A good guest: Follow these guidelines when staying overnight with friends or family

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Yes, it is the host's job to make a guest feel welcome, but the guest isn't off the hook.

When you're staying at someone's home, be it family or friend, don't expect to be treated like you're at a hotel. If you want chocolate on your pillow and someone to make up your bed each morning, check into a hotel.

As a houseguest, it's your job to be appreciative, helpful and, yes, considerate of your host -- at least if you expect a return invitation.

Common sense will take you far: don't wallow the pillows, put your feet up on the coffee table, hog the remote or use all the hot water.

And then there's the biggie: a handwritten thank-you note. It's a must, nonnegotiable.

We checked the Emily Post Institute's website for some more tips on being a good guest. Follow these do's and don'ts to ensure a return invitation:

* Do bring your own toiletries. Don't expect your host to stock the guest bathroom with supplies for you.

* Do offer to help the host anytime you see a chance. Volunteer to aid in specific tasks, for example, "Let me take those packages in."

* Do be adaptable: Be up for anything -- or for nothing -- depending on your host's plans and schedules.

* Do tidy up after yourself. Unless the host has household help and instructs you not to, straighten up your room and make the bed.

* Do follow the rhythms of the house for meals and bedtimes.

* Do appear to enjoy yourself -- be an enthusiastic participant in whatever your host plans.

* Do ensure your host has some alone time; don't expect her to entertain you every minute

* Do host your host(s) for a preplanned dinner or outing if your stay is for three days or more.

* Do have a supply of portable snacks if you've brought your children.

* Do bring a gift for the host. For an overnight visit, something simple like a bottle of good wine is fine. A longer stay merits something a little more elaborate, whether you present it at the beginning of your stay, at the end or send it after you've returned home.

* Don't make other plans without letting your host know. If other friends in the area invite you over for drinks or dinner, never accept before discussing the matter with those with whom you're staying.

* Don't ask to bring your pet. If you must travel with Fido, inquire about a good kennel in the area or offer to stay in a hotel. This gives your host an opening to invite your pet if she wishes.

* Don't delay returning a borrowed item.

* Don't use more than your share of hot water. Keep showers short and use only the towels specifically designated for you.

* Don't make the first move to go to bed. You can hint that you're tired, but the custom is to wait for the host to give the signal -- except when your hosts are family or close friends who won't mind if you retire early or stay up late.