December 23, 2008

The Broke Socialite's Primer On How To Be A Good Holiday Guest

Since many of us will be traveling and visiting family and friends throughout the holiday season, I thought it'd be a great time to highlight the "Do's" and "Don't's" of being a guest in someone's home.

As you may remember, I recently had an opportunity to visit my dear friend, Monica, and hopefully, I was a good guest. Knowing there's always room for improvement and because TBS's mission is to inspire and educate, I reviewed my list before traveling and hope that you'll take a moment to do so, as well.

Don't overstay your visit. Your hosts are not on "holiday" like you are, and even though have graciously welcomed you into their home, they have probably spent an excess of their time and money with extra food and drink, utilities, rearranging their normal routine and the like.

Bring a gift to say thank you at the outset. Arriving with something as a way of thanking your hosts in advance is a thoughtful and caring gesture. It demonstrates your appreciation of their caring contribution in making your stay a good one. Considerate, inexpensive gifts include: a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, a basket of fruit or flowers. If you don't want to carry anything extra, have it delivered just in advance of your arrival.

Keep your guest area neat. Do not roll your suitcase inside the home. Take care not to soil the carpet or bedspread with oil, salt, or grime from the bottom of your suitcase. If provided, use a suitcase stand. Make your bed before appearing for breakfast. Keep your suitcase and belongings as unobtrusive as possible - especially if the room is visible to your hosts in passing by. Be neat. Just shutting the door to a messy room is NOT an option. Put dirty laundry in a laundry bag or plastic bag. If you are given a sofa bed in a living area, it is especially important to arise when your hosts do, and accept that others have to live in the house, too. Make up your bed and tuck your suitcase out of the way to keep the common space neat. If you need closet space, always ask permission first.

Don't keep the hosts up late. It doesn't matter how long it has been since you last saw them, or how many exciting stories you have to tell them. Let your hosts get to bed for a decent night's rest. You may be feeling so excited at seeing them that you don't even notice your own exhaustion from traveling, so it will benefit you to go to bed at a reasonable hour, too. Likewise, don't sleep in and make your host family tiptoe around you. The yachting rule is: When the Captain is up, everybody is up.

Always offer to help at mealtimes. There is nothing more debilitating than having guests who sit around waiting expectantly for all meals. This is when a stay crosses over from being homey to like being in a hotel. It doesn't mean crowding the host out of the kitchen, but it does mean collecting plates, carrying out dishes, offering to wash up or stack the dishwasher, cleaning off the counters, and taking the garbage out. You could even offer to cook a meal or two yourself. If you're not sure what to do, ASK! Even if the host may say "nothing", insist that you do at least one thing. Very few hosts can say no to this offer!

Entertain yourself. Your hosts are offering you their home but not necessarily their time. Let your hosts make it clear whether or not they have the time to take you to places or to spend entire evenings with you. They may have work to finish at home, they may have work during the daytime, or other commitments. Don't presume that you can rely on their generosity to drive you to places or to show you around. Be prepared to catch public transportation and taxis. They'll probably be able to help you find a timetable or the nearest bus depot or subway line. Alternately, rent a car for yourself, especially if you plan on seeing many of the local sights, or if you are more active than your hosts. Your hosts may have already visited the sights many times before, especially if they live in a tourist-destination town.

Strip your bedclothes on leaving. You're not staying in a hotel and your host has to wash the sheets (and towels) when you leave. Make it easier by removing sheets, pillow cases and any other linens. Place them in a neat pile on the foot of the bed. Better yet, start washing them for your host. After all, they'll have to do it after you leave anyway. You've probably been washing your own clothes during your stay, so you'll be familiar with using the washer and dryer. If you're staying long enough that your sheets require washing during your stay, do them yourself and remake your own bed. Does your host use a housecleaning service? You may even offer to contribute to the cost of cleaning after you leave.
The Golden Rule: Don't outstay your welcome. A short stay is a pleasant stay and leaves everyone feeling good about each other. As Ben Franklin once said, "Guests, like fish, begin to stink after three days."

Send a thank you note. Send a small card or an e-card to say thanks when you return home. Yes, it's a lot of thank-you's but it's polite to acknowledge the fact that your hosts opened their home to you, and it keeps the potential open for a repeat stay when the stay is remembered amicably by all.
On a scale from 1 (worst) - 10 (best), how would you rate yourself as a guest?


  1. These are perfect suggestions.

    I am a good guest (though I don't visit others much). I would say that I am a 9 or 10.

  2. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! The bed thing is TRULY one of my pet peeves. TRULY! Like...I don't clean my home myself, nor do I sleep in the guest bedroom. So if you're visiting, I expect the room to look like it did when you got here so all I need to do is let Ms. Olga know it's been slept in so she will change the sheets. SERIOUSLY. What the hell I look like making up a bed YOU slept in? I got too much to do which I PROBABLY didn't get done while you were here cuz I was trying to be a considerate HOSTESS! The LEAST you could do is make the damn bed hell so I don't have to worry about messing with it myself. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Got me passing by my damn guest bedroom making sure the door is closed. Just...ew. I'd also suggest cracking a window a little. Why? To help air it out.

    I actually had a guest once who slept in a new head scarf ON THE DARN SHAMS! Let me repeat that...SHE SLEPT ON THE SHAMS IN A NEW BLACK SCARF WHICH BLED ON THE WHITE SHAMS WITH TAN TRIM! THE SHAMS THAT MATCH THE DUVET COVER! I'm still mad about that. WHO DOES THAT? WHO SLEEPS ON THE SHAMS????? Because of that incident I had to add in my guest letters a line about where to put the shams before bed just as a HINT to folks that they shouldn't be sleeping on the dang shams!!!!!!!!!

    Oh...and suitcases on the bed? Um...Imma need you to put something between the suitcase and my bed linen thank you very much. That suitcase has been drug from here to yonder and you don't think it's too nasty to be put on someone's BED LINEN??????


    Oh...and your washcloth...the one that you cleaned yourself with should be spread out completely so it may dry. Please do NOT crumple that mess up soaking wet in a corner of the dang tub. Thank you.

    Lawd knows I love hosting guests and I'm not going to stop...but I just REALLY hope folks think more along the lines you have stated here when they are a guest in ANYONE'S home.

    I'm not going to say anything other than this was an EXCELLENT post and I hope a gamillion zillion folks read it! Over and over and over again.

  3. WOW! Grown folks crumble washcloths and put them in the corner of the tub!!?? I thought children did that???

    Great post, Ma'am!

  4. OMG! I had a house guest leave a crumbled wash cloth in the corner of the tub, too!!! It really got my goat, and left me fuming!!!

    TBS - I commend you and thank you for this! It is perfection!!!

  5. Can you say confirmation (I blogged about something similar this weekend)? This post is right on time!!! Up until this year, I would have rated myself a 5. I can admit I needed A LOT of work. I did some things right but too much wrong and most of it was just not knowing although I've always tried to do what I thought was right. But when you know better, you do better and now I would def say I am a 10. Thanks for allowing God to use you to write this. It has blessed me and confirmed some steps I've been taken recently to be a better friend and guest. Much love. Q

  6. ahhhh Wonderful post. Totally agree. The only thing I cringe about is having guests wash the sheets. I actually prefer to do that myself so I don't waste water and electricity and add the sheets to other "like" colors but that's my preference.

  7. I'm about an 8 or 9 on the guest list. It would be better, but I am absolutely not a morning person at all. Being out of my home environment makes it worse. Otherwise, I don't leave a trail in other people's digs.

  8. I'm about a 7 or 8 and there's room for improvement. TBS, where was this list last month when my husband's whole family was at my house for a week for Thanksgiving. I needed you lurking in the corner to tell my brother in-law and his girlfriend that it was not appropriate to leave their McDonald's cups and bags just sitting in my garage, and that it was not right for him to walk out front in my "new" neighborhood with no shoes on scratching his belly and smoking a cigarette, finally TBS, I needed you to tell them that they needed to discard their makeshift solo cup ashtray that they left outside on my grill. Did I mention that they did not lift a finger the entire time they were here? How would you rate them? Okay, I'm off my soapbox.


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