Take the stress out of hosting guests

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With the holidays coming up, many people find themselves hosting loved ones from out of town. Helping overnight house guests feel at home during this busy time of year can feel like a challenge, but a little planning can take some of the stress out of hosting during the holidays. Here are some tips for tackling Hoosier hospitality without the hassle.

Schedule some hometown fun

Don’t wait until guests arrive to decide how you’re going to spend your time together. A little planning can help avoid back and forth between host and guest about what to do or where to eat. Kristen Guthrie, a spokesperson for Visit Fort Wayne, suggests asking visitors these questions to narrow down your recommendations:

• What are your interests? Do you like arts, sports, music, etc.?

• What ages and activity levels are you looking for?

• How active do you want to be? Do you want to spend time indoors or outdoors?

• How much time are you looking to fill?

VisitFortWayne.com is a great resource for ideas. The website has lists like holiday activities in Fort Wayne, free things to do in the winter and outdoor winter fun. However, you don’t have to be a tour guide. Stop by the Visitors Center, 927 South Harrison St., and pick up a few brochures or print out a copy for the internet so that your guests can choose their own adventure.

Make your house feel like home

Barb Fetters said she wouldn’t describe herself as a “hospitality expert,” but she and her husband, Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters, have hosted guests from around the country and the world at Purviance House in Huntington, a bed and breakfast 30-minute drive from downtown Fort Wayne. The accommodation has a five-star rating on TripAdvisor with more than two dozen rave reviews.

“My husband and I both have a passion for welcoming people to Huntington,” Barb Fetters said. “It’s a great way to do it because we live in a beautiful old home built in 1859.”

The Purviance House, which also serves as the Fetters’ residence, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The bed and breakfast features three guest suites with private bathrooms and separate entrances.

Giving guests some privacy helps them relax, Fetters said. However, she realizes having a separate bathroom for guests isn’t always possible when you’re hosting loved ones for the holidays. Assigning guests an uncluttered space, however small, is the next best thing.

“Get rid of the clutter. Have a clean space for them. It’s not necessary that everything has to be new and expensive, but getting rid of clutter and just having a nice, neat, organized room for someone makes people feel like they’re at home,” she said.

Make guests feel special

Giving travelers space to relax and recharge is important, but making memories is what visits with loved ones are all about.

At the Purviance House, Fetters serves a full hot breakfast around the dining room table each morning. She enjoys mingling with bed and breakfast guests and hearing what brought them to town or who they’re visiting.

“I think guests can tell if you enjoy doing what you’re doing. If you have a heart for hospitality, that shows. If you enjoy people, that shows,” she said.

Hosts who want to go the extra mile might consider presenting their guests with a locally-made gift to remember their visit. However, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make their stay memorable. The smell of cinnamon coffee cake baking in the oven is always inviting, Fetters said.

“I try to bake on the day that guests are coming so that I have a homemade treat to put in their room,” she said.