By Andrea Wren
I waved goodbye to my 'Couchsurfing' guest Maryline a few weeks ago now, and I was getting ready to host another guest very recently. This 'surfer' changed his plans last minute so didn't arrive, but expecting him did give me more practice in my hosting preparation.
I thought I'd share some of my hosting tips for others interested in hosting a 'couchsurfer', to make the experience a great one (which it should be!).
1. Decide with your guest before they come what amount of time you will spend with them, so both parties know the 'deal'. For example, are you treating the guest like a friend and showing them around, taking them out, eating meals with them? Or will they basically just be 'crashing' at your place and doing their own thing? Let your guests know if you have any prior commitments during their stay that you will need to attend to.
2. Will you be around when your guest arrives in your home town? Make sure you have made arrangements for access for them if you're going to be at work, or help them with suggestions of things to do while they're waiting to come to you. Have a contingency plan in place if something goes wrong, such as their flight is late or you have an emergency. Don't just leave an expected guest in the 'lurch' if something unforeseen happens.
3. Are you able to provide towels, linen and other comforts for your guest? I personally would hate to stay somewhere where this wasn't the case (I've seen on Couchsurfing some people are expected to even bring their own sheets!) and I want my guests to feel at home. So I leave a towel in the room, and they are free to use my toiletries such as shampoo, soap and toothpaste, as well as hairdryer.
4. If you're going to be showing your guest around, plan some 'touristy' things to do with them. I took Maryline to see the wonders of the Peak District, which she loved. We also went out into Manchester so she could see some of the city's super nightlife, and we went for a local curry the next day as well!
5. Will you be cooking for your guest, or would you like them to bring and buy their own food? Not everyone has the budget to provide meals for couchsurfers, especially if they host a lot of them. But let your guest know what they can expect - chances are, they may like to cook a dinner for you as a thank you! As couchsurfing is more about forming friendships though, it's nice to spend some time over at least one meal with your guest.
6. Do you have any house rules that your guest needs to be aware of? Better to avoid any disagreements or the possibility of offending one another by being upfront about any house rules before your guest arrives. For example, if you have a non-smoking household, or are a vegetarian and prefer meat not to be cooked in your home, let them know. Or you may like guests to wash up after themselves, or agree to be back by a certain time mid-week if you have work.
7. Are your guests aware of the type of household they are visiting? A thorough profile should have made it clear if you're in a student house and people party all night, or you're a family and you work and the kids go to school in the morning so everyone's in bed by 10pm. Check that your home environment is suitable for your guest. And if you live with pets and animals, you should probably not have guests stay who may be afraid of them or have allergies.
I hope these tips are useful! And if you want to check out my profile on couchsurfing, it's here: http://www.couchsurfing.org/people/andreawren/