I've stayed at a couple of places through CouchSurfing and AirBnB and I think I have a few ideas on how to make my guests leave glowing reviews (and send more guests your way!). You can call my strategy Toned-Down Ned Flanders: there's an episode of The Simpsons where Ned lets the Simpsons borrow his beach house for the weekend. He leaves a note on every square inch of the cabin explaining how to use each thing (like "Put food in me" on the fridge). Don't go to these lengths or risk being made fun of mercilessly on the internet, but DO share more information than you think you might have to.
Overshare information in case of emergencies
Whether you're having someone crash on your couch for free or they're paying to rent your room, chances are you won't be with your guest all the time. Leave your guests with a paper copy, and email them another copy, of every bit of info they could possibly need, even if it seems like too much. Channel your inner worried parent leaving notes for the babysitter. Include info like:
- A way to reach you and a back-up way to reach you (e.g. your cell number and your partner's cell number).
- The full address of your place: in case of emergency, the guest may have to call for help, and chances are he or she won't be able to remember the address under duress.
- In that same vein, if your building/complex has specific emergency procedures, your guests should know.
- The codes for all the alarms/door entries/etc.
- The contact info of a neighbour (bonus points for one who has a spare key).
- Important phone numbers for your area: emergency numbers, taxi numbers, etc.
- A list of all the finicky things in the house and how to make them work (like how the one burner doesn't work or the shower's dial is on backwards).
- What to do if the power goes out and where the flashlights are.
- Directions to the nearest drugstore and its hours of operation.
- It's also a good idea to get any nagging repairs done before guests arrive. You might find it tolerable to live with, but it could end up being at best annoying and at worst dangerous for your guests.
Comforts and general happiness quotient
Help your guests be not only safe but comfortable in your place.
- Stock up on toilet paper before you have guests come over. I didn't enjoy my first outing in Paris being a trip to get TP.
- Make sure your guests have easy access to anything you told them they didn't have to bring: towels, sheets, pillows, etc. Leave these out for them. Leave extras out, too.
- Clean your place as if your mom was coming over. A tolerable level of dust for you could be enough to really irritate a guest's asthma or allergies. Also make sure your place is tidy and that your guests have space on your desk, in your closet or a drawer, and in the kitchen to make themselves at home.
- Let them know where the nearest grocery store is and what its hours of operations are. Many people choose AirBnB or CouchSurfing because of the ability to cook their own meals and save some money, so help them out. Make sure there's room in your fridge for their stuff and let them know if they can help themselves to your food or not.
- Let them know the laundry situation: point them toward a laundromat or leave a note on how to operate yours.
- Have internet available and write down the WiFi access information.
- Write out instructions on how to operate your media systems if they are complicated — and write them out like you would for your grandma.
- If you're very generous, have a welcome package for your guests with some of your favourite things from your neck of the woods, like local brews or snacks, and a couple subway tokens.
This little bit of extra goes a long way to making your guests happy. All of these things can be re-used from guest to guest.
- Print out a Google map with your place marked on it and any other places of interest, like the nearest subway stop
- Make a list of your favourite places for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and favourite things to do around town.
- Buy a city guide at a used book store to give them some ideas (but make sure they know it could be out-of-date and to double-check online).
- Lend them metro maps and schedules and pick up the local free city paper so they'll have information on what's on in your city while they're there.
- If you're subscribed to Groupon or something similar, keep an eye out before your guests arrive for anything that might interest them and pass it along to them before they arrive.
What do you do to make travellers — paying or not — feel comfortable, safe, and happy in your home?