Being a good houseguest or host is an important skill.
Being a good houseguest or host isn't always as easy as it seems. Plans can go awry, schedules can conflict and manners can sometimes be lost. But whether you're the guest or host, you want the experience to be pleasant and memorable. Even if you know your guest or host well, it never hurts to go the extra step to ensure a smooth visit.
In order to do this, planning and organization are key. Here are several tips for how to be a good houseguest as well as a good host.
How to be a good house guest
- Nail down your arrival and departure dates before you arrive. Your host will be grateful if you take the initiative to let them know exactly when you will arrive and exactly when you will leave. This action will let them plan their schedules fittingly, according to an article from Cozi.com. Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, agrees. "Send your host a copy of your travel itinerary, arrival and departure, and don’t arrive a day early or ask to stay later than originally planned," she said.
- Let your host know exactly who will be coming with you. Don't say you're the only one visiting and then show up with your three children, according to an article from Woman's Day. Be courteous to your host by making sure he or she knows for whom to prepare the home.
- Be on time. Make every effort not to arrive earlier than you say you will or depart later than you say you will. A premature arrival or late departure could inconvenience your host. If you had a change in travel and must arrive earlier or leave later, be sure to give your host advance notice so his or her schedule is less disrupted. Your host is most likely hospitable, but everyone will appreciate your sticking to your plan.
- Pack wisely and keep your belongings to yourself once you get there. Try to pack appropriately for the length of your stay. Don't pack an excessive amount and then let it roam where it may throughout your host's house. Also, keep your suitcases and belongings neat during your visit. You are not staying in a hotel, so leave your room how you found it whenever you go anywhere during the day. Your host will much appreciate neatness and cleanliness on your part.
- Coordinate your plans with your hosts. When you arrive, let your host know of your plans and ask to hear your host's. That way, you can combine your schedules as efficiently as possible. If you have to wake up very early, try not to disturb your host, according to wikiHow. Let your host do his or her own thing when necessary, but inform your host about your scheduled activities.
- Chip in with chores and mealtimes. "Offer to take out the trash, keep your bedroom tidy, clean up after yourself and help with dinner," Gottsman said. Your host might say no and opt to do the chores himself, but still offer anyway. This is a nice gesture and makes your host feel better about your visit. Chipping in with chores and meals is simply a good thing to do when you impose on someone else.
- Respect your host's house rules. If your host says "no shoes inside," take off your shoes outside. Don't even feed the dog people food if your host says not to, according to Woman's Day. Your host's rules might be very different from yours, but it's important to adapt to theirs when you are staying in their house. You might even request a house tour, so you are aware of specific rules your host might have.
- Be a good sport and be flexible. It is likely that your host will want to show you places you might have no interest in. Humor your host and see them, according to Cozi.com. You will still be able to do the things you want to even if you spend a little time doing the things you don't. Flexibility is key when you're the guest in someone else's home.
- Bring a gift and write a thank-you note. Have a small gift with you when you arrive at your host's house or leave a gift when you depart. It doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should let your host know that you are grateful for the use of his or her home. "During your visit, pay special attention to your host's taste and purchase an additional memento to be given to your host sometime before you leave," Gottsman said. "This small gesture of thoughtfulness will go a long way when building future goodwill." And be sure to send a thank-you note (not an email) within 48 hours of your departure.
How to be a good host
- Communicate with your guests before they arrive. Know the dates of their stay, and plan accordingly. Let them know of any specific items they should bring or be aware of. According to an article from eHow, try to spend as much time with them as possible. They will respect your schedule, but try to shift things that can be shifted. It's also a good idea to leave your guests a spare key to the house in case your schedules don't match up.
- Stock up and clean up. You don't have to cook exquisite meals every night, but you should stock your refrigerator and pantry with plenty of snacks and drinks so your guests don't go hungry. In addition to providing food, you should clean and tidy the house as best as possible in preparation for their visit. Your guests won't expect the house to be spotless, according to an article from Everywhereist blog, but it should be clean enough. You want to provide your guests with a positive experience.
- Check with your guests about pet allergies and dietary preferences. An important thing to remember is to ask your guests if they have any pet or dietary allergies. If they have pet allergies, vacuum your house thoroughly. If necessary, have your pet stay somewhere else for their visit. Also ask if your guest has any dietary allergies or preferences. "You may also take this opportunity to find out their preference of coffee or tea, and any favorite foods they would enjoy eating during their stay," Gottsman said. "Don’t be surprised if they hesitate to tell you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask."
- Provide clean sheets and towels. Clean sheets and towels are essential for a successful visit. Your guest should be comfortable while living in your house. "Change the bed linen and check the wastebasket and guest restroom for ample towels and toilet paper," Gottsman said.
- Be attentive, but not overbearing. Your guests will welcome your attention, as long as you don't suffocate them with questions and planned activities, according to eHow. Attune yourself to whether your guests want to relax or explore. When they arrive, ask them right off the bat how much they plan to relax and how much they plan to be active. That way, you'll know the right amount of attentiveness from the start. Your idea of fun might be different from theirs, so find out what theirs is.
- Make your guests feel welcome. Your guests want to know that you are happy to have them there. Offer to help them put their suitcases away, offer them a drink and ask them about their journey, according to eHow. Make your guests feel at home by offering them any items you choose.
- Give them a tour of the city. If your guests have never been to your city before, give them a tour. You don't have to escort them on every activity they have planned, but give them a driving tour or a map and tell them the must-see places, according to Everywhereist. Once you've gotten them acquainted with the city, they can more easily navigate on their own, freeing up more time for you.
- Give them alone time, but don't ignore them. "Allow your guests some down time," Gottsman said. "Although they are visiting, a long trip and constant activity can be tiring for both your guest and yourself." They will be just as grateful for the alone time as you will. It will give you both time to regroup and enjoy your time together even more. But don't ignore your guests, either. Try to be available to them if they need you for exploring resources. Establishing a healthy amount of together and alone time will create a positive experience for you both.
As a content contributor at Veterans United Network, Christiana Nielson writes about the unique challenges faced by military spouses and their families.
She also writes personal finance and housing tips for current and prospective homeowners.