Whether you're staying with family or friends or at an Airbnb, you're a visitor in someone else's home. Follow these tips to make sure you're a respectful one.
1. Don't show up unannounced. Make sure your host knows to expect you, and when. Be clear about the time you plan to arrive and make sure it's a convenient one for your host. When your flight lands or when you get in a cab, call your host and let them know your approximate ETA. If you are going to be more than 15 minutes late, tell your hosts. They might be waiting to start dinner for you.
2. Arrange for your own transportation during your stay. Don't ask your hosts to pick you up super late or super early at the airport. And definitely don't ask them to shuttle you back and forth to the beach.
3. Offer to help out. If you really want to be a good guest, offer to pitch in with the groceries — go to the store with the shopping list, or pay for a grocery trip. If your host has prepared a meal, clear and wash the dishes afterward. If you're only there for a short time, offer to take your hosts out to dinner or babysit while they go out. You'll definitely get an invite back!
4. Leave your room spotless. That means the bathroom, too. Leave no traces of your visit — a ring on the counter, hair in the shower. It should look pristine. Empty the garbage cans and make (or even strip) the beds, too.
5. Don't use your host's toiletries. Bring your own shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, shaving cream, etc. If you forgot something, ask your host where to buy some new shampoo. They may end up offering you theirs, but at least you made the gesture to try and get your own.
6. Do not show up with a pet. Seriously? Do I even have to qualify this one? Unless you're visiting your best friend who also has a dog and she would just love for you to bring yours so the pups can play, make other arrangements for your animal companion.
7. Bring a gift. Whether you are a guest for a few hours at Thanksgiving dinner or several days over a week-long vacation, be sure to bring a gift. A bottle of wine, dessert or a small bouquet of flowers are perfect if you're going for a meal or for a night. For longer stays, a gift card, new towels, mugs or platters are great.
8. Don't make other plans during your stay without checking with your host first. You'd be surprised at how many guests will leave in the middle of their stay for a "getaway" at a local hotel or a fancy meal out without telling their host. What you're basically saying is, "Your house isn’t good enough for me, and neither are you." Be completely transparent with your plans — you are a guest in someone else's home and should apprise them of your plans. If you intend to go for a jaunt during your stay, be up front about it — your host may or may not want to tag along, but at least they'll appreciate the invite!
9. Don't overstay your welcome. Like my dear Grandma Claire always said, "Guests and fish start to smell after three days."