The Consummate Traveler: House Guest Etiquette

December 4, 2014 Updated: December 4, 2014

What I look forward to most each holiday season is enjoying quality time with my family and friends. If you are like me, this also means spending several days as a houseguest. Although in my case I am staying at my parent’s house, this is still quite different than being in the comfort of my own home. I would like to share a few key tips for being a gracious houseguest and making your next visit a smooth and memorable one.

1. Bring your own “must have” items. If you are the fussy type, make sure you bring along whatever it is you can’t live without for yourself and your family. For instance, if you prefer a specific brand of coffee in the morning or must sleep on a silk pillowcase (yes, I have a friend like this), be prepared to 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 preferences are not overbearing to your hosts or other guests, quietly come prepared.

2. Discuss how you can help in advance. Generally speaking, most hosts appreciate a helping hand with routine tasks around the house when having guests stay over. The best time to discuss these suggestions is when you are near the end of finalizing your plans. Offer to take over jobs such as clearing the table and loading the dishwasher after each meal, or sweeping/vacuuming the floors. Discussing these details ahead of your visit will give your host time to think about it and already lets them know you want to contribute. Try to finalize an agreement before you arrive so that you have a game plan in place. If your host insists that you not to do anything, graciously go along with it, but be sure to at least make your bed and clean up after yourself each day.

3. Have a means of transportation. If you flew or took other public transportation to arrive at your host’s home, it is best to rent a car so that you can be mobile and self-sufficient during your visit. This will allow you and your family to do a few activities alone if desired and takes the burden off of your host to shuttle you around.

4. Offer to buy groceries or split dinner costs. Planning menus and buying groceries for guests staying several days can be exhausting and expensive for a host to handle alone. Offer to contribute a sum of money, such as $500, to help defray the added food expenses for you and your family. If you plan to dine out several times during your stay, pick up a few restaurant bills or possibly agree to alternate with your host. Again, it is best if these details are discussed ahead of time.

5. Give a host gift. On your last day, it is appropriate to leave your hosts with a gift to say thank you for their hospitality. I would use an estimate of $20–$30 for each day you are staying to determine an appropriate gift budget. Some thoughtful ideas may include a gift certificate to a favorite store, spa, or restaurant, as well as 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 the happiest of travels!