How To Make a Houseguest Welcome/Survival Kit

I love to make survival/welcome kits for houseguests, full of information about parts of the city I think they'd like to experience and little things to make their stay more relaxing. Some kits are silly, some are practical, but I always have fun making them, while anticipating our visit together.


  • Included in this survival kit are maps of San Francisco and Oakland, the tiny and eternally useful PocketBay public transportation map, a BART card loaded with $10, a round-trip Muni ticket, a field guide/notebook, a hand-drawn map, a set of house keys, a collection of restaurant reviews and best-of picks I think my guest would like, and a set of earplugs. I always include earplugs, as most people aren't accustomed to sleeping on such a noisy street with such noisy neighbors!

  • I drew a little map of all the places I think this particular guest might like to visit. (I realize this map is ridiculous, with a small part of the Mission taking up most of the city! I didn't plan ahead, and I'm not good at drawing maps.) If Jenn was visiting, I would make a map of all the lovely independent movie theatres and coffee shops, and if Billy & Angela were visiting I would highlight breweries, vegan restaurants, and the best beer bars. The Survival Kit Inventory Sheet just makes it look official. Very important.

  • Providing a houseguest with a set of keys gives them- and you- more freedom to come and go. This is especially important if you'll be working during their visit. If they might be repeat visitors, I let them keep the key in case I'm working next time they get into town. I stopped by a little tourist tchochke stand downtown, and spent quite a bit of time picking out the perfect cheesy keychain.

  • I happened to have a little Moleskin notebook left over from another project, and thought it would be perfect. Plenty of room to write but small enough to slip into a jacket pocket. The little pocket at the back of the notebook can hold business cards, postcards, and other ephemera one tends to collect when visiting a new city.

  • Inside I provided some basic information (how to get to and ride BART and Muni, my at-work contact information) for getting around town. The less familiar a guest is with San Francisco and public transportation, the more details I would include.

  • There's a section for food and drink, including restaurants' addresses, phone numbers, and hours. On top of Twin Peaks and want to make dinner reservations at Bar Tartine? We're all set! Laying in the sun at Dolores Park and thinking of wandering over to Mission Chinese? They're closed on Wednesdays!

  • There's also a section of fun potential sights and events, including prices and directions with plenty of blank spaces for notes and new suggestions.

Most of the notebook is left blank, so I imagine it might become a sort of journal or scrapbook of the visit. Sometimes the notes you jot down or little maps you sketch can contain more memories than more formal records.

Images: Tess Wilson

53 Comments