The Holidays and Being a Good Guest
If you are one who enjoys travel and visiting distant friends and relatives, you'll discover that in order to gain access to a person's home you either need to be a blood relative - where your host feels obligated to open their home to you - or you need to be the type of person who people love to have around.
There's an art to being a guest in someone's home. If you are someone who is forever invited to stay with others, count it as a compliment. More than likely your hosts enjoy your company. Given your track record, odds are you already know how to ingratiate yourself by truly being respectful and considerate of your host(s).
Here the top five ways to be a great guest:
Be grateful. One of the easiest ways to do this is to smile. And smile often. Also, upon arrival, make sure your host knows how happy you are to be there and how grateful you are that they have taken time out of their already busy schedule (because we are all busy) to be so welcoming. You want to compliment your hosts on their home, their consideration and everything else they do for you. That is what grateful is. It's not being sickly sweet and smearing on the compliments like frosting on a cake. It's not making sure they know what you expect of them. It's not talking about the last home you stayed at and how the hosts treated you. It's letting your present hosts know how happy you are to be in their home with them.
Be helpful. Make sure the bathroom you use stays tidy and picked up. Towels don't go on the floor and personal items stay in a container - preferably under the sink if there is room. If there's no room to store your personal items in the bathroom, keep them in the room you are staying in - not on the bathroom counter.
The same applies to other areas of the home. If you don't make your bed at your place, change that habit and make it at your host’s home. Keep your items in your suitcase and/or in the closet, not scattered around the floor. The kitchen is another space where you need to pick up after yourself. Used coffee cups go in the dishwasher. Same goes for breakfast dishes and midnight snacks. If the dishwasher is full, unload it and then fill it with your dirty dishes.
You are a guest of a friend and most likely staying for free, not a high paying client staying in a hotel. Act like a friend and don’t make extra work for the person housing you. And if you want to be a truly desired guest, clean up after your host too. Aside from unloading the dishwasher, make the coffee, make a meal or two, offer to go to the grocery store. Be considerate. Don't parade around in your underwear. Don't drink all their booze and eat all their food. If you are borrowing their car make sure to fill it up with gas and get it washed.
Don't expect your hosts to be a tour guide. While you may be in unfamiliar territory, and they may want to show you around and see some sites, presupposing that they will continue to take you around day after day is unrealistic. You need to map out a plan for what you want to see and how you are going to see it. This may involve renting a car, figuring out public transportation, and making some decisions without their hand in the matter. Although they would probably welcome the opportunity to assist in what to see, when to see it and how to get there, don't expect them to play concierge.
You want to allow your hosts some downtime and not be your tour guide 24/7. As stated, you don't want them to feel like they are your hotel. If you are gone first thing in the morning and returning after 10:00 at night, a phone call to let them know is most considerate. You also might want to invite them to join you at some point. Don't expect them to - especially if you are on vacation and they are continuing to work during the day - but do ask them if they want to meet you for dinner when their workday is over. You can also suggest that you pick up some takeout to either bring back to the house at the end of the workday or that they meet you for a picnic (provided by you).
Finally, don't overstay. There's a saying, "Houseguests are like fish. After three days they begin to stink." While staying more than three days can be acceptable if you arrange it ahead of time, you do need to make sure that your presence is not disrupting their home.
For a more thorough list of what not to do when you stay over, check out my post “The Rotten Guest.” While this is not a complete list of considerations for staying on at a friend's or relatives home, this is a great start to being a considerate guest who will be asked to return in the future.