The etiquette of being a (welcomed back) houseguest

Having houseguests can be flattering since they want to stay at your home and enjoy your space and company. But having houseguests can be relationship-strainers since some people want to use your home as a crash pad and treat it worse than a rental car on spring break.

If you can relate to those houseguest thoughts, then you may never want to be a houseguest. If you do have the opportunity to visit a location where friends, or family, are and you consider staying with them, here are some tips for enjoying your stay and likely being welcomed back, too:

Get the Okay to Stay

Before making plans, get the okay to stay. Email or text communication can be useful here by saying, “There is no wrong answer to this and I am okay either way – would you like to have us stay at your place from noon on Friday, October 27, through 3:00 p.m. Monday, October 30?” Only plan to stay three nights and ensure your arrival and departure times are clear with your host and stick with them. Asking something like, “Would you prefer we get lunch or dinner before arriving?” allows the host to make plans and not feel imposed upon. 

Arrive in Style

Plan for a rental car or a ridesharing driver for getting to their home if you are flying in. It’s one thing to stay and another for them to be waiting in the cell phone lot while your baggage arrives. Pack an arrival gift in your carry-on so you can give your host the local coffee, or toffee, when you get there so they know you have made an effort prior to arrival. Shortly after, do inquire about how things run in their home so you can respect those traditions, or quirks, such as no shoes inside or how the towels hang for drying, alarms, pets, bed and wake times, and more.

Plan to Pitch In

Demanding guests are rarely invited back. Ask about cooking a meal or taking them out to dinner. Little things like getting the car washed or walking the dogs can be a sweet surprise for the hosts that you enjoy, too. In a similar vein, keep things tidy by picking up after yourself and not being on your phone while the hosts are doing things for the group. Offering to strip the bed and make it with clean sheets is a super idea and even starting the wash with your towels and sheets on the way out can leave a lasting impression of care and appreciation.

Give Thanks

Be gracious beyond a “Thank you” and a hug. After ensuring you gathered all your items from the bathroom and sleeping area, absolutely leave on a good note and even leave a note in the room where you stayed. If they are a bit old school (my husband and I are) and have a guest book, sign it with a comment about what you enjoyed most during your stay. If they don’t have a book (and most won’t) hand-write something for them to find the next time they are in that room that will bring a smile to their face(s). Think about something you noticed they do, or eat, while you were visiting and then have that arrive a few days later as your formal gratitude message. If you don’t like that idea, make a photo card of things you did on the visit and send that. At the minimum, write and mail a note to the person, or family, who hosted you letting them know it wasn’t a “dine-and-dash” few days and that your appreciation extended beyond those hours, or days, in their home.

When you are thoughtful in your planning, arrival, engagement and exit, you not only have a great trip, you have memories with family, or friends, that enhance your relationship rather than create awkwardness for the future. Being a wonderful houseguest means more wonderful opportunities with those hosting – whether you ever stay in their guest room again or not. 

Debbie Lundberg is the founder, and chief executive officer, of the Florida-based firm Presenting Powerfully, where she delivers keynotes, facilitation, teaming and coaching. As a 12-time published author, certified virtual presenter, certified life coach, certified leadership coach and certified image consultant, Lundberg co-hosts the Business of Life Master Class podcast. Her book, Remote Work Rockstar, is a guidebook for working and leading virtually. She recently ended a four-year commitment as chair of the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red, in order to serve on the Patient and Family Advisory Council for Tampa General Hospital.

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