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Vacation season

How to be a great houseguest

Traveling across the U.S. from Georgia, Army mother and wonderful houseguest “Regenia” visits the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Gwyn Nielsen

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Are you traveling this summer and planning to stay at someone's home? The relationship between guest and host or hostess can sometimes be a delicate one. Here are a few ways to be a fabulous houseguest, so you can be sure to be invited back again and again.

Keep in mind that just as no two relationships are alike, no two situations are alike. You know your host best. The following are general simple rules intended to keep your status as "(Name here), is a fabulous houseguest."  Most of these things come naturally and without thought. 


  • Arrival and departure dates: Be sure to communicate your exact arrival and departure details before arrival. Provide an exact number of days, and be sure to include specific calendar dates and arrival and departure times. Send your travel itinerary to your host as far in advance as possible. Avoid asking your host to pick you up from the airport. If they have the time, they will offer. If not, arrange for other transportation. Make sure you depart when you said you would. If your stay is extended, avoid putting your host on the spot by asking if you can stay longer. Go ahead and make other accommodations. If you get the feeling that your visit is causing a strain while you're at the host's house, decamp and graciously head for an alternate location.
  • Guest count: Be sure to communicate the number of people who will be traveling with you. Your host will need to prepare and plan many extra details for the amount of people he or she is hosting. Be prepared to make other arrangements if your host doesn't have the room to host everyone traveling with you. Also, be considerate of a host who doesn't have children. If he or she is opening his or her home to your children, you will need to discuss things like house rules, meals and entertainment in advance.
  • Plans: When you arrive, coordinate your schedule with your host's. Avoid assuming he or she will bend to yours, and don't expect your host to plan an extensive itinerary for you. Be prepared to entertain yourself.
  • Allergies: Always let your host know in advance if you have any allergies, including food allergies. 

Dietary restrictions

  • If you are on a diet, be brief with the details. Keep it to three sentences; if your host is interested in specific details, he or she will ask. Avoid expecting your hosts to change their meal plan to accommodate yours. There most likely will be choices on the table you can eat. If you are unwilling to eat what your host is planning to serve, tell your host in advance that you will be bringing and preparing your own food (and would love to share!).
  • If your children are picky eaters, visit a grocery store for ingredients and prepare their food for them.


  • Consider bringing a gift card to a local grocery store. Keep in mind, if you were staying in a hotel, you would be purchasing several meals a day.
  • Golden Rule! Always treat your host to a nice meal out.

House rules

Most likely your host will give you a house tour. The key is to be observant and blend into the routine of the household. If your host doesn't give you a tour, ask your own questions once settled. 

  • Electronic devices: No matter what the house rules are, it is always a best practice to stay off your electronic device unless necessary. It implies that conversation and time spent with your host is important to you. Watch how often your host uses his or her device. If they don't have theirs at the table, don't have yours. If they aren't on theirs during down time, avoid being on yours. If you must, step away. 
  • Accidents: If you break something, have it repaired immediately if possible, and pay for it. If not, replace it. If it is irreplaceable, find something comparable and gift it with a note of regret. After you find a remedy, do your best to let it go. If you find your host cannot, graciously decamp, and replace what was broken by sending it to your host or hostess with another note of apology.

Lend a hand

Your gracious host has worked hard to accommodate you in the midst of his or her regular routines. Ask your host how you can help.

Personal space 

Give your host a break. Plan a minimum of two hours of personal space for every day you are visiting. Here are a few ideas for the "two-hour rule":  Plan an excursion or go for a run, walk or a hike. Retire to your guest room and read a book, work on a project you brought along or take a nap.


  • A gift of gratitude:Your host has gone out of his or her way to prepare for a comfortable visit for you. A small gift of gratitude is always appropriate. Consider something local from the area in which you live.
  • A thank-you note: Always send a thank-you note to your host expressing your gratitude and a few fond memories of your time together.

May your visits with friends and family be filled with joy and wonderful memories of time spent together. 

Gwyn Nielsen is a military wife, volunteer, public speaker and founder of

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