As the holiday season and festivities approach, having friends and family stay at your home can really boost the holiday spirit. When everyone’s staying together in one place, it often makes celebrations convenient, natural, and full of liveliness. Plus, you get the extra opportunity to bond with people you might not see often (or at all) during the rest of the year. Before you invite people to share your space, think ahead to ensure you’re not only offering a welcoming environment, but a safe one as well. Making your guests feel at home is important, and you want your visitors to have a fantastic time — but not at the expense of peace of mind. We’ve put together a guide to help you to prepare for a stress-free hosting experience, so you have nothing more to do than just enjoy the holidays.

Step 1: Figure Out Who's Coming (and Exactly How Many)

When your favorite aunt and uncle tell you they want to visit, it’s worth pausing — before you give them a fast “yes, of course!” — to double check who they're planning to include in their party. The last thing you want is to prepare your home for a close friend and her partner, only to find they've also brought along their teenage son, his friend, a couple of their friends from out of town, and their dogs, too. Get a head count before you agree to become a holiday hostel. Establishing who's coming to your home well in advance will help you fully prepare — or gently let them know that you're not equipped to deal with such a large crowd.

Step 2: Clear the Clutter

We’re all human, and mess is an inevitable part of life. Even if you pride yourself on a pristine living space, take an extra close look around your home, in the spaces your guests might use most. Extra bits of clutter in the living room could create tripping problems, particularly if your visitors include some energetic kids. If your guests have specific allergies, consider getting rid of (or temporarily moving) things that could irritate them — such as flowers, excess dust, or your cat’s litter box. While you're clearing the clutter, examine each room for oft-forgotten safety hazards — especially in rooms you don’t use much yourself, like a guest bedroom. Keep a critical eye out for hidden issues, such as loose handrails both inside and outside. These will become particularly important during the winter season, and if you're hosting someone with poor mobility.

Step 3: Let There Be Light

A home shrouded in darkness doesn’t feel welcoming to guests. Sure, you may know every step and doorway in your house like the back of your hand, but you shouldn’t expect your friends and family to fumble their way through the darkness. It’s not only uncomfortable for a guest to try navigating an unfamiliar house in the dark, it can also lead to a range of safety risks. To avoid trips, falls, and fire hazards, make sure you have plenty of lights working throughout your home — including night lights for guidance during those midnight bathroom trips. Light up the outside too, so your guests know where to roll up with their luggage when they're approaching your home for the first time. Before your guests arrive, check all of your indoor and outdoor lighting — including festive string lights — to ensure there are no broken bulbs, worn insulation, or frayed wires.

Step 4: Prepare for Children

If your guests are bringing youngsters with them this holiday season, you need to work extra hard at keeping your home safe. This means hiding toxic chemicals and medicines far out of reach — either in high cabinets or safes — and removing (or locking away) any other dangerous substances. If you normally keep a stocked liquor cabinet, or beer on the bottom shelf of the fridge, consider moving all alcohol to higher locations while your little visitors are around. When you search your home for clutter and safety hazards, pay special attention to items close to the ground — there may be tiny choking hazards or sharp corners that adults would miss, but are at the perfect height for a toddler to find. It may sound silly, but it’s worth getting down on your hands and knees to crawl around at a baby’s eye level; you’d be surprised how different the world looks from down there! Consider setting up cabinet locks and baby gates if you have them at home — or ask your friends and family to bring some along with them.

Step 5: Put the Most Dangerous Items in a Safe

While placing toxic chemicals and medicines in high cabinets might seem like a secure way to protect children from danger — the truth is that kids and pets can be sneaky, sometimes inadvertently. You never know if they're going to climb up to a place where they shouldn't be, and open a world of trouble. The best way to have absolute peace of mind when overnight guests are staying, is to lock particularly dangerous items in a safe. This includes poisons used for pest control, guns, anything that might start a fire, and even some medications. As you search your house for dangerous items to lock away, look for valuable items also. Place your prized possessions in your safe — not because your guests are untrustworthy, but because accidents can happen. A guest leaving a window open, or a door unlocked, could lead to an unexpected break-in.

Step 6: Communicate

Talk to your guests about your expectations for safety, and ensure you’re aware of their specific requirements or concerns. Ask them if they have any special requests, and be willing to listen and accommodate their needs. They might have dietary restraints you need to keep in mind for big holiday dinners, or they may need to request something for allergy reasons. In case of an emergency, make sure everyone in your home is fully aware of all exits in your house, and your home escape plan. If you don’t have a home escape plan, sit down and create one as soon as you can. Fires and other disasters can still happen when you're hosting a get-together, and the best thing you can do is prepare.

Looking After Your Guests, and Yourself

Some of the best memories you create with your family will come from hosting (or visiting) loved ones during the holiday season. There’s nothing like staying all together in one house to make the holiday season feel lively, full, and unforgettable. Don’t risk the family celebration being ruined by any unfortunate accidents. Be cautious and follow our above steps to make sure everyone stays comfortable, happy, and safe. With these tips, and a well-stocked first-aid kit, you’ll be ready for anything this holiday season.
Home safety