Staying overnight at someone’s else’s home is a privilege—and calls for a totally different set of etiquette skills than, say, renting a hotel room. The goal, of course, is to be a model houseguest—the one that always gets invited back.
Now that the weather’s warming up, it’s a given you’ll want to take advantage of friends with summer homes (the best kind of friends!) but before you accept any invitations, heed the advice of etiquette expert Lizzie Post (the great-great-granddaughter of manners doyenne Emily Post), with her key rules to keep in mind when you’re crashing at someone else’s pad.
1. Be very clear about how long you’re staying for.
There’s nothing worse than the houseguest who shows up for what you think will be the weekend, and ends up staying for two weeks. Be extremely clear with your host about when you’ll be arriving, and how long you’ll be staying for. Post advises to be careful that you never to overstay your welcome. “Fish and houseguests stink after three days,” she said.
2. Play by the house rules.
After you’ve arrived, remember to ask your host about the house rules—what time people tend to go to bed, if you need to know anything about their pets, whether you should take your shoes off in the house. While your host will likely tell you to make yourself at home, take that with a grain of salt.
3. Help out where you can.
Offer to cook dinner or pay for groceries, do the dishes, and take out the trash. These are the little things your host will absolutely notice—and appreciate. At the end of your stay, be sure to triple-check the bedroom and bathroom for your belongings, and always strip the bed
A general rule of thumb: it should look like you were never there when you leave. “The best houseguests leave no trail,” Post said.
4. Don’t be that needy person.
Don’t expect your host to entertain you for your entire visit. If you’re staying for more than three days, call other friends who live in the area or do some exploring on your own. Again, you aren’t staying in a hotel, and your host shouldn’t be expected to be the concierge.
5. Say thank you (multiple times).
Post advises that a gift of some kind is 100 percent mandatory if you’re staying overnight in someone else’s home. “Look around their house, get a sense for what their tastes are. If someone’s not a bath-salt kind of person and you get them that bath basket, it’s a little awkward,” she says.
When in doubt, go with tasteful flowers. “Personally, I think a beautiful vase with some flowers in it is a great way to go,” she says. Not only should you bring a gift, but remember to thank your host multiple times. Three times is the rule: When you arrive, when you’re ready to leave, and once more after you’ve left with a thank you note.