The best part of the holiday season is certainly gathering with family and friends. My Christmas tradition revolves around enjoying good Portuguese food—courtesy of my mother—reminiscing about days gone by, and trekking to New York and Philadelphia with my family for a foodie adventure or two.
If you are like me, you may also find yourself spending one night or several days as a house guest. Although I am staying at my parent’s house, this role is very different than my normal routine. I have also spent time as a guest for weekends in other family’s homes, and there are definitely a few helpful rules to keep in mind to make the visit a good one.
1. Take care of your own needs
If you happen to be the fussy type, make sure you bring whatever it is you need for yourself. For instance, if you prefer a specific brand of coffee in the morning or must sleep on a silk pillow case (yes, I have a friend like this), make sure you arrive self-equipped. Although you are likely staying with people who know you very well, including your quirks, don’t expect them to remember everything. As long as your preference is not overbearing to your hosts or other guests, quietly come prepared.
2. Discuss ways you can help in advance
The best time to talk about ways you can help around the house during your stay is when you’re finalizing plans with your host. Your services can range from offering to load the dishwasher, clearing the table, or sweeping/vacuuming the floors. Offering your services ahead of time can let your host think about the best way you can help and lets them know that you want to participate. Try to finalize an agreement before you arrive so that you know how you can contribute. If your host insists you don’t need to do anything, graciously go along with it.
3. Offer to take your host(s) out to dinner
It is quite a bit of work (and expensive) for hosts to buy groceries and plan menus for house guests who stay several days. Take some of the pressure off by offering to take your hosts out for dinner. It is best if this is discussed ahead of time. Offering to cook a meal in your hosts’ kitchen is not a good option, since this may be considered too intrusive.
4. Say thank you with a host gift
On your last day, it is appropriate to leave your hosts with a gift to say thank you. I would use an estimate of about $15–$20 for each day you are staying to judge an appropriate gift budget. Some thoughtful ideas may include small decorative accents like a candle, a gift certificate to a favorite store or restaurant, or movie passes the family can enjoy for a night out. It is also nice to follow-up a few days later with a hand written thank you note.
As always, I wish you all happy travels.
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