How to be a great guest in 8 easy steps (plus bonus list of 6 top characteristics)

Be sure to visit Celeste’s Writing Prompt Wednesday to find a teaser of Kat and Natalie, book three!


Yesterday, we had a terrific discussion about the good and bad about hosting houseguests. Turnabout is fair play, and today we’ll talk about the ways houseguests can make life easier for hosts…and get asked for a return visit! Just as our parents told us that playing nicely and sharing toys would result in more playdates, the mark of a successful visit is to be asked back.


How do you do that? Never fear; Ana is here!


Let your host know if you have special needs. Some people are afraid of mentioning allergies or religious/medical conditions because they don’t want to make more work for their host. As someone who loves to host guests, please believe me when I say: My goal as a host is to feed you, entertain you, and make sure you have a wonderful time. If I spent six hours preparing a welcome meal for you, I will be upset and frustrated to find you can’t eat anything because I sautéed the vegetables in a non-stick skillet that contains gluten residue that will set off your celiac disease. If you are diabetic and need a dedicated trash can for your disposed needles, ask. If you are a recovering alcoholic and feel uncertain about dinner parties where drinks are served, let your host know ahead of time.


Differentiate between “want” and “need” when making requests of your host, and accept “no” as an answer. What I find most frustrating, as a host, is when guests provide me with impossible requests that aren’t necessary. If someone visits me while I am living abroad and I say that the local stores don’t sell curling irons, the stores don’t sell curling irons. Dragging me to fifteen stores in ten hours won’t change that fact. Save that kind of request for something critical, such as medication or help replacing a stolen passport.


Respect your host’s schedule. Because I live in an area with heavy rush hour traffic (who doesn’t?), I appreciate when guests give me options for flight times. If the only flight time available will mean traveling during rush hour and public transportation is not an option, I always ask my hosts to drop me off early enough so they can return before rush hour. I double-check my arrival and departure times with my host, and I send a copy of my itinerary so she will have the flight number, airline, and other information to check the flight status.


Respect your host’s belongings. Most hosts put out the best bedding, linen, and dishes for their guests. My favorite bedspread is only used for guests. Imagine my surprise when a guest spread her suitcase on top of it and carried it around my home as a shawl, allowing the ends to drag on the floor! I cringed, but I didn’t say anything.


Ask before you use. My dearly beloved mother took it upon herself to use my computer during a visit…and broke it. Irreparably. Even if she had managed to not break my computer, she truly would not have wanted to find my secret naughty identity. Another time, I was horrified to hear that a guest helped herself to my rice cooker. I didn’t think to tell her not to use it because, as a guest, I would never think to use a host’s possession without asking permission. I bought that rice cooker with the paycheck from my first full-time job, and it’s traveled with me to countless new homes. Not only would it cost a great deal to replace, but it also has enormous sentimental value.


Help out—without being asked. Unless your host tells you that the kitchen is off-limits (and not a polite, “Oh, don’t worry”), pitch in with everyday chores. Wash your dishes or put them in the dishwasher. Wipe off the table and counters. Change the empty roll of toilet paper, if a new roll is easy to find. If you track dirt into the living room, ask for the vacuum and clean up the mess. Wipe your hair out of the shower drain, and don’t smudge towels and washcloths with your cosmetics. If you want someone to pick up your wet towels and clean up after you, pay for a hotel.


Be aware of all the things your host does for you but doesn’t mention. If your host lives in a tourist area and has frequent guests, she may have already seen the sights multiple times. Pay for her ticket as a thank you for her company. If she drives you around in her car, it takes expensive gas to do so.


Cook for your hosts or take them out to eat. In many cultures, sharing a meal establishes an inviolable bond. If you like to cook and your host is willing to let you use her kitchen, offer to cook. If your attempts at cooking would violate fire codes, take your host out for a meal.



The Six Bests of Being a Guest, According to Ana:


#6 Leave clean (or at least neat) linens. If my host has allowed me to use the laundry machines, I always wash and dry bedding and towels and make the bed before I leave. If not, I strip the bedding and leave it in a neat pile at the foot of the bed. Your host has likely spent time cleaning and preparing for your arrival, and you will save her work after your departure.


#5 Leave a thank you note and/or gift for departure. Most people know to bring a host gift when arriving, but an outstanding guest will leave a small gift and/or note when leaving. I like to leave a note on the nightstand or bed so my host will discover it after she returns home. Even a small “Thank you for everything” note with a Hershey’s kiss can make a big difference.


#4 Pay for airport parking. Arriving at an airport to be greeted by your host is a special treat. Few things are sweeter than the sight of an excited, waving friend as you enter the baggage claim area (or exit customs inspection). Airport parking may cost as little as a few dollars, but your host has donated time and gas to pick you up. Unless your host insists, pay for the parking. It’s a tiny gesture that demonstrates a great deal of consideration. If you can afford it, pay for gas when your host stops at the gas station, too.


#3 Be neat and prompt. One guest told me she wanted to visit a local amusement park, so we arranged to leave the next morning. Instead, she slept until nearly 1 PM. By the time we arrived at the park, the crowds were intense and parking scarce. When I am a guest, I always get myself ready for outings so no one has to wait for me. I leave the guest area or bedroom tidy (okay, perhaps I might shove some clutter out of sight!), especially if I am visiting for more than a few days.


#2 Provide for your own special needs. If you have food or other allergies or are on a restricted diet, pack what you need or ask in advance for a trip to the store where you can buy what you need. If you want sugar-free yogurt or organic dried cranberries, or your children will only eat name-brand sugar cereal, take that responsibility for yourself.


And the #1 best characteristic for being a guest:


Appreciate your host. Even if things don’t go according to plan, and even if you swear never to return, thank your host for having you.

23 thoughts on “How to be a great guest in 8 easy steps (plus bonus list of 6 top characteristics)

  1. Celeste Jones says:

    Good post Ana. I guess I only host or visit people that I know pretty well and usually for a short time so I don’t generally have problems (maybe they do and I don’t know it). I also know my friends pretty well and I’ve gotten wiser over the years. So, if I visit my friend whose house is decorated “just so” I know that I need to be more careful about using things and asking permissions because those things are important to her (like your guest only comforter) other friends are more laid back. So, I’d suggest maybe thinking about your host and what their preferences might be.

    I can’t imagine that I’d host someone and not know major health issues, but I do ask my friends if they are on any special diet since it seems we are all perpetually trying something new.

    I’d also suggest bringing a book or computer or whatever to entertain yourself in your room so everyone can get some alone time.

    I also check w/my host before bed to double check plans for tomorrow and when I am supposed to be up and ready for whatever delights they have planned for me.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Oh, yes. Being able to entertain yourself is always a good thing. The exception would be guests who are constantly buried in their book/computer/smart phone, but in general it’s nice to have guests who are independent. No matter how good a friend it is, some alone time can always be a good thing.

      I find that I only realize things are an issue once they are an issue. 🙂 So I didn’t know I minded about the comforter until I saw it used that way.


  2. Celeste Jones says:

    Oh, I thought of something else. This is more for the host. I once showered in a friends bathroom w/o realizing that the shower curtains were for show only and she did her showering in another bathroom. Seriousy…WTF? I was staying in her house while she was gone. She had to get the curtains cleaned and it was a hassle for her after I left. How do I know? Because she made sure to mention it to me and told several others and has mentioned it several times in the 20 years since.

    I don’t consider her much of a friend.


  3. pao says:

    Oh, on top of that, I think guests should try not to forget things or leave things behind. I once had a friend leave her passport and ID cards behind at another friend’s place and this person has not stopped nagging ever since 😛

    On another note, I think the arrival hall is one of the saddest and happiest place there is.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Wow, that can be a big inconvenience. It’s important to check for everything before you leave, for sure. Something like a passport and ID cards are important and annoying to have to return to the owner.

      Oh yes, happy and sad.


  4. sassy says:

    Great companion piece! I think you should do a whole series on etiquette and common courtesy reminders seems like in this day and age manners are a thing of the past.


      • sassy says:

        Oh- that is a good one. That’s how I found out I was the wedding planner for a gay extravaganza which turned out great but would of proffered to ahem actually been asked. My more let peeve is getting a thanks on social media instead of a call or private text or email. I think you should use your wooded spoon to threaten all those poor manners slobs out there.


  5. Holla Dean says:

    Another great post, Ana. I like all the suggestions but #2 and #4 are my favorite. In fact, airport parking can be pretty expensive in major cities. With cell phones, you can notify your host when your plane lands and arranged to meet at the curb. There’s really no need for parking fees unless your visitor is elderly or disabled.


    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Thank you, Holla! Some airports have cell phone waiting lots, but not everyone (especially international visitors) will have a cell phone. Other people like to go the extra mile. A nice compromise is to pick up your guest in the airport but go through the drop-off lane for departure. By that time, your guest should be able to find her way to the check-in.

      Thanks for stopping by again. 🙂


  6. catrouble says:

    Another wonderful and informative post Ms Ana Manners! 😉 Totally agree with all of them. I try to follow them when I go to visit anyone. One thing I do if I’m visiting someone who gives me one washcloth for the visit…I bought a package of inexpensive washcloths at Walmart and pack them in my suitcase. I can then use one each day…the last day, I make sure I’ve packed a few plastic ziplock bags and put the wet one(s) in that. I also put them out for my guests to use to wash makeup off…can’t hurt them and if they stain, they become great dust/cleaning cloths! 😉

    Hugs and Blessings…


    • Anastasia Vitsky says: are the third person to call me Miss Manners, if not the fourth. Of all the subjects, I never thought I’d write about hospitality. 😉

      I do bring washcloths if I know the host won’t have them available, but I still think it’s nice for a host to offer them. 🙂 I agree about the cheap washcloths. They do become perfect for cleaning and dusting, or even for a handkerchief in a pinch.

      Hugs back, Ms. Lady Who Needs a Spanking.


  7. Roz says:

    Hi Ana, great companion post and all wonderful points! I try to do most of these things. It comes down to courtesy doesn’t it?



  8. robskatie says:

    Hi Ana, 🙂

    I enjoyed reading this follow up post. Great things to think about. Again, I think that in general, good manners, consideration of others’ feelings (guest and host ) and common sense go a long way to making a visit pleasant.

    I think that as a guest, one thing is add is to talk to your host and see if there is something that they are excited to take you to see or do. A lot of times I find that to be the case and it makes me happy to do that thing with them because it makes them happy. Well- within reason, right? If they wanted to run a marathon, while going by every famous landmark in their city, that wouldn’t quite work. But you get the picture. I enjoyed these posts, Ana. Maybe you should write a new age manners book. 🙂 Many hugs,

    ❤ Katie


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