How to Be a Gracious Guest When Traveling

One of the easiest ways to save on travel expenses is by staying with family and friends, but how long is too long? Is there a fine line between comfortable and sloppy? What does making yourself at home really mean?

Whether you are gearing up for spring break, summer travel, or an extended stay due to the holidays, you may be wondering how to be a good guest. Here is your guide on how to be a good houseguest.

how to be a good guest

How to be a good guest

1. Be clear about how long you will be staying

The golden rule of how to be a good houseguest starts with being clear about the duration of your intended stay and letting the host know as far in advance as possible. Make sure you are invited first!

Do not show up unannounced hoping to couch surf for a few days. Keep it classy and plan accordingly with the host or hostess. Do not assume to stay longer than specified. Although an additional few days may be extended to you by your host, do not take advantage of their generosity and hospitality.

2. Bring a thoughtful gift

The advice you always heard from your grandmother or mother to never show up empty-handed is another good rule of thumb for how to be a good houseguest. No need to haul something extravagant, something simple yet thoughtful will suffice.

Some good options include baked goods from your hometown bakery in your community, a beautiful coffee table book, a bottle of wine, a bouquet of fresh flowers, or a scented candle. Heading to someone’s vacation home?  How about a themed gift like a beach bag, beach towels, or a summer cocktail-themed gift?

3. Err on the side of modesty

Before you walk down the hall wrapped in a bath towel or come down to breakfast in your pajamas, take a few cues from your host or hostess. When in doubt, err on the side of modesty. Also, be on your best behavior and avoid cursing or telling inappropriate jokes freely. If you are headed out to dinner, be sure to double-check the dress code so you can pack appropriately. When in doubt, ask your host or hostess.

4. Follow house rules

Another easy way to be a good house guest is to follow all of the house rules. The best way to do this is to gently inquire about them when you arrive to avoid any future misunderstandings. Here are some good questions to ask your host or hostess:

  • Are there any rooms you should avoid?
  • Can you wear your shoes in the house or should you leave them at the front door?
  • Is there anything you should know about the children or pets?
  • Should you leave the thermostat alone or can you adjust it if needed?
  • What time does everyone usually wake up and go to bed?

Also, refrain from finishing beverages or foods unless you offer to replace them.

5. Give them the full guest list

If your host or hostess invites you to stay with them, make sure it is just you unless you have discussed it with the host. Showing up with a child, mutual friend, pet, significant other, or spouse may sound like a fun surprise, but to your host, it may be an inconvenience.

6. Offer to help

When staying with hosts, offer to help. Some examples of how to be a good guest (and helpful house guest) include:

  • Drive people in your car when going out or if not using your car, offer to pay for gas money
  • Do the dishes
  • Fix something around the house if you have the experience and skills 
  • Offer to cook or help prep meals
  • Play with the kiddos while the parents run errands or take a nap
  • Set the table
  • Take the dog for a walk

Always clear your dishes after meals, buy some groceries, fill up their gas tank if you borrow their car, and always gather your guest bath towels and strip your bed before heading home.

7. Say thank you

When being a good houseguest, say thank you three times. Once when you arrive, once when you leave, and once in a handwritten thank-you note. Include a specific detail about your stay, whether it is complimenting a delicious homemade meal, doing a certain activity, or laughing so hard over a particular story, add a little note of something special from your stay. You may also consider offering up your home as a place to stay later on.

Either mail your thank you right after your visit or add an additional touch with a fresh bouquet of flowers left on the kitchen counter before you head out.

In general when being a houseguest, follow the Golden Rule – stay in others’ homes the way you’d want them to stay in yours. If you were hosting a house guest, the last thing you would want is for your guests to leave your home like a rockstar after they host a hotel party. Treat their space with the utmost respect and you are almost guaranteed an invite back.

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.

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