Earlier this week I was chatting with a girlfriend about our weekends. I was telling her all about my mom's visit to DC and she shared her weekend experience with a less than perfect houseguest. I firmly believe that you "do better when you know better," so I have decided to share my thoughts today on a few etiquette musts for being a houseguest in someone else's home. These have been staple rules that I have followed as a houseguest and boy have these rules served me well! While I have certainly spent a lot of time on this blog discussing all of the ways to make your guests comfortable, I think that it is also important to take time to share my thoughts on the opposite perspective, the guest! So without further adieu, here are my 6 essential rules for being an exemplary houseguest.
Don't Arrive Empty Handed
Whether it's a bottle of wine, a small gift or homemade coffee cake, you should always arrive with some sort of small thank you token in hand (click here for a few housewarming gift suggestions). Chances are that your host when to quite a bit of trouble to clean and prep the house for your arrival, so arriving with a token of appreciation in hand is both warranted and appreciated. In addition, the size of the gift/gesture should also reflect the length of your stay. If your trip is only for a night or two then a bottle of wine or homemade coffee cake is more than adequate. However, recently I stayed at my sister's house for a week which called for sending a more substantial housewarming gift (plus she is my sister). So I ordered her a set of cheese knives to say thank you, which are actually still on backorder, so I included a printed out picture of the gift in a card that I gave her when I arrived.
Treat your Host and/or Hostess to a Meal
When you are staying at someone's house for a weekend, chances are that your host is picking up the tab for the majority of the food and beverage that is being consumed. It is an extremely nice and appreciated gesture for the guest to chip in for at least one of the meals. So whether you are treating your host/hostess to dinner at a restaurant or even making breakfast for the host/hostess at the house. The point is that you should be responsible for at least one meal to remove some of the burden from your host/hostess. On my recent trip to San Francisco to visit my sister and brother-in-law, we took them out to dinner one night and then I cheesescaped another night since we were staying at their home for a week. Both events were great fun, very much appreciated and made my husband and I feel like we were doing our part to contribute during our extended stay.
Pick up after yourself
Hosts/hostesses tend to say things like "make yourself at home," when guests arrive…don't take that literally. Yes you want to feel comfortable, but keep it within reason. Meaning, you should still make your bed every morning, don't leave an explosion of clothes on the floor of the bedroom or bathroom and do not leave your used dishes in the sink (the dishwasher is probably a whole 6 inches from the sink, so rinse the dishes and put them in the dishwasher!). In addition, offer to help out. If your host has served dinner, offer to help clear the dishes or if they are tidying up a space, maybe offer to take out the trash. Regardless, be helpful and make a conscious effort to refrain from being a messy guest.
Don't Overstay Your Welcome
Before you book your trip to stay with someone, I would recommend talking to your host or hostess about your length of stay. It is always a good idea to run your arrival and departure dates/times by your host or hostess before firming up plans. An ideal weekend stay is to arrive after work on Friday and leave after brunch time on Sunday. Leaving on a Monday can be an inconvenience to a host or hostess, especially if they have to work. The same goes for arriving before they are finished with work for the day (like on a Thursday or Friday mid-day). In those situations, I would suggest that you assure your host or hostess that you are self sufficient (ex. can get yourself to/from the airport, can keep yourself busy with activities around town until the host/hostess is home from work). In essence, you want to think of your stay as an addition that enhances the weekend and does not create a burden. The same goes for a longer stay (more than a weekend but maximum of 1 week).
Strip the Bed
One of the first things that a host or hostess will do when a guest departs is to clean the house and get everything back into working order. One aspect of the cleaning involves washing the sheets that were used by the guest during their stay. Stripping the bed is a simple thing that you can do when packing up to leave that will really be a huge help to your host or hostess. On the day of your departure remove all sheets and pillow cases from the bed you had been using and ask the host or hostess where they would like for you to put the dirty sheets (ex. leave them on the floor in the bedroom or take them to the laundry room). Fold the blankets and comforters at the foot of the bed and stack pillows neatly. In addition, collect all of your used towels and add them to the pile of dirty sheets.
Thank You Note
A hand-written thank you note is an absolute MUST after staying at someone's home. This should be written within the week post stay, but honestly the sooner you write that note and get it mailed the better! Notes that are sent after a week are still appreciated but tend to lose their "oomph," because the moment in time has long since passed. Be sure to include a couple of sentences detailing your favorite parts of the trip, but refrain from being overly wordy. People want to be thanked, but they do not need to receive a novel. A nice and thoughtful note that expresses your appreciation for their hospitality will go a long way and will close out your visit on a very positive note. If you are in the market for personalized stationery, I highly recommend checking out the American Stationery Company. They have a wide selection of high quality stationery at very reasonable prices. I am a huge fan of their products.
In addition to these tips on etiquette, my final piece of advice would be to just enjoy your visit and the people you are visiting. Weekends and trips go by quickly, but keeping these etiquette tips in mind during your stay will help to ensure that a return trip invitation is extended to you in the future.