Entertaining Rule No. 13: Keep Your Guests Connected

New rules for guests and hosts.
Sept. 19 2013 7:30 AM

Rule No. 13: Keep Your Guests Connected

Digital Hostess

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photos by Lambert/Getty Images, Shutterstock (2)

Beyond the requisite provision of (certain!) linens and a selection of basic toiletries, hosts of overnight guests have a measure of discretion regarding which other amenities to provide. Writing in the 1940s, Dorothy Draper included the following accoutrements in her list: “a tiny clock on the bedside table,” a stack of “one or two new and interesting books,” “a small desk fitted with note paper, envelops, two or three postcards, several stamps, ink and several new pens, pointed and stub,” and “a pincushion with various kinds of pins and two needles threaded, one with white cotton, one with black silk.” Times have changed—a bedside clock is still nice, but these days, instead of a formal correspondence setup, most guests would probably prefer a different kind of link to the outside world. Are you tending to your guests' digital needs? A few thoughtful courtesies can help you be sure.  

Chad Lorenz Chad Lorenz

Chad Lorenz is Slate's news editor. He has written for the Washington Post and the Washingtonian.

Most importantly, have your Wi-Fi password ready to share. Ideally this means updating the password to something memorable that you can mention to your guest—like her name: “Welcome to our home, Jessica. By the way, the Wi-Fi password is Jessica.” Obviously if you change your Wi-Fi password every time Jessica or Jordan or Jacob comes over, you’re going to have a problem keeping your own Wi-Fi devices connected, so the key is setting up a guest network on your Wi-Fi router that is literally only for guests. The password on your master Wi-Fi network—the one just for you—stays the same. This is a breeze to do with any Apple Wi-Fi router, slightly more complicated but still doable with most other routers. If you’d rather not bother customizing a new password for each guest, at least write the password down and place it in the guest room.

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Once your guests are connected, they’re going to need juice to stay that way: Do your best to provide a charging cable for smartphones. This is one of those things that you offer even if you think your guest doesn’t need it, just to spare them the trouble of having to ask. If you are an iPhone user and many of your potential guests are, too, the solution is easy: Depending on your respective phone generations, share your charger if you can, or keep a spare for such occasions. And if you have not yet graduated to iPhone 5, go ahead and splurge now on a Lightning-to-30-Pin adapter, because you’re going to need it for yourself very soon anyway.

To prepare for non-iPhone users, you can stockpile an archive of cables from various other sloughed-off devices. Better yet, become a hoarder of them—be ready to pounce when you hear that a friend or relative has upgraded their phone. (“May I inherit your charging cable from that Motorola Droid 2?”)

But to best accommodate a wide range of devices, consider getting a universal charging pad that operates on the Qi standard. It will work with a lot of the phones your friends are likely to have: Google Nexuses, Nokia Lumias, Samsung Galaxies, and a few others.

Of course, not all digital tasks are easily handled on a smartphone. Giving your guest access to a computer enables them to deal conveniently with larger email tasks or edit and upload their photos to the cloud. (Losing all your vacation pictures if a camera or phone gets misplaced or stolen is worse than losing the camera itself.) Invite them to use your desktop or laptop at the end of the day. Make sure you've enabled a guest user account for your computer so you don’t have to worry about snooping. (Here’s how to turn on a guest account in Windows or on a Mac). You can even activate parental controls if your guests are on the sketchy side.

Finally, a savvy hostess will assist her guests and save herself some “tour guide” trouble by treating them to some travel apps in advance. Scout out some of the more useful smartphone apps that your guests might need for visiting your city, and send an email praising them in advance. If any comes with a price tag, gift them via the app store. At the end of this post, you will find some good iPhone apps for New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and San Francisco.  And here are some good iPhone travel apps for any destination: Travel List, Hip Trip, Yahoo Time Traveler, and Urban Spoon.

In a perfect world, a guest could just put down the smartphone and back slowly away from the computer. After all, vacation is for unplugging. But these days travelers have logistics to deal with, and real-time social sharing of photos and memories has become part of the travel experience itself. So it’s up to you, host, to make them just as comfortable in the digital world as in the real one.

New York City Travel Apps

Washington, D.C., Travel Apps

Chicago Travel Apps

San Francisco Travel Apps

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