How to Prep for a House Guest

DIY guest welcome basket

Some good friends of ours are coming for a 4 day stay over Memorial Day weekend, and I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. For one thing, I’m excited to show two New York City virgins around the town, and also, we’ve never hosted anyone for as long of a time as they’re staying! Any apartment dweller can relate, but when you live in a space with no spare bedroom, it can be hard to host anyone, and guests are usually limited to the overnight visitors who are couch surfing (which can often be more of a pain than a treat). However, since these friends very kindly made plans specifically to visit us, proper attention had to be paid. Slash, it awakens the hostess in me, and when it comes to entertaining and hosting people and making it feel special, I really just can’t help myself.

So, I put together this little welcome basket to help make their visit feel extra special. Today, I wanted to share what I did just in case you have house guests coming and wanted some easy hosting ideas. You could use any or all of the elements of my basket and it’ll still make them feel like an honored guest!

1. Samples, samples, samples

I saw this pin on Pinterest forever ago that suggested collecting those small samples you get at beauty counters in a jar, and saving them for your guests. I’ll totally cop to stealing that idea for part of my basket. How fun is this? I’m usually not really that interested in a lot of the samples that get stuffed into my shopping bag at places like Sephora, but somehow, when you’re on vacay, it’s SO fun to try new products (think about at cool hotels, where they stock the bathroom with interesting brands you’ve wanted to try!). I’ve been collecting samples for a couple months, and was able to put a nice jar together for my girlfriend, who happens to be a huge product junkie. 

buy local soaps for house guests - DIY guest welcome basket

2. Add something local, and useful

Our guests have their own bath, so like a hotel, I decided I wanted to stock it with a few goodies that no one likes to travel with. With that in mind, I stopped by Sabon, a soap store that has locations all over New York and in a couple other U.S. cities, but is unknown out west. I picked up a few different soaps and a body wash, had them wrapped, and then added my own little tags on each one to describe what they are. My guests can take ’em home, or if they leave them, we’ll use ’em up too.

3. Provide a mini-medicine cabinet

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, NY is basically the worst place to be right now. Pollen counts have been crazy high! Using a small dish (last seen here), I added a few types of allergy medicine to the basket, just in case. And while I was at it, I also added a bottle of Ibuprofen, some Pepto, and a few hangover prevention herbal supplements. Because, well, wine…duh!. (And because no one wants to ask for Pepto when they have an upset stomach).

guest welcome basket - great idea for house guests

4. Set ’em up for restful sleep

It occurred to me that where we live in NY is probably far louder than their own apartment in California, so I stopped by the drugstore and picked up ear plugs and an eye mask too. I know when I’ve traveled across the country, I always have a hard time with jet lag (is it just me, or is the three hour time difference worse domestically than when you travel internationally? It always takes me longer to get used to the time change!). There’s nothing worse than not enjoying a vacation because you are so exhausted, so I figured I’d add a few goodies to aid in a good nights rest. Plus, seriously, car horns in NY = no bueno when you are trying to sleep.

5. Get excited!

The last thing I’ve done — which isn’t pictured! — is I put together a Google map with pinpoints on all the places we have restaurant reservations, and some of the cool stuff we plan on checking out while they’re here (the High Line, Brooklyn Bridge, etc). I also pinpointed places like our apartment, and other major monuments, just so they could get a sense of where things are in the city. Not only was this really fun for me to put together, but I think it creates such a great sense of excitement for guests! Plus, as they’re coming from the airport, they’ll already have my address on hand and know exactly where to go, all via a private Google map! (PS, if you want to learn how to make these custom maps, go here).

So that’s a little sumthin’ sumthin’ I put together for our friends. What about you? Do you do anything special for house guests?

Images by Victoria McGinley for vmac+cheese


  1. 5.20.14
    Valerie said:

    Love all of these hostessing tips! Since moving to Texas, we always seem to have guests coming to stay with us (which I love). I try to get them excited by sending out a mini schedule a few days beforehand to help them with their packing choices. And I always love to plan a delicious breakfast for their first morning so they wake up to amazing smells coming from the kitchen! Have fun! xo

    • 5.20.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      The breakfast is a great idea! Nothing like the smell of bacon to get people up and going! :)

  2. 5.20.14

    Such a warm welcome! I love the basket and map idea too. :)

  3. 5.20.14

    Love these ideas as well as the breakfast above!I’d also love to hear your hangover prevention herbal supplements – every year those hangovers seem to get worse and worse :(

    • 5.20.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      This is sort of embarrassing (ok, not really), but I heard about them on Real Housewives of Orange County this season. One of the women on the show was talking about them — they’re these pills called “Party Smart”, and it’s all just a mix of herbs. You can get them at Whole Foods (they’re always near the cash registers!). Everyone at my Cinco de Mayo party a few weeks ago took them, and half of the guests said they worked, half said they didn’t. But, you know, there was a lotttt of tequila. :) I felt like they definitely made my hangover LESS intense than it normally would have been!

  4. 5.20.14
    Rachel said:

    Love this! I’ve been collecting samples for just this reason since my parents are visiting in a few weeks. I might just have to steal the cute basket idea though instead of just laying them on the side of the tub! Love the map idea as well!

  5. 5.20.14

    I love leaving samples for guests! I have a basket I collect them in all year long, and when a guest arrives, I tell them to have at it. I also leave water and little snacks, like pretzels, granola bars and candy for those late night cravings.

    • 5.20.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Ooh, I’m totally adding candy to the mix!

  6. 5.20.14

    Okay, I’m on my way over with Tyrion. We’re leaving… never.

  7. 5.20.14

    This is such a cute idea! Definitely going to do this. One thing I’d add is some bottle water (for said hangover) and I always leave magazines I’ve already read for them to read if they can’t sleep or for their flight home!

  8. 5.20.14

    I love this post, I always like to have our home as prepared as possible for house guests. A few years back a family friend told us about the idea of saving beauty samples for house guests and ever sense we have had a simple little baskets of beauty samples and travel size products in our guest bathroom. But I like the idea of thinking ahead and also adding sleeping aids and some go to medicine. Will have to add those to our little basket!
    Hope you have a great long weekend with your house guest!

  9. 5.20.14
    Mere said:

    As if we weren’t already ridiculously excited…this just put the cherry on top! SEE YOU FRIDAY! XO

  10. 5.21.14
    Kristiana said:

    Thanks for this! Perfect timing as we’re preparing for guests in a few weeks. Slippers are a nice offering too.

  11. 5.21.14
    Agoprime said:
  12. 5.22.14
    Lily said:

    You really go above and beyond! I think my guests would be THRILLED to receive this treatment — as would I!

    x Lily

  13. 5.22.14

    What a wonderful post! Your house guests might never leave! I always feel uncomfortable staying at other people’s houses, so I can appreciate how thoughtful it is for you to arrange a comforting stay for your guests!



  14. 5.26.14

    Love these tips! I haven’t been able to entertain at my current home, but I would love to at the next place I live and I’m always thinking of things for guests. Great post!

    – Sarah :)

  15. 6.8.14

    Thank you for the great ideas! I have guests coming in a couple of weeks and was looking for ideas! I will be sure to blog what I put I’m my basket and link back to you! Cheers!! V.

  16. 6.29.15

    Fabulous ideas!

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