| November 18, 2015

Last updated: May 26, 2018

Etiquette, How To: Holiday, Relationships & Family, Social Skills

The Dos and Don’ts of Being a Holiday Houseguest

being a good houseguest for holidays illustration

During the holidays, it seems that everyone is traveling, and everyone is hosting friends or family at some point. When staying at a friend’s place, or even at mom and dad’s, it can be easy to forget that you’re a guest in their home. While they’d likely let you get away with reverting to your messy, let it all hang-loose ways, the mature man respects the space he’s in, and expresses his gratitude in a variety of ways.

1 Ask 1

Don’t show up unannounced; do always ask. You don’t want to just drop in on someone without advance notice, and you also don’t want to tell them you’re coming in the form of a declarative statement rather than a question: “I’m going to be in town next week and would love to stay at your place! Thanks!” Even you have a standing invitation to stay with a friend, always ask. And tell them to check their calendar and get back to you; it provides a non-awkward “out” for the host should they not be able to board you.

Don’t leave them guessing; do let them know your schedule ahead of time. One of the most frustrating things a host can endure is having no idea when their guest is going to be leaving each morning, what time they should expect them home at night, etc. Before you arrive, let them know exactly when you plan to get there, and when you plan to leave. When you do arrive, go over your plan for the days you’re there (if you have one). Also ask about their schedule, so you don’t disrupt their routine (see below).

2 Gift 1

Don’t show up without a gift; do show up with a bottle of Winter Jack. When staying in anyone’s home for any period of time, you want to offer a gift as a way of saying thank you. Wine or flowers for the lady of the house are pretty common. Why not do something a little more unique, though? Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack is the perfect blend of whiskey and apple cider liqueur, and will be a tasty, appropriately seasonal, and most appreciated choice. Crack it open on your first night there, warm it up in some mugs, and reminisce about the days of yore.

Don’t laze about; do help with chores around the house. No matter the time of year, there’s something around the house you could help with. Be it yard work, shoveling snow, washing dishes, taking out the garbage, etc., you should offer your services. As the old proverb says, many hands make light work.

3 Chip In 1

Don’t be a mooch; do chip in on food/groceries. Groceries can be quite the expense for a host. Beyond just meals, there’s also snacks, morning coffee, and of course, adult beverages. There are a couple ways you can help offset these costs. First, you can offer to take your hosts out to eat to a nice dinner. This reduces their cost for at least a meal, and makes for a good gift and thank you as well. Second, you can do some grocery shopping of your own for your stay and prepare meals, and perhaps even cook up something tasty for your host.

Don’t leave your hosts to clean up after you; do toss your linens in the wash. One task that houseguests don’t often see is the clean-up that happens after they leave; the host’s home needs to be put back in order. That usually includes washing the linens, which is something you can easily do and take off their back. Before you head out, strip the bed and gather your towels, and ask your host if you can start the laundry.

4 Tidy 1

Don’t turn the home into a pig sty; do tidy up your space. It’s quite likely your hosts did a deep clean before you came; don’t ruin that. Keep your space tidy, and really any space in the home that you touch. Put dishes away as soon as you’re done with them, return books to their shelf, replace the empty toilet paper roll, etc.

Don’t ignore your hosts altogether; do spend time and plan activities with them. Don’t use your host as simply a homebase for all your adventures. It will make them feel used, and isn’t very courteous. Even if you’re on business, or meeting other friends, be sure to carve out time and activities with your hosts.

5 Respect 1

Don’t let your presence ruin a routine; do respect their household. Especially when there are kids involved, many homes revolve around a disciplined routine. Breakfast is at a certain time, weekend rituals need attending to, and of course, lights out needs enforcing. Even if there aren’t kids around, it’s quite possible your hosts are still working, or simply have established for themselves important morning and evening routines. Ask about these, and do your best to respect them.

Don’t overstay your welcome; do leave after three days. In the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin, “Fish and visitors stink after three days.” If you’re in town longer than that, at least offer to find another place to stay.

Don’t skip the thank you note; do express your gratitude in written form. A gentleman always writes a thank you note. Using your fountain pen, and your finest cursive handwriting, tell your host how grateful you were for their generosity, and maybe even offer your home for when they venture in your direction.