Many of us are preparing for various overnight or short stays this summer. Our recent post gave you all the information you need to be a Perfect Host, but what makes the Perfect Guest? The advice here is designed to cover all eventualities, whether you are staying with family, your best friend from college or a friend of a friend. It’s up to you to pick and choose which things apply to each visit. Some may be too formal so simply adjust your preparations to suit. Bear in mind that being a perfect guest involves rather more than just turning up with your overnight bag.
When staying as a guest in someone else’s home, your aim should be to make the stay enjoyable, not only for yourself but also for your host. You should always try not to burden your host but to make the visit fun. Be the dream guest and make it a stay to be remembered. This way, you will always be welcome to stay again.
We can’t stress this enough. Almost every potential problem can be overcome by communicating with your host. The worst visits are those where nobody knows what is going on, what to expect from each other or what the other person is thinking. An otherwise successful stay can be ruined by the seething resentment of a host who didn’t realise that you intended to spend every day out sightseeing while they were looking forward to cosying up on the patio, catching up on a year’s worth of gossip – or a guest who was looking to party but has been treated to a week of takeaways and family photos.
Before your Visit
Let your host know what time you will be arriving. Do you need to be picked up from the airport? How much luggage are you likely to have? This is also the time to let them know of any dietary requirements so that they can plan ahead if necessary. Most hosts can easily adapt to include a vegetarian choice at mealtimes but if you have any serious food allergies, or you’ve become vegan since you last met, it may take a little more thought on your host’s part. And don’t just tell them about foods you don’t or can’t eat. Tell them what your favourites are. Most people love to make their guests feel at home and would love to think that they’ve cooked something extra special that they know you’ll love.
During your Visit
Ask how best to fit in with your host family. Make sure you know where things are so you don’t have to bother them just to make a coffee. What time do they tend to get up or go to bed? Let your host know if you have specific activities planned. This will minimise any disruption and help them plan their own family life, mealtimes, etc. Also ask about any plans your host may have. If they have to work early in the morning, or they have young children, they will not appreciate you rolling in at 3 am singing I Will Survive at the top of your voice.
After your Visit
Remember what your mother always told you. Say thank you. In writing. You may think that a thank you letter is a hopelessly outdated concept but it shows that you appreciated everything that was done for you. It is just as important now as it has always been. It could be a lovely long letter or a few words in an email. You know your host best. However you say it, tell them what you particularly enjoyed during your stay. It will give your hosts valuable feedback for future guests, and it may be repeated if you stay again.
Let’s face it, we all forget odd things from time to time. Who hasn’t turned up on holiday without their factor 50? A seasoned host will be used to it and may well have a small supply of essentials such as toothbrush, toiletries, etc. The novelty will wear thin, however, if you keep imposing upon their hospitality. Think of all the things you do throughout a normal day and make yourself a packing list that includes clothes (and spares), toiletries, gadgets, etc. Do not assume that there will be spare chargers, or that you can use all your host’s shampoo. Remember, you are trying to be unobtrusive.
Have an Itinerary in Mind
Your host may already have a whirlwind of city tours, theme parks and cocktail bars planned. They may just decide to wing it when you get there. They may not have had time to think of anything at all. If nobody has any idea of things to do, you will end up doing nothing. For some people, this is their idea of a perfect stay. If it is not yours, make sure you have done some research on what’s on in the area and pick a couple of things you would like to do if you are asked. Do not always say ‘Oh, I don’t mind’. This puts pressure on your hosts to make every decision and hope they’ve chosen something that you really enjoy. If you really do have a preference, say so.
Treat your Hosts to a Meal
This could be dinner at a restaurant or an offer to cook something special – or both. Some hosts may not be happy to let you loose in their kitchen, or you may not be confident enough to cook in unfamiliar surroundings. It can be daunting to keep providing imaginative meals for guests so take the pressure off and treat them to a meal out. Even better, do a bit of research before you get there and see if you can find a little jewel of a restaurant that they haven’t discovered yet. They will really appreciate it.
Plan your own Transportation
Or at least have a Plan B. Do not assume that hosts will always be available or willing to run you around. If you are staying in a city, you can probably take advantage of public transport. If you are somewhere very rural, you will need probably need a car. If taking your own is not an option, your hosts may have a spare car but you should always look at local car hire companies in case of an emergency – or simply hire a car from the start so that you can be independent, not reliant on someone else who may have to fit you round other things.
It is not a Hotel
Remember, this is someone else’s home. You are not paying to be waited on hand and foot. Your host may carry your luggage to your room – they may not. However, unless they have staff, it is unlikely that your bed will be made for you, or your room cleaned daily. Wherever you are in the house, treat it with respect. If you make a mess, clear it up and try not to spread your stuff out into every corner of the house. Containing your sprawl to your own room will also make things easier when you pack up to go.
Be a Thoughtful Guest
Offer to help your host and be pro-active. Think about the extra work having a guest entails. Something as simple as clearing the table makes a lot of difference. Make them a coffee after a meal – or whenever you think they might need one. Tidy up after yourself as you go along. If you finish the last of the cereal or get through an entire bottle of craft gin, replace it. Pop to the shops and stock up on a few groceries. The majority of hosts would not necessarily expect you to, but they will remember you for it. If you do have specific dietary requirements, you could always bring any specialist items with you. Above all, try to fit in with the rest of the household as much as you possibly can.
Reward the Hospitality
Having guests to stay, no matter how well-behaved they are, still incurs extra expense, not to mention the extra work involved. Think how much your stay would have cost at a hotel, take a percentage of this and use it to reward your host. Most people would decline cold, hard cash so you need to be a lot more imaginative. Friends might also feel uncomfortable taking a gift from you so you could consider sending something when you get home. Think carefully about conversations you’ve had during the visit. Is there anything in particular you think they would love but wouldn’t buy for themselves? It could be theatre tickets, a magazine subscription, a pair of splendid gin glasses or something quirky for their home. If you’ve taken a few good photos of your host, have them framed as a memento. Whatever you choose, it should always show that you have really thought about it and that you valued their efforts.
Follow our advice and you will shine in the guest stakes. You will be the person who is always welcome and will be invited back again and again. All it takes is a little thought before you set off. Whether you are the guest or the host, we hope you have a highly enjoyable holiday and return rested and refreshed, ready to start all over again.