by Margaret Cabaniss
Last month, we talked about how to be a good host for house guests. Today: how to be a good house guest. This job is less involved, thankfully, and some rules can be bent a bit if you’re visiting family and close friends — but there are still a few important tips to bear in mind if you want to be invited back.
Remember the rule about house guests and dead fish…they both start to stink after three days. Limit the length of your stay to something reasonable, particularly if your host doesn’t have a large place (or has a lot on her plate, small children to tend to, etc.). Again, if we’re talking family or dear friends, longer visits might be welcome — but it’s always good to double-check before making plans, especially around the busy holidays.
Let your hosts know in advance about any special needs. If you have allergies, let them know so they can keep the family cat off your bed; if you have food intolerances, give them some warning so that they don’t plan a meal that will give you hives. (Be more forbearing about personal dietary choices, though. If that’s hard to do, consider bringing some supplemental snacks of your own, or eating out.)
Bring a hostess gift. Arriving anywhere with gifts immediately makes you a welcome guest — and since your hosts are giving you free room and board, a small token of appreciation is always a good idea. Fortunately, there are lots of simple, lovely things you can do here: freshly baked treats, a nice bottle of wine, a set of cloth napkins, etc. If you’re short on luggage space, take your hosts out to dinner instead — or consider babysitting one night so they can go out on their own. It won’t cost you anything, but that kind of gift is gold to harried parents of little ones.
Be considerate of your hosts’ schedules — and let them know yours. If they’re an early-rising family with small children, don’t sleep in until 11; if they’ll have to work during your visit, be sure to keep the late-night carousing to a minimum. As much as possible, try to accommodate the house schedule. By the same token, give them a heads-up about when you’ll be coming and going, whether you’ll need a ride to or from the airport, whether you’ll be at the house for dinner, etc.
Pitch in. Your host might insist that he doesn’t need help with the dishes, but insist right back on clearing the table, at least. Offer to cook a meal, run some simple errands, or even just entertain the kids during dinner prep. You don’t need to wait to be asked: If there’s something you can do for yourself, do it. Your hosts aren’t running a bed and breakfast, and helping out wherever you can makes their job less stressful.
Leave their home neater than you found it. Well, if you can, anyway. Make the bed (or put away the blanket on the couch) at the beginning of each day and straighten your belongings. At the end of your visit, strip your bed linens, wipe down the bathroom counter, and generally tidy up as much as you can, so that the clean-up after you leave will be minimal.
Once you’re back home, don’t forget a thank-you note. It’s an easy thing to overlook, but it makes a difference. Be sure to let them know how much their hospitality was appreciated — and maybe extend them your own, too.
Any other good guest tips to share?