Whether you're spending a weekend with your college roommate in her city apartment or visiting your aunt and uncle across the country, it's always important to be as great of a guest as possible. This means abiding by a few key etiquette rules that will make your visit as seamless as possible and make you a likely candidate for receiving a return invite! Keep reading for four best practices to keep in mind, according to etiquette experts.
Try to Bring a Hostess Gift, No Matter Who You're Staying With
It's always courteous to arrive with a small hostess gift in hand, even if you're just spending a couple of days with one of your longtime besties. "I recommend bringing something to someone's home when they are hosting you, no matter how close of a friend they may be," shares Mariah Grumet of Old Soul Etiquette. "Some of my favorite host gift ideas are fun cocktail napkins, stationery, a kitchen soap and lotion set, or some lovely loose-leaf tea they can enjoy in the future."
Definitely don't break the bank picking out a token of appreciation for your friend or loved one; there are plenty of ways to show your appreciation while sticking to a budget. "Consider something homemade that your host can enjoy for breakfast the next morning," Grumet suggests. "If you have a garden or flowers growing in your yard, you can also bring them something from there. If your host is a close friend, a printed photograph of you two (or your families!) would also be an affordable yet thoughtful gift." After all, Grumet explains, this practice is more about the gesture than the item at hand.
Share Your Schedule Ahead of Time
Whether you're staying at a friend's home solely to spend time with them or plan to conduct business or other personal visits during your trip, it's key to share your flight schedules and planned commitments with your host ahead of time. "The reason behind this is that the host might decide to take us around, get play tickets, or plan for elaborate dinner," says Maryanne Parker of Manor of Manners.
It's polite to share plans for small day to day routines with your host, too. "Let your host know in advance if you'll need some time in the morning to check your emails, or need to listen to a conference call before dinner," Grumet says. "If you do not have any commitments and are simply visiting, be flexible as your host may have commitments they need to tend to during your visit."
Additionally, you'll also want to disclose any routines that may be somewhat unique. "If you have particular practices or items that you can’t live without for a few days, like 5:00 am yoga, or a French press coffee maker, tell your host in advance," etiquette expert Rosalinda Randall says. "Politely ask if it’s okay to bring these things."
Make Yourself Helpful and Follow House Rules
This means cleaning up after yourself, offering to cook a meal if appropriate, abiding by the host's preferences as it pertains to smoking, and the like, Parker says. As Randall puts it, "When a host tells you to make yourself at home, it is an invitation to relax the formalities. It is not an invitation to expect the host to bend over backwards to accommodate your every whim, or be at your beck and call. It is not an invitation to do as you do when you’re in the privacy of your own home."
On a related note, do not expect your host to modify their space for you—and as such, avoid making comments or requests about factors such as the type of sheets available or acknowledging other household issues beyond immediate control. "If your needs or requests are many, staying in a nearby hotel or vacation rental may be more practical and less problematic for everyone," Randall says.
But in addition to following basic etiquette, it's also important to be well mannered and polite as it pertains to conversation. "We should concentrate on pleasant and joyful topics," Parker notes. "Being a negative, complaining, and controversial guest is never fun."
Follow Up After Your Stay
Upon returning home, it's thoughtful to thank your host for a wonderful visit. A formal thank you note will always be well received. As Randall says, "Although considered a bit old-school, don’t underestimate the sentiment a handwritten note expresses, especially because we seldom send or receive them."