really, who doesn’t love waffles?!? Hampton offers a free, hot breakfast every morning with fresh-baked waffles – the perfect thing to get your day started!

Tip 10: Stock up on extras
Don’t forget to stock up on extra necessities like shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, contact solution, and other toiletries that guests tend to forget! Take a cue from your local Hampton and anticipate everything that your guests may need and put a basket chock full of products right in their bathroom or bedroom.

Tip 11: Make your home "help yourself" friendly
Guests oftentimes feel like they are “in the way,” so make sure that your home is “guest-friendly” before they arrive.  Set up a refreshment center that is available to them daily – coffee in the mornings, bottles of water to take for the day, portable snacks to have at home or on the road, etc.  Make a list of local area “hot spots” with their phone numbers and websites that they can easily reference and tack it on the refrigerator.  Make a few sets of spare keys, so that people can easily come and go as they please.  Basically, be their “at home” concierge.

Tip 12: Plan fun games
The best memories over the holidays are when everyone is relaxing, laughing and having a great time.  You can help orchestrate these moments by planning fun games in which everyone can participate.  You can host an Ugly Sweater Contest, A Christmas Carol Sing-Off, or Gingerbread House Competition during one of your “at home happy hours.”

This is my family 20 years ago.  I have always been an angel...

Tip 13: Celebrate past holidays
Another sure way to have everyone in stitches is to get out old home videos and pictures.  Everyone will love reminiscing about past holidays... the bad clothes and questionable hair styles always make for great holiday conversation and laughs.  Perhaps dig up some old holiday photos of your guests and use that as their “personal touch” when they arrive at your home for their stay.

Tip 14: Ask your guests to help
Make your guests feel useful by asking them to help with tasks you know they’ll enjoy.  Give your mother-in-law the ultimate compliment by asking her to help you make her famous chocolate pie for dessert.  If you're hosting young nieces, ask them to help make the table decorations because they're such great crafters. It’s a great compliment to your guests to make them feel like they are PART of the activities, rather than just spectating.

This Braised Beef & Italian Vegetable Stew is one of my favorite freezer-friendly meals.

Tip15: Prepare!
Do as much preparation in advance as you can.  Plan menus around recipes that can be made ahead of time - freezer-friendly, one-dish meals like lasagna, or a hearty-braised beef stew are great options when serving a crowd.  Run a supermarket sweep a few days before for toiletries.  Do your own laundry before guests arrive, so that the washer and dryer can be available for them, if necessary.  The ultimate holiday hosts know that being prepared is the absolute best way to make your guests feel welcome in your home because you can actually enjoy them while they are there!

*This post was sponsored by Hampton Hotels.*

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Tomorrow I'll be back with my ultimate Holiday Dinner Menu (Beef Tenderloin, Brussels, Molten Cakes...).  I'm including a cooking schedule just like I did for Thanksgiving so you'll know how to time everything perfectly.  Emma and I have been busy getting ready for her 2nd birthday this weekend - I'll also be sharing our menu (and schedule) for our casual family party with a great make-ahead menu (Italian-style!).


  1. Jenny, we have a tiny house too. I'm curious how many square feet you have. Hope Emma has a great 2nd birthday! My daughter's family party is this weekend too.

  2. Jenny,
    We have a tiny house too, fortunately the only out of town guests at Christmas is our oldest son, his lovely wife and our sweet 3 year old granddaughter.
    Great tips.

  3. Hi, Jenny! One of the things I love about your blog is how you show that even small spaces can be elegant and tasteful. I'm sure many of your readers (myself included!) also live in relatively small homes, and would love to see a post about how to make the most of a smaller living space. How do you manage clutter? Closets that are tiny? Emma's toys? Kitchen gadgets and entertaining pieces? If you get the time, it would make a great read for us! Thanks!

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