PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s the most wonderful time of the year and you’re getting ready to be hosted at someone’s home. Although you may be able to get away with certain habits if you’re staying with family members, those habits may not be welcome elsewhere, especially if your host will be entertaining other guests. Being a good holiday house guest can make all the difference between a great holiday or one where you won’t be invited back. Here are a few tips to help you be the perfect house guest for the holidays.
Be clear on how long you plan to stay
Well before your arrival, it’s up to you to discuss with your host how long you intend to stay. Even if you’re invited for an entire week, it’s important to remember the typically used phrase originated by Ben Franklin – “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” You may be able to sense that it’s time to go simply by reading the body language of your host. Above all, never, ever overstay your welcome. If you’re respectful of your host’s time and hospitality, chances are you’ll be invited back.
Get there on time
Part of being a good guest, especially during the holidays, is to arrive at the time you specified in advance. If you think you might experience a delay due to weather or traffic, plan on leaving your home sooner so your host doesn’t worry if you aren’t there on time. Texting your host saying you’re running late isn’t a good alternative to arriving on time. On the other hand, if you think you might be arriving early, you might want to consider taking your time before you show up, especially since your host is expecting you at a particular time and not one hour earlier.
Bring a gift to say thank you
Regardless of whether it’s a family member or friend, you should never arrive empty handed. A gift doesn’t have to be expensive but it’s a thoughtful way of saying thank you to your host. Gift ideas are varied but good choices include a box of chocolate, a bottle of good wine, a poinsettia and practically anything that’s homemade, especially cookies or other treats.
One easy way to wear out a welcome quickly is to bring along an uninvited or unannounced guest or even a favorite pet. It doesn’t matter if you are just staying for a few hours or worse yet, staying for the entire trip; having another person in your host’s home causes undue stress, especially if this additional guest is a total stranger. Significant others are an exception but make sure they know that you’re bringing someone along.
Respect the home
Since it’s possible that you might not be with your hosts for your entire state, let them know of your comings and goings. Hosts should never have to guess where you are or when you might return. During your stay, you should not leave personal items all over the house. Instead, all personal items should be neatly kept in the guest room. If you use something that doesn’t belong to you or, worse yet, damage something, it’s up to you to replace anything and inform your host. Try participating in the holiday traditions of your hosts. If they say grace or go around the table saying what they’re thankful for, then keep an open mind and join in, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
Clean up your mess
You should never expect your host to clean up after you. Always offer to help out with the dishes. If you notice the trash is getting full, offer to take it out. If you want to enjoy the holidays with alcoholic drinks, be mindful of how much you consume, especially if your host rarely drinks or never at all, and make sure you take any cans or bottles to the recycling bin. Don’t expect your host to do your chores. It also might help to do some cooking for your host but plan on asking first, since some hosts may not like people in the kitchen. Cleaning up after yourself also means keeping your guest room tidy and keeping your personal belongings inside of your room.
Bringing the kids
If you are bringing children along, it’s up to you to make sure they behave. This may require bringing books, games, toys and even computer tablets to keep them occupied. If your host(s) don’t have children, you should know that their presence can cause a great deal of stress, especially if your children’s personal items are strewn all over the house. If you, your significant other or one or more of your children is sick before your trip, consider canceling the visit until everyone’s healthy.
Send a thank you note
After your stay, it’s very thoughtful to send a thank you note to your host(s). And a thank you note shouldn’t be sent via email or text message. A phone call may suffice depending upon how you’re related but it’s so much better to take a few moments to send a card. Your host will appreciate the effort and if you have kids, it really helps for them to write a few words of thanks.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.