1 Extend a welcome
Put guests at ease even before they arrive. Calling ahead shows you're looking forward to their visit. • Confirm arrival details and length of stay. • Share special plans you've made -- should they pack hiking shoes, an evening dress? • What do they need or not need? Are raincoats in order because of the forecast? Can they leave the hair dryer at home? • Ask about allergies (to foods or down-filled bedding, for instance).
2 Create a haven
Provide a comfortable personal space. • Supply travel-size toiletries they may have forgotten, like toothpaste, shampoo and sunblock, plus luxuries like specialty soaps and bath oils. • On the nightstand, stack magazines and books they'll enjoy, and set out a bouquet of flowers and a water glass and carafe. • If you just have a sofa in the family room, add a folding screen for privacy if there's no door. • Place a small take-home gift on their pillow – gourmet chocolates for the friend with the sweet tooth, monogrammed note cards for the aunt from overseas, a photo album for your shutterbug sister.
3 Give a guided tour
Show guests around to encourage them to help themselves. • Where can they find coffee in the morning? • Where are the extra blankets, sun hats and first aid kit kept? • Demonstrate how to use the TV, as well as the computer if they want to check e-mails.
4 Encourage independence
Visits are great, but you need some time for yourself. • Plan a few outings involving everyone and leave the rest up to them. • Research local activities and tourist sites, then provide maps and brochures so they can head out on their own to local golf courses or museums, or take the kids to the park or ice cream parlour.
5 Take it easy
If you're not enjoying yourself, your guests won't either. Don't fuss and hover. • Resist the temptation to schedule every minute. Leave free time for them to venture out on their own or to enjoy spur-of-the-moment adventures together. • Go for simple meals – prepare dishes ahead, like soup, for quick lunches. • Involve them in dinner prep – it's a chance to chat and chop together, sharing techniques.