Before everyone who has ever stayed with or hosted us starts worrying, this post is not about you. We were with two other couples staying with our close friends (and I’ll add the most gracious, amazing hosts) when I broached the subject of houseguests. I asked the group what they think makes for an issue free guest stay. The conversation quickly shifted to worst case scenario experiences and within minutes I was laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face. Everyone has a nightmare guest story that becomes a great story later.
I'm no etiquette expert but a few considerate moves can relieve any potential guest stress. These are what I think are the pivotal issues in a host/guest relationship. Things are a little different with family but even there a little forethought helps.
Know where you are going
By this I mean know what type of host you are dealing with, there are only 2 types:
There’s the loosey goosey/anything goes (LGAG) or organized and anal (OAA). While the LGAG host is seemingly the way to go these hosts may leave you with the nasty sliver of soap and no coffee in the morning. OAA doesn’t sound like as much fun but you’ll get perfect directions, a well planned stay and your favorite cocktail waiting for you. In case there is any doubt, I am from this school of hosting (and living). And I’m not alone. I recently learned of a friend’s mother who has a spreadsheet of menus broken down by guest. She does this so as not to serve anyone the same thing twice. I worship her.
When would you like us?
Most hosts (especially when OAA) want to greet their guests so whenever possible rather than saying “we should be there at …” ask your host what time is convenient. There’s a grace period and understanding for traffic but if you say you’re leaving at 8am, leave around 8 or give your hosts a heads up that plans changed. We’ve had friends we thought were buried in an avalanche only to hear “oh we stopped for lunch and skis”.
Same goes for departure, I felt terribly with our friends mentioned above. We were getting reading to leave and my friend said “you’re out of here already?” I hadn’t made this clear ahead of time. When you can, have the discussion and find out what works for everyone.
What “is there anything we can have in the house?” for you means
When a host asks this, it means are there one or two special requests you’d like to put in. A list isn’t cool, neither are obscure asks. I had a client who sent a host out for chia seed and a friend who told me she had to search in upstate NY for spelt pasta a guest asked for. Same goes for any allergies/dislikes “I’m allergic to dairy” is legit but some of my happy tears I referred to came when a friend referred to a 1-page response to “is there anything we can pick up” complete with each family members food preferences, brands of choice and preparation suggestions. If you like chia (and you should) BYO, same goes for vitamins or any foods you’re really tied to or pertaining to a dietary restriction but don’t bring full on groceries to someone’s house and further don’t stick to only “your food”.
Timing may not be everything but it matters
I know, I know you’re going to stay with someone and it should be relaxing; however it’s a house not a hotel and guests need to be mindful of the schedule. “What time is everyone up?” Or, “what’s the plan for tomorrow?” It is a good way to gauge things. Nothing worse that cooking breakfast or making lunch only to have to clean kitchen a second time. Take cues, and especially if children are involved, encourage your kids do the same.
Great guests do these five things
Put a load of laundry in
Replenish things as they run out
Keep things neat (even if they don’t at home) I received a tweet from @EdgyRD “great houseguests make their beds and close the door when the go to bathroom” no comment on the last part.
Great hosts do these five things
Make coffee (even if they don’t drink coffee)
Give you a bed with pillows they’d want to use
Don’t create a stressful environment even if hosting is stressful (this one a work in progress for me, trying for type “A minus” this coming winter)
Refresh the toiletries in the bathroom (no Pert Plus circa 1990)
Go the extra mile with food or activities really putting thought into your stay.
And finally, TY
Say thank you in person, via email or via phone. Nothing feels better than knowing your guests had fun and appreciated the effort. Or if you’re an anal and organized guest (and you know who you are) send a hand written note.
What type of host are you? What do you think great guests/hosts do? And what is your houseguest or host pet peeve?