Being a Proper Houseguest

Summer is the most popular vacation season. For many people, a vacation includes spending treasured time visiting friends and relatives around the country and around the world. Employ these simple tips to be an outstanding houseguest and ensure both you and your hosts will enjoy your visit and they will want you back again someday:

1.  Bring a “hostess” gift: Even when staying just one night, always present your host with a house gift shortly after your arrival. Good gift ideas include attractively wrapped kitchen tools, a book, candles, a collectible your host will treasure, and specialty food and wine you know they will enjoy. The main criteria should be that it be something your host will appreciate.

2.  Make yourself useful: Offer to help with meal preparation, doing dishes and other chores as though you were a member of the household. Do not expect your hosts to wait on you hand and foot throughout your stay. A nice gesture during an extended stay is to treat your hosts to dinner at a nice restaurant or cook them dinner at home one evening.

3.  Be flexible about foods and eating times: Except for medical and religious restrictions, avoid dictating meal times and what your hosts serve. If you do have food restrictions, let your hosts know with a simple note prior to your arrival. If you have special food or beverage needs, bring these items with you.

4.  Keep your space tidy: Make your bed each day, keep your belongings put away and leave the room or sleeping area in neat order at all times. Because guest spaces are often used by the family for other purposes, leave your door ajar when not in the room, so your hosts know you’re not there and can access the room when necessary.

5.  Be diligent in the bathroom: Never leave the bathroom in a mess. Wipe the sink and shower, neatly hang your towels and close the lid on the commode after each use. Review other tips on our blog, especially the “Etiquette Tip of the Month” on Bathroom Etiquette.

6.  Ask permission: If you want to use an item in the house, ask if its OK. Leave money for any telephone and other charges (including utilities) you may have incurred during your stay. Be sensitive to whatever guidelines your hosts may have for the use of all items in their home.

7.  Share your schedule: While you cannot expect your hosts to entertain you throughout your visit, a good host will feel a sense of responsibility for your well-being, and want to know when to expect you in their home. Provide your hosts your general daily itinerary—primarily when you may be expected to leave and return each day. Carry your host’s home and business address and telephone numbers with you to keep in touch if you will be delayed or in case of emergency. If you have a cell phone, leave the number with your hosts too.

8.  Be grateful: And let your hosts know you are. Write a thank you note to your host upon your return home. Reciprocate in-kind whenever possible, by offering to host your hosts for a visit. When you make yourself an outstanding guest, you may often hear, “mi casa es su casa,” my house is your house.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Leave the space ready for the next guest. The day you leave, strip the bed, place all soiled linens and towels neatly in a pillow case and set the case near the laundry facilities. Re-cover the bed with the bedspread so it will look fresh until the next guest arrives. Finally, check the space to be sure you haven’t left any personal items behind.

What other tips do you have to add to this list? Let us hear from you by entering your comments below.  You may also reach us at  If you enjoyed this article and want more, subscribe to our “Etiquette Tip of the Month” newsletter—at no charge—filled with great monthly tips on all sorts of topics from international business and social etiquette and protocol to everyday life subjects.  It will be great to have you as a member of our happy family of subscribers at

Happy Practicing!

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6 Responses to “Being a Proper Houseguest”

  1. Bluebirdsinging says:

    I believe it is standard practice to take the host(s) out for a nice meal on the last night of a long stay, for example 3 days / nights or more. What do you think?
    Also, I have a question: should the guest get up from sleeping when the host gets up? Are there etiquette rules about this? Is it rude to get up early or sleep in, differently from the host(s)?

  2. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear BlueBirdSinging: Thanks for the post. Although it is a common practice to take the host(s) out for a nice meal while visiting, it is not always a must, depending on the schedule you have while in town. The key is to show your appreciation in some appropriate way. Regarding the question about sleeping and getting up, this again is an individual situation, depending on the situation. If you are sleeping in a private guest room or sleeping on the living room sofabed. The best is to always talk things through with the host to get a sense of the “guidelines” for how things can work while staying. To share each other’s schedules will help guide what may be expected. It is not rude to get up early or sleep in later than hosts, as long as everyone is aware and agreeable and the situation allows for it. Sleeping late on the living room sofa can be inconvenient, especially in a house where you must always pass the living room to get to the kitchen or other rooms. By the way, there are no set rules on most of this. It’s all about being respectful and considerate to the host and household. If you have something more specific to ask, I’m here.

  3. Mary says:

    My question for you is this: I currently have extended family staying at my house for a week +. I made a great effort to find out before their stay what activities they wanted to do while visiting, and even set up and paid for their chosen excursions myself. The niece and nephew are teenagers and not only have they not said “thank you”, they are complaining about everything, saying they are bored (right in front of me!) and their mother – my sister – says nothing. She actually took my brand new car (I told her before she came that I did not want anyone driving my car, that they might want to rent one if they were planning on being out and about all day everyday) and left me home, alone, with my toddler, car-less. My mother seems to think I should be understanding that the kids are “just teenagers” and also says nothing when they mope, complain, eat candy and watch TV allllll day. Moreover, my sister, against my wishes, turns the heat on in my pool when we are having unusually low temps and I told her it would cost a small fortune to heat it. She, of course, waits until its nighttime before attempting to swim, when its 25 degrees colder than it was during the day. Then they dip their foot inn the pool after running the heat for a long time, say its too cold to swim, and shut it off! What do I do? Grin and bear this? Discipline her kids on her behalf (they are in my house — different rules!) discipline the whole bunch? Get them a hotel room? Advice appreciated. Thanks so much.

  4. Alison says:

    Fantastic content. I have a dilemma. As a web-site owner,
    how long did it require for your blog to become successful?
    Furthermore exactly what do you enjoy most about running a blog?

  5. Syndi Seid says:

    Alison: Thank you for your question. I am told there is no set length of time before a blog becomes a success. It partially depends how widespread you post your articles/comments? The more they are linked to various social networks the greater the odds it will succeed faster. It’s all about posting new content and replying to discussions as often and on a regular basis that counts. It’s not something you can pick up and leave over time. I have been blogging for about two years and love it. I enjoy being able to chat with people from all over the world on my favorite subject… etiquette. Good luck with your blog.

  6. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Mary: You are not alone in the kinds of situations with which you’ve been confronted. It is regrettable how many people—especially your own relatives—do not display the same sense of respect, consideration and child development skills as others in the family who had the same parents as you were reared. The best suggestion to handle most situations is to do all you can to anticipate and address various situations ahead of someone’s stay and then stick to what you say. In our household, we’ve developed two guest informational sheets. One is “Rules of the House” which includes how to turn various items on and off in our home; where to specifically park their car to not be in the way of other household cars, and general parameters on our usual workweek and weekend regiments, time we usually get and go to sleep. The second sheet is “Helpful Information” on where the nearest supermarket is located, nearby movie theaters, dry cleaner, and all sorts of other stores. We also include nearby car rental locations, restaurants, carry-out and delivery restaurants, with telephone numbers and web sites. Everything they may want or need should we be otherwise occupied during their stay. We treat our house guests as thought they are members of our own immediate family. We do not “cater” to them; we expect them to enjoy our home, come and go as they please with respect and courtesy to this being “our home.”

    1. You did great in locating and paying for activities ahead of their stay
    2. You wimped out on the car lending situation, which is fine. But what you didn’t do is set firm parameters under which they could borrow the car and then stick by them. It will then be up to them to respect your desires, or rent their own car.
    3. You could have been more firm with how they were to use your pool. It’s often not the what, but the how, as well.
    3. No, you should never grin and bear things… this only escalates emotions over time.
    4. Never discipline other people’s children without first informing them and gaining their permission to do it. I doubt you would want others disciplining your kids.
    5. Above all, everyone should always show appreciation and say Thank You. Relatives are not exempt because of being related.
    Sorry this reply got so long.

    Good luck!

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