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Preparing for Holiday Guests

The holidays are a time for joy, togetherness, and cherished traditions. They’re also a time when many of us will open our homes to welcome family and friends. While hosting can be a lot of fun, preparing for holiday guests requires some preparation and planning to help make sure things run smoothly. With a little effort and organization, you can get your home ready for holiday guests without becoming overwhelmed or stressed.

To do check list for preparing for holiday guests with gold stars

Make a Plan and Schedule

One of the best things you can do when preparing for holiday guests is to make a plan and schedule for getting your home guest-ready. Having a list of tasks and to-dos will help you stay organized and on top of everything that needs to get done. Here are some tips for planning and scheduling:

  • Make a Master To-Do List– Sit down and make a master list of everything you want to accomplish – cleaning, decorating, grocery shopping, meal planning, etc. Break bigger tasks down into smaller, more manageable sub-tasks. 
  • Prioritize Your List- Go through and prioritize your list, marking items that absolutely must get done versus those that would be nice, but not essential. This helps you focus your time and energy appropriately.
  • Schedule Tasks and Assignments-Take your prioritized list and schedule days/times for tackling each item. Spread tasks out over multiple days to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Give specific assignments to family members to share the workload.
  • Build in Buffer Time- Schedule some buffer time right before guests arrive to allow you to handle any last minute tasks. Having this buffer will help reduce stress when company is imminent.

Getting Your Home Ready

Before your guests arrive, it’s essential to ensure your home is welcoming and comfortable. 

Focus on Key Areas of Your Home

When preparing for holiday guests, be strategic and focus your attention on the key areas of your home that visitors will frequent. This way you can maximize your effort.

  • Main Living Spaces- The main living room, family room, kitchen, and dining room should take top priority. Make sure these high-traffic spaces are cleaned, clutter-free, and extra inviting.
  • Guest Rooms- Get guest rooms cleaned, stocked, and prepped with fresh bedding, towels, and toiletries. Little touches like leaving a welcome note, chocolates, or water bottles can go a long way.
  • Entryways and Hallways- Make a great first impression by ensuring your exterior entryways are swept, decorations are displayed, and coat racks are cleared. Give all hallways a fresh vacuuming.
  • Bathrooms- Thoroughly clean all bathrooms guests may use. Check supplies of toilet paper, hand towels, soap, etc. Set out extra towels and toiletries for their convenience.
Happy holidays lettering on white pillow next to Christmas tree to show how preparing for holiday guests looks like.

Stock Up on Supplies

When preparing for holiday guests, make sure you stock up on key supplies well in advance of your guests’ arrival.

  • Pantry Staples and Groceries- Check your pantry for holiday cooking essentials like broths, oils, herbs and spices, butter, and baking ingredients. Make a grocery list and give yourself extra time to shop.
  • Toiletries and Linens- Take inventory of spare toiletries like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. Make sure you have fresh hand and bath towels along with extra bedding.
  • Cleaning Supplies- Replenish cleaning supplies that may run low during deep cleaning such as disinfectant wipes, floor cleaner, multipurpose spray, etc. Stock up on trash bags too.
  • Holiday Decorations- Shop for any new decor you may want to purchase. Don’t forget holiday-themed plates, napkins, candles, tablecloths, etc. to make hosting more festive.

Food and Beverage Preparation

Delicious food is often the heart of holiday gatherings. Here are some tips for a successful culinary experience.

  • Menu Selection- Plan a diverse menu that caters to various dietary restrictions and preferences. Consider serving a mix of traditional and unique dishes.
  • Make-Ahead Dishes- Choose recipes that can be prepared in advance, frozen, or stored without compromising quality.
  • Cooking Schedule- Create a cooking schedule that outlines when to start preparing each dish. Make sure you have enough oven and stovetop space for simultaneous cooking.
  • Buffet or Potluck-  Depending on the number of guests, consider setting up a buffet or hosting a potluck-style meal to ease your workload.
  • Stock Up- Ensure you have an ample supply of drinks, including water, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages. Don’t forget to accommodate non-drinkers with alternative options.
  • Dietary Restrictions- Check with your guests about any food allergies or dietary restrictions, and plan accordingly.
Picture to depict how to prepare for holiday guests with food and drink.

Make a Schedule and Divide Tasks 

To help avoid becoming overrun and stressed when guests arrive, talk with family members and make an agreed-upon schedule. Divide up tasks so that workload is shared appropriately. Some things to schedule/assign:

Cooking and Baking Assignments- Decide who will tackle different holiday meal components and baked goods. Share recipes and talk timing.

Cleaning Checklists- Make individual cleaning checklists assigning specific people different tasks like vacuuming, bathrooms, dusting, etc.

Grocery Shopping- Coordinate who will shop for which items so that multiple trips aren’t needed. Share grocery lists. 

Airport Pickups- If guests are flying in, schedule who will pick up whom and work out timing/logistics. Communicate flight info clearly.

Organizing Fun Activities

Entertaining your guests goes beyond just food. Plan activities that will keep everyone engaged and enjoying their time together. Assign who will take the lead on coordinating each one.

Indoor Activities

  • Family game night- Pull out classic board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, or play card games like Uno or Euchre. Make it a friendly competition!
  • Holiday movie marathon- Curl up with hot chocolate and watch a lineup of classic holiday films like Elf, Home Alone, The Grinch, etc. 
  • Bake holiday treats- Get the kids involved and bake cookies, gingerbread houses, or other sweet treats to share.
  • DIY crafts- Make homemade ornaments and decorations using supplies like pinecones, glitter, ribbon, etc. Let guests’ creativity run wild.
  • Story Time-  Have grandparents or others share favorite holiday memories, traditions, or read aloud classic holiday books/poems. 
  • Indoor Scavenger Hunt- Create fun holiday-themed clues and have guests search around the house to solve them.
  • Karaoke- Pass the mic and belt out favorites. See who has the best singing skills!
  • Charades- Act out holiday movies, songs, characters, etc. Have guests guess what’s being acted out.
  • Games and Puzzles- Gather board games, card games, and puzzles for indoor entertainment.
  • Photo Booth- Set up a DIY photo booth with props and holiday backdrops for memorable photos.
  • Trivia- Test guests’ holiday knowledge with some festive trivia or games like Christmas Jeopardy.
  • Escape Room- Turn part of your home into an holiday-themed escape room filled with puzzles. See if guests can crack the code!
People in living room with Christmas tree playing charades to show how to prepare indoor activities for guests.

The possibilities are endless for indoor holiday fun. Get creative and enjoy the quality time together!

Outdoor Activity Ideas

Get everyone’s blood pumping with some festive outdoor activities they’ll always remember. Enjoy the holiday magic!

  • Neighborhood Holiday Lights Tour– Bundle up and walk or drive through nearby neighborhoods to see the best holiday light displays. 
  • Local Attractions- Explore nearby attractions and plan a group outing to a holiday market, l or other local events.
  • Build A Snowman- For those in colder climates, build snowmen and have a friendly snowman building competition if enough snow.
  • Go Sledding- Find a local hill perfect for sledding and have a blast racing down. Make sure to take proper safety precautions.
  • Outdoor Ice Skating- Lace up your skates and hit a frozen pond or outdoor ice rink for graceful skating. 
  • Outdoor Holiday Movie- Set up a projector and screen to have a movie night under the stars. Provide blankets and hot cocoa.
  • Neighborhood Caroling- Spread holiday cheer by going door-to-door signing classic carols with your guests.
  • Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt- Make a list of holiday light items to find and have guests search neighborhoods. See how to play and get free printable.
  • Build Snow Forts Or Sculptures- Let guests build snow forts and snowmen armies and have a friendly snowball fight. 
  • Festive Hike- Look for a trail decorated with holiday lights or other decorations. Take in the decor while getting fresh air.
  • Holiday Yard Games- Play classic yard games like cornhole, kanjam, ladder ball, etc. and give them a holiday twist.
Five people ice skating outside to show how to prepare for holiday guests with outdoor activities.

Relax and Enjoy Your Guests

While preparing for holiday guests can certainly be hectic, remember to take time to relax and enjoy your guests once they’ve arrived. All the cleaning, planning, and hard work you’ve done gets the home ready for quality time with loved ones. Build in ample free time so you can focus on connecting with family and friends.

  • Focus on the Experience- Instead of striving for perfection, focus on creating a warm and memorable experience for your guests.
  • Set Realistic Expectations- Understand that not everything will go as planned, and that’s okay. The most important thing is enjoying time together.
  • Take Breaks- Make sure to take breaks for self-care, whether it’s a short walk, a cup of tea, or a few moments of quiet.
  • Learn from Each Experience- Each time you host, you’ll learn and improve. Embrace the learning process and don’t be too hard on yourself.
  • Enjoy the Moment- Remember that holidays are a time to connect with loved ones. Savor the moments and create memories.

Hosting for the holidays can be a rewarding experience, filled with love and joy. By following these guidelines and staying organized while preparing for holiday guests, , you can ensure everyone has a wonderful time, and you can relax and enjoy the festivities yourself. Happy hosting and happy holidays!

Turkey dinner set with plates, wine glasses with Christmas tree in background.


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