Houseguest Etiquette 101

Host-Pleasing Tips for Houseguests

••• Photo © Ariel Skelley / Blend Images / Getty Images

Staying with friends or family members can be a great way to spend time with your loved ones and save on lodging expenses. Being a houseguest can also be stressful. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help make your houseguest experience one you – and your hosts – will want to repeat.

Actions to Avoid

Don’t show up unannounced unless you’re experiencing a true emergency. Even then, try to telephone before you arrive.

Don’t arrive before or after your scheduled arrival time unless you notify your hosts in advance. Your hosts may be cleaning or shopping at the last minute, and they will certainly worry if you don’t turn up on time.

Don’t bring a pet – even an outdoor animal – without asking. Ever.

Don’t plan on making long-distance phone calls or using your hosts’ computer without asking permission. Bring a cell phone or phone card so that you won’t run up their telephone bill. If you have been given permission to use your hosts' computer, resist the temptation to rearrange their computer files without asking, no matter how bizarre or messy those files appear to you.

Don’t expect your hosts to take time off work to show you around. If they offer to do so, you can graciously accept. Once you’ve agreed on a sightseeing schedule, do your best to stick with your plan so that your hosts know what to expect. Remember that your hosts will appreciate some time to themselves to regroup and relax.

Don’t put your hosts’ dishes where you think they should go; place them where your hosts normally store them. The same goes for groceries, newspapers and laundry.

Don’t keep your hosts – or their children – up late if you’re staying over on a work or school night.

Don’t forget to express your gratitude, preferably both during your visit and in a thank-you note.

Winning Ways for Houseguests

Do talk about your travel plans before you arrive. Your hosts will want to know whether you are planning to see things on your own or relying on them for assistance and transportation. If they don’t mention sightseeing or day trips, ask about the possibility of spending some time together to explore local landmarks.

Do mention any medical conditions or dietary restrictions you have that would affect your hosts' meal planning. Offer to bring any special foods, such as gluten-free pasta, yourself so that your hosts don’t have to shop for them.

Do ask before using the iron, washing machine and other appliances. You wouldn't want to break something because you didn't know how to use it properly.

Do create a daily plan for your visit. If you won’t be home for dinner, tell your hosts in advance and stick with your plan.

Do ask about your hosts’ daily routine, especially if you are visiting during the work week. Make sure you adjust your plans so that your hosts can get ready for work or school on time. If you are hoping to get an early start, check to make sure that two people can shower at the same time before you turn on the faucet.

Do bring a gift or offer to treat your hosts to dinner.

They have probably taken the time to clean their home and prepare for your visit, and they have certainly spent money on extra groceries. Be sure to express your thanks not only aloud but in a tangible way. If your budget is limited, consider bringing a family memento, photographs or another gift with personal meaning. 

Do offer to help, and listen carefully to your hosts' response. If they say, “No, thanks,” they mean it.

Do keep your guest room and bathroom neat and clean. It’s not polite to make extra work for your hosts.

Do invite your hosts to stay at your home on a future visit. Do your best to be available if they ask to stay with you.

Do relax and enjoy some leisure time with your hosts. You can sightsee anywhere, but you can only deepen a family relationship or friendship by spending time together.

The Golden Rule for Houseguests

When in doubt, remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Think about how you would want a guest to behave in your home, and act accordingly.