December is a big traveling month, and many will be staying with friends and family during the holidays. Lots of people get excited to host their loved ones, paying special attention to guest rooms, meals and activities. Pinterest is overloaded with fun and crafty ideas for being the perfect host. Yes, being a good host is important. But being a good guest is paramount.
In the two months since moving out of my apartment and becoming home-less, I’ve racked up some experience as a “houseguest.” Anyone staying with friends or family this holiday season can benefit from these tips:
– STORING YOUR BELONGINGS
My sister has a very direct way of letting me know she wants me to move my stuff. “Come get your crap! I’m cleaning up! I hate clutter!” Before I can even get there, she has piled my belongings in a mound. My mom on the other hand will just move my stuff to a closet or some other secret location that I have to search for. Don’t let it get to this point.
Advice: Listen to your host. If they tell you you can put your things in a certain place, put your things in that place. Keep things tidy and in one place. Plus, if everything is in its place, it’ll be easier for you to pack up when it’s time to leave.
– SLEEPING QUARTERS
Sleepy time! Wherever you will be slumbering (couch, floor, guest bed, blowup bed, dog bed), a good night of sleep is a must.
Advice: If the couch will be your temp bed, I recommend a fleece sleep sack that can easily be carried with you. Actual sleeping bags are often too warm for inside homes, but my fleece sleeping sack is the perfect amount of warmth for couch sleeping. No need to fold up blankets and sheets each morning. Just roll up the sleeping bag and you’re off.
If you are lucky enough to sleep in a guest room, then make the damn bed.
– SHOWERING | BATHING | GETTING CLEAN
You are entering the most intimate place in your host’s life: their home. They have a routine, just like you. The key is to try not to interfere with the daily routines of your host. If they wake up every day at the same time to shower, they most likely will not want to adjust that for you. It’s best to get an idea of what their routine is and then adjust your schedule to that. After all, you’re the one on vacation.
Advice: The night before, ask your host when they plan on waking up. This is especially important if there are events planned for the next day. Everyone wants time to shower, including you, so plan ahead. Take yours when your host offers, when they are out of the house or after they have showered. Bring your own toiletries. Hang up your towel to dry. And don’t hog the hot water.
If you have to do laundry, ask. It’s important to not use the washer and dryer during times when your hosts are using it. Again, the key is to not let them feel like their lives are being interrupted by having you there.
Advice: Ask if you can do laundry, and when the best time would be. Try to do laundry when your hosts are out of the house. For several loads, buy and use your own detergent if possible.
– FOOD | MEALS | GRUB
You’ll likely be eating together, and your host has probably planned for certain meals. They can’t wait to entertain you and show off that oh so fab recipe they found on pinterest. They might not want any help at all. That doesn’t mean you can’t offer to help.
Advice: Follow the lead of your host. Offer to prepare something or ask if you can do anything to help. If nothing else, compliment the food. If you are staying with the type of people who think of everything and don’t want you to move a muscle, then offer to buy lunch or coffees the next time you’re out and about together.
– EXPECTATIONS + ASSUMPTIONS
Staying with your best friend or sibling is a completely different experience than staying with the great aunt of your significant other. Therefore, each host’s expectations will be different. You are in their space, so they are allowed to have some expectations. You on the other hand, are not. I’m sorry, it’s just the way it is. I don’t care if they are the most generous and caring and thoughtful host on the planet and you are Kate Middleton. They are welcoming you into their home, so they are not required to do anything else for you.
A general rule of thumb: expect nothing. Don’t expect they will provide the shampoo and conditioner. Don’t expect to be catered to. Don’t expect the maid service like at the hotel-motel-holiday-inn. Don’t expect anything. Come prepared with everything you need to be self-sufficient in their home. And when they do offer you dinner or coffee or shampoo, thank them. And then offer them something, which brings me to my final tip…
Nothing is free. Do the dishes. Make a meal or get groceries. Keep tidy. Even if your host refuses any and all offers, find some way to say thank you and contribute, even if it’s just a thank you card or a bottle of wine.
Being a good guest allows for a more enjoyable stay for both parties. And chances are, it’s more likely you’ll be invited back.
Do you have any tips not mentioned here? Do you have any past experiences with a particularly good or bad guest? Please share!