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How To Host A Scavenger Hunt

There are plenty of resources available for creating a scavenger-hunt, but I have never found a guide on how to host a scavenger hunt.

The purpose of this guide is to help you minimize the preparation time, so that you can invest her planning time wisely and enthusiastically look forward to giving a truly fabulous party.

1. Overview

Everybody loves to be included in a party. A truly fabulous party gives its guests an opportunity to:

invest in friendships


try something new

act out

take a risk in a safe environment

create lasting memories


But not everybody loves to host a party. Hosts are obligated to consider:

the reality of budget, time, and space constraints

the possibility of ugly ulterior motives involving comparisons

the risk of diminishing the party activities to mere time-fillers

2. Party Information: Establishing the Date, Time, Location, and RSVP details


Send invitations at least two weeks in advance.


As a rule of thumb, allow two hours for the party.

When establishing the time of the party, consider the food expectations of different times of day. For example, guests may need to be served lunch if the party begins at noon. Also, consider energy levels of the guests. Often, the afternoon is best for a children's party. Teens often prefer evenings to get together.

Specifying an end time helps to set expectations for the party structure.


This is the first decision you will make that will influence the ambiance of the party. Outdoor parties can usually accommodate larger groups, but they are obviously dependent on the cooperation of Mother Nature. Indoor parties can be more intimate, but can expose your home to unusual wear and tear. Unusual locations, such as a park, can lend ambiance to the party, if it's feasible.

RSVP Details

It's wise to indicate a date that you would like a response.

Be sure to mention what type of food will be served (whether it's a meal, or just cake and ice cream).

For a child's party: When the parents contact you, ask whether they plan on staying for the party (this will factor into your parent helpers and your food quantities) and ask whether any of the guests have special conditions, such as asthma or food allergies.

For a teen party: If you are hosting a teen event where guests are bringing friends that you may not know, it's a good idea to try to call the parents before the party, introduce yourself as the host of the party, and let them know that you're available to answer any questions/concerns they may have about the party. Use this as an opportunity to ask their permission to include their teen in the invitations and party website. If you're not able to connect with the parents prior to the party, then follow up after the party with a call to the new friend's parents, to let them know that you're glad their son or daughter was able to participate.

3. Guests: Assigning Sherpas, Teams, and Guest Explorers

The guest list will be influenced by the location of the party and the temperament of the guest of honor. Scavenger Hunt parties can usually accommodate a flexible number, from a small to a large guest list.


To help facilitate the scavenger-hunt, I recommend that you get others to help coordinate the activities. I like to call these helpers Sherpas. (The name comes from the indigenous people of the Himalayas that are often hired as guides for foreign trekkers and mountain climbers.)


The Scavenger Hunt and many of the party games are played by teams. You will need to create teams, and assign each guest to a team. Each team needs a Sherpa. I suggest that you create one team for each Sherpa. It is possible to have more Sherpas than number of teams.

Guest Explorers

The party guests will come as explorers. Remember to assign each guest to a team. Obviously, make the number of guests in each team as even as possible.

I recommend no more than 10 Guest Explorers per team.

4. Pre-Party Communications

If you use Host-Party.com for your Scavenger-Hunt, you can take advantage of a number of communication tools they offer to help the host send information to the guests to get them excited for the Scavenger Hunt.

Send Invitations

You may invite your guests by sending them an invitation via email or by printing their invitation. Sending the invitation via email is the preferred method, as it gives the guest instant access to your pre-game website. The printed invitation gives the guest the important information and also provides login details for the pre-game site.

On the email invitations, guests will be able to "Accept" or "Decline" the invitation and post comments on the pre-party site. Guests can go to the pre-party site to check which guests have responded to the invitations, and read the comments.

Send Pre-Game Clues

Some Scavenger Hunts provide clues that can be sent before the game. You determine the timing of when these clues are sent.

There is no information critical to the Scavenger Hunt party in the pre-game clues, so if a guest is not able to access the clues, it should not impact the party. In this situation, you may want to deliver printed invitations, pre-game clues and guest instructions to any guest who can't access the site.

Send Game Materials to Sherpas

Before the party, you can send instructions and game materials to the helpers that will be the Sherpas on the day of the Scavenger Hunt. This will give them time to understand how they will be helping out on the day of the party.

When you have assigned a helper to the Sherpa roles, the website will automatically send them their special instructions.

Send other Emails

You may choose to build the anticipation of the Scavenger Hunt by sending other communications prior to the event. This email function will allow you to quickly send emails to all guests with direct links back to the pre-game or post game site.

5. Party Preparation: Ambiance, Food, Making Memories, Party Content

A good Scavenger Hunt party requires relatively little preparation, and party ambiance can be as elaborate or as effortless as the host chooses. Bear in mind, though, that if the pre-party website can help to build the excitement for the party guests, the party preparation can help to build the excitement for the guest of honor, if he/she is included appropriately in the preparation. Be sure to include the guest of honor in the decision making when possible, and in the actual decorating and preparations (such as stuffing treat bags.)


Most Scavenger Hunt parties are written around specific themes that are easy to decorate for and fun to implement. Regardless of the party's theme, balloons and streamers are still the classic party decorations, and crowd favorites.

Music or sound effects can enhance the atmosphere. Large libraries often have a music section with a wide selection of theme music and sound effects. Some Scavenger Hunts have downloadable music and sound effects.

You might want to hide or remove anachronistic items from the party location.


I have found that parties are not necessarily the best place to introduce a lot of new or unusual foods, even if they do contribute to the theme (although an occasional unusual item can be fun!) The goals of our menu items are simplicity, finger foods, and generally healthy.

Making Memories

It is wise to consider recruiting somebody to take pictures at the party. Consider asking one of the parents that has told you they expect to stay for the party anyway. After the party, these pictures can be uploaded on the post party website for all of the guests to enjoy. This way, you are available to oversee the general flow of the party, and enjoy the party! Encourage the volunteer photographer to be sure that each guest is in at least one or two pictures (provide them with a guest list, if necessary), and to take candid as well as posed pictures.

Before the party, be sure that the 'official' camera has fresh batteries, the flash is charged, and the memory card has plenty of space (or, that you have plenty of film to cover the entire party.) If you are lending your camera to the volunteer photographer, be sure that he/she knows how to use the camera before the guests arrive.