One way to make your tenant, house sitter or fellow exchanger feel at home is to have a Notebook waiting for them that tells the "story" of your home. In other words, a guide to what they will find, and where they can find it.
This is a relatively easy process. Start with a simple notebook that you can divide into sections. Use pocket dividers so that you can include pamphlets, instructions, menus, etc. Provide the necessary information, including pictures if need be, for each category.
Some owners even leave a running journal for each new guest to record memories of their trip and tips to share with the next visitors, which becomes a fun memento for everyone to share, and a continuing story of your home. We recommend the following areas of interest but be creative and have fun with it and your visitors will be glad you did.
Security: First and foremost, explain what security measures you have in place and how the tenant must use them. Make clear what windows and doors you want locked when the tenants leave. If you have an alarm system, be sure the leave proper code, as well as usage instructions and the number of the security company for technical issues.
Emergencies: Be sure to leave the name and number of a neighbor or friend in case of emergency. If you have a regular plumber or handy man, include their contact information just in case repairs are needed.
Internet/Computers: Make sure you provide any necessary information for your visitor to access the Internet, especially if there is a password required. If you are allowing use of your own computer, be sure to remove any personal information from the hard drive before you leave and provide proper instructions for use of the printer.
Utilities: It is a good idea to provide the location of the main water and gas lines and electrical box and how to turn them on/off just in case of emergency. If your area is prone to electrical outages, leave a flashlight handy.
Transportation: Getting around their new surroundings will be key for your guests. It's a nice touch to provide local metro and bus schedules, and even the location of a bicycle rental shop. Any suggestions you have on walking paths will also be appreciated.
Spas, Pools, Fireplaces, Barbecues: Make sure you leave all of the important information needed to operate and maintain these items. Be sure to include the how you want ashes disposed of from fireplaces. For pools and spas, be clear if you expect the tenant to maintain the chemicals and if so, provide detailed instructions.
Watering for Plants/Gardens: You would have stipulated in your agreement if any care and watering is to be done but it's always a good idea to leave a reminder of how often you want your garden watered and any other special tips on care.
Local Attractions: Any maps you can include highlighting the local universities and colleges, libraries, museums, galleries, bookstores, etc. would be outstanding. If you have a favorite shop or destination, make a note of it as well.
Restaurants: Ah, the all-important category for any traveler. Give your new friend a list of your favorite eateries and coffee houses. It's nice to leave a few menus in your notebook, especially for reliable take-out for late night work sessions.
As you can see, there are many areas you can provide that extra information that will make your visitor's stay easier and more enjoyable. Place your Notebook in a prominent place for them to find and they will be delighted to see that you have taken the extra time to make sure they can make your home their own.