By Carla Olivo, Marine Spouse

Sometimes when the military sends you far from “home,” it is not possible to get back home for the holidays. So a lot of times, family comes to you. Which is great if you have the room and the time to get ready.

Here are a few tips for hosting out of town guests.

Tackle the Guest Room

If you are lucky enough to have a spare room or a room set aside just for guests, then great! The problem at my house is, the spare room is usually used for storage. Around the holidays, our guest room doubles as my gift wrapping room. So trying to clear the room of boxes, bags, wrapping paper, and ribbon is easier said than done around the holidays.

And if you live in base housing, your kids’ bedroom might double as your guest room!

So the first thing you need to do is clear the room of any extras that do not have a home or a place to be put away.

Try to look at the room from your guests’ perspective. Do they have a place to put their luggage? Is there space to hang things in the closet? Make sure there are extra hangers and if you really want to go the extra mile, include a bathrobe and slippers for your guests.

The spare dresser in my guest room is where I store my tablecloths and extra linens. I try to keep the top two drawers of the dresser empty, so guests have a spot to unpack if they choose.

A reading chair and lamp are great, but many guest rooms don’t have the extra room. Other things to include: phone chargers, extra blankets and pillows, and a pack-n-play if they have small children. Fresh flowers are also a nice touch to the room. And displaying photos of you and your guests is also very thoughtful.

Plan your Meals

The holidays are a really busy time of the year, so the last thing you want to do is run back and forth to the grocery store, especially while entertaining. So, plan each day’s meals and shop ahead. If you can, pre-cook or prep parts of the meals ahead of time. Make sure you are aware of any food allergies and purchase the appropriate supplies. Planning ahead means less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your guests.

Plan a Pretty Tablescape

The holidays are a time of transforming your house, whether it’s a celebration of fall harvest for Thanksgiving or jingle bells at Christmas. But a gorgeous tablescape will make mealtime memorable. Mini pumpkins and gold, green and red leaves are a great addition to a Thanksgiving table. Pinecones and evergreen sprigs with candy canes can bring a festive spirit to Christmas dinner. Or a white and blue theme can turn your dining room table into a winter wonderland.

Entertaining Your Guests

While your guests may be on holiday, you may not have time off from work or prior commitments. If you end up having to work, plan a few activities that your guests can go to unattended. Here in Washington D.C., there is always a museum or concert to keep guests entertained. Having a few activities lined up ahead of time makes it a lot easier if things pop up that you can’t control.  Your guests may just want a little downtime but it’s always good to have options.

The Rest of the House

The holidays are a tough time of year to keep the house clean. So start by putting stuff away, clear off tables and other surfaces, and generally get rid of clutter.

If you only have time to clean one room after your guest room and guest bath, then clean the kitchen. It is the room you and your guests will probably spend the most time in.

Light some candles. Put on some festive music, and turn on those holiday lights. Hosting family and friends during the holidays doesn’t have to be stressful. With a little planning and prep and letting go of the need for it to be perfect, you can focus on being a good hostess and enjoying the holidays with your guests. is a review platform for military and veteran families. Leave a review of your prior duty station and read the reviews of where you are PCSing to. Home is where the military sends us and together we can make a difference!
Carla Olivo has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, and Documentary Reporting. Her favorite time of year is the holidays (even if she has to host guests!) She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel and their two children. You can follow her on Twitter @olivowriter.
Carla Olivo

Director of Strategic Communications