There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it: Traveling can be expensive. And while there are plenty of ways to save money on a hotel, the easiest way to cut your travel budget is by staying with a friend or family member. But by being a houseguest, you miss out on certain luxuries of staying at a hotel. More importantly, there are tons of tiny things you need to do to be respectful to your gracious hosts.
If you’re an infrequent houseguest, you may be unaware that there are certain rules you need to follow. Sure, nearly everyone knows that you shouldn’t leave your dirty clothes on the floor, snoop in your host’s medicine cabinet or eat their fridge clean, but being a polite, friendly, and courteous houseguest requires a lot more than the bare minimum.
For instance, bringing along your own toiletries, being an open and honest communicator and offering a small, thoughtful gift are all must-dos for being a houseguest. (You may just not have known that yet. You’re welcome.) If you still want to learn more unspoken guidelines for being the best-ever guest, keep on reading.
To the best of your ability, make your arrival date and your departure date firm. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, don’t change your travel plans at the last minute. And whatever you do, read the room and don’t overstay your welcome.
Before you even arrive, make it clear how many people you will be traveling with. Don’t show up at the last minute with your new boyfriend, his terrier and their RV, which will just have to sit in the driveway.
Your hosts are already doing a lot of work by welcoming you into their space, so don’t make them plan your whole vacation for you. If you have some wacky tourist attractions or activities in mind, bring them up to your hosts. But if they don’t want to come along, don’t force them. Enjoy the sights on your own!
Don’t rely on your hosts to provide you with shampoo, soap or toothpaste. Bring your own toiletries. Savvy travelers always pack them anyway! The “BYO” rule can also extend to food, especially for those with allergies. If you’re gluten-free or lactose intolerant, you should bring your own bread and dairy-free milk.
Think beyond a bottle of wine. One common etiquette question is: What should I bring my host? The answer is to think of something small and personalized. If your host is an avid collector of tea towels, bring them one. Better yet? Bring a gift from where you’re from, such as local craft beer or wine.
Do your hosts remove their shoes when they enter their home? Are the dishes always done promptly after dinner? Do they keep the living room light on all night? Make sure you know the quirks and small rules of the home in which you’ll be staying and follow them.
It’s important to be a polite person and more thankful than you typically would, especially if you’re staying for an extended period of time. Don’t forget those magical words that Barney taught you years ago: please and thank you. Those are just a few of the nice words you should say more often anyway.
Be open about your comings and goings. Sure, you don’t have a curfew, but it’s common courtesy to let your hosts know when you’ll be out late or when you’ll be home all day so they know not to worry.
Don’t assume that that apple, that bottle of wine or that special ice cream in the fridge is up for grabs. Not helping yourself to things extends to toiletries, towels, medicine and other home items. When in doubt, just ask!
Hosting is exhausting. Even if you’re in town specifically to visit your hosts, it’s best to give them a little bit of breathing room. Unless invited, stay out of their bedroom, and give them a few hours every day to decompress by themselves.
Lend a helping hand whenever possible. Volunteer to do the dishes, help make dinner and ask if you can throw a load of towels in the laundry. These small things make all the difference in being an incredible guest.
Treat your host’s home better than you treat your own. Pick up your towels off the floor, stow away your dirty clothes as soon as you take them off and do your own dishes. You are staying in someone’s home, not a hotel. And your host is not your personal maid.
The respect for your space doesn’t end when your stay does. As you’re preparing to go, clean your guest room and leave it exactly as you found it. Ask your host if they’d like you to strip the bedsheets, and if they’d prefer it, do that as well.
After you’ve made your trip back home, don’t forget to send a thank you note. Even though you’ve already offered your host a gift, it’s still an extra kind and unexpected way to express your gratitude. And if you forget to send one, that’s a way you’re being rude without realizing.
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