You’ve saved your money, arranged time off from the daily routine, and arrived by plane, train, or automobile to parts unknown. Okay, maybe not entirely unknown if you’re visiting a friend or your ancestral home, but at the very least you are out of your house. These visits can range in length from a weekend away to a few weeks overseas and are a welcome break. If you play your cards right, don’t act like Goldilocks eating everyone else’s porridge and breaking furniture, and learn how to be a good houseguest, the visit can be the base of great vacation memories.
I’ve been a houseguest many times, in Ontario cottage country at either rustic or new cottages, in British Columbia, but most often in France while visiting family. Like my turns at hosting guests in our home, I’ve made mistakes — there was that time I finished the last jar of homemade jam made by my host’s deceased aunt (bad form) — and so now I’m here to help you avoid similar pitfalls.
Don’t Leave Your Stuff Everywhere
It’s a given that when we arrive for a stay at a friend’s house we’re arriving with bags of personal items, never mind the extra space our bodies take up. Your host expects this and has likely cleared a room for you. Be respectful of their home and don’t leave your belongings lying around. No need to hide away your shoes or purse, but try to keep the toiletries on your side of the bathroom and the bedroom door closed. Yes, this is possible even with children; it will be to your benefit to keep their belongings contained so that they can be easily located.
You know when your kids empty the dishwasher and the spatula ends up with the mugs? Imagine that, except now it’s the people whom you’ve invited to stay who’ve done it. You can’t yell at them like you can your kids!
It’s annoying — and downright dangerous — to scramble for coffee supplies at 6:00 am when you can barely shuffle downstairs. Notice where your host puts away clean towels and ask how to work the washing machine. Does she have a favourite juice she buys at the grocery store? Pick it up when it’s your turn to shop.
This Isn’t A Hotel
You are in someone’s home, so don’t expect to be served. Sounds harsh, but I’ve seen it done and it wasn’t pretty. In the end the only result was irritation all around. Set the table and clear the dishes; if you’re travelling with children this can also be an example to do the same. Your host will want to treat you by making a favourite meal, but nothing is stopping you from reciprocating. A good houseguest knows when to pull out the mouth-watering dish card; and it could even get you a repeat invite.
No really, relax. I know you’ve travelled far, and maybe the plane tickets cost more than you want to think about, but you and your family don’t need to be on the go all day every day. Your host might have a list of local places they’d like to show off, and you likely have your own list of places you don’t want to miss. Visit and enjoy those places, but keep in mind that the occasional days spent relaxing on a dock or in the backyard are just as important to a great vacation. It’s also the ideal time to chat and build deeper bonds with the family or friends you’re visiting.
Bring A Gift
I’m kidding. Mostly. Unless we’re talking about Carambars and Breton cookies and then no joke, you had better be stocked up if you want a place to sleep. There are no gifts required from a good houseguest except mutual respect. Oh, and the ability to stay up late laughing and eating those cookies you brought.
These are small considerations that people generally apply in their daily lives anyway, but they show you’ve paid attention to the habits of the people you’re visiting. Now go and enjoy your visit.
Image Source: WikiCommons