Hosting out-of-towners for Thanksgiving weekend? Plan ahead!

We’re not just talking about the menu. The more organized you are for other aspects of the stay, the more time you’ll have to relax and enjoy your guests — whether it’s collegians, your daughter’s new boyfriend or the grand kids, Here are four areas in which thinking ahead will reap great benefits:

Nurturing relationships

Keep in mind that a holiday is really about gathering with loved ones to celebrate. That mind set will help you keep your cool if the turkey is overdone or the pumpkin pie has a burnt crust.

This particular holiday focuses on gratitude so make time for doing something for others: visit a nursing home, take canned goods to a food bank, bring warm mittens and hats to a homeless shelter. If adult children are coming home, see if they’d be willing to tackle closets or boxes in the attic. Those things they’re ready to part with can be delivered to Clothes That Work or area Goodwill stores.

Depending on your religious tradition, you may want to visit your house of worship over the weekend and offer prayers for your blessings.

Being together for days isn’t always easy and get-togethers aren’t always idyllic, especially if there’s a history of conflict. In these cases, you’ll want to break up the family time with some private time for both you and your guests.

Ruth Nemzoff, a specialist on inter-generational relations, says it’s important to remember that others may have their own agenda for the weekend. She’s the author of “Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children.”

“If children are returning from college for the first time, not only will they have had three months of living on their own without curfews, but may have their own plans — attending a big game or seeing friends,” she says.

“If your older kids are coming with grand kids in tow, you may be planning to take them to the zoo or on other adventures, but their parents may have other plans. Negotiate in advance. And stay flexible.”

If someone new is entering the family for the first time, Nemzoff says you’ll need to give everyone a chance to know one another.

“Don’t expect love at first sight! And don’t expect that the new family member’s way of showing love is the same as your family’s.”

Making your guests feel comfortable

Making accommodations cozy for your guests will get their visit off to a happy start. Greet them at the airport with a bouquet or fill a vase with flowers for their bedroom.

Arrange a pretty basket with sample-sized toiletries — include a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, lotions. Be certain there are extra pillows in their room, a light for reading, a night light for middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. Make a stack of books or magazines that reflect their particular interests.

Leave a bowl of fresh fruit in the kitchen, and stock the refrigerator with snacks and drinks that are available 24/7.

Remember to check in advance to see if guests have any special needs or particular food allergies, then be sure and accommodate those when planning meals.

If little ones are coming, make sure the house is child-proof and check to see if you’ll need to provide a crib or high chair or if the parents will bring those with them.

Planning get-away time

If guests are staying for the entire weekend, you all deserve a break. If you have things to take care of in the house and don’t really want help, you may want to provide some suggestions for outings. Or everyone may enjoy going out together.

If you’re film buffs, a trip to the movies is a Thanksgiving weekend must do. The Grande Illumination and Children’s Parade takes place on Friday, Nov. 27; Aullwood’s Holiday Art Fair and Open House is slated for Saturday, Nov. 28; and “Annie” will be on stage at the Schuster Center.

Show off the Miami Valley to out-of-town guests with a visit to the Dayton Art Institute, the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. We took visitors to the Westcott House in Springfield for a docent tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style home and they enjoyed it thoroughly.

For a list of what’s going on, check out, or Friday’s GO!

Creating traditions

Memories often center around a tradition that’s repeated each year. In our family, for example, Thanksgiving always meant taking a walk in the neighborhood before or after our big meal and making a fire in the fireplace. My father always read a prayer he’d originally written in the 1940s, and we continue to read that prayer each year.

It’s meaningful to go around the table and allow each person to share the specific things for which they’re grateful. Young children can contribute by creating place mats or name cards for guests, or can help with the cooking. Let them help fashion decorations with small pumpkins, leaves from the yard, acorns and buckeyes. If they’re older, they can plan some after-dinner entertainment.

Many families start Thanksgiving Day with the Turkey Trot in Miamisburg. Some enjoy a shopping outlet and lunch break on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Nemzoff says it’s very important to let go of your fantasies for the holiday and just enjoy what you have.

And remember to thank your guests for coming.

“The trip to your home may not be “over the hill and through the woods to grandmother’s house” but rather an expensive plane trip through multiple airports,” she says. “ Kids and grand kids may be tired and spent. Acknowledge their huge effort and expense.”