If you’re a traveler, you’re a guest.
Whether you’re staying on someone’s couch, passing through a city just to say “hi” or putting up in the spare room you’re a guest. In a broader meaning, whenever you step foot outside your own hometown or cross the border into another country, you’re a guest.
And, as you’ll remember from the lovely adage about guests’ shelf life*, after a few days you start to stink.
To stop yourself from becoming what my partner calls a “douchecoucher” (the evil cousin of a couchsurfer), here are some guidelines to becoming a kick-ass guest, someone who is not only a good traveler, but somebody who’ll get invited back for more.
Unless you’re friends with a large selection of self-made millionaires or wait until retirement age to visit someone, chances are your visit is going to take place while they’ve got other stuff going on. It doesn’t matter if they’re working a 9-to-5, caring for small kids, earning a degree or simply taking care of stuff around the house, your visit will take them away from their day-to-day responsibilities. Of course, if they’ve said you can come to visit, then they probably are looking forward to breaking up the cycle of their week. But, just to be sure, ask what things they need to do while you’re visiting, and if there’s anything you can do to help them save time. Pick up the dry cleaning on your way back from the museum? Take care of the dinner dishes so they can help the kid with homework? Respect their time and they’ll respect you as a guest.
From the host’s point of view, it’s fun to show people around your hometown, but it can be exhausting to plan all of the details for someone else, especially if you haven’t known each other for a long time. So, while your best friend may know right off the bat that you will want to hit the aquarium, the zoo, and then go horseback riding, don’t expect everyone to plan your itinerary. Before you arrive, discuss with them some of the things that you can do—and see if your host wants to do any of them with you or if they’d rather you enjoy the local delights solo, meeting them back up in the evening or on a weekend.
This means taking the initiative and being active, engaged and curious about the place you’re visiting. Don’t put the burden of making your trip a great one on your host. Have a plan.
You don’t have to bring a gift—advice columnist Miss Manners doesn’t approve of requiring anyone to give anything to friends—but it sure is nice when you bring a token of your appreciation to give to your host. Bringing edibles or a bottle of something you know they’ll enjoy is a good start, but inviting them out to dinner or paying the way for them to join you in an activity such as the theater or a local festival (and paying for it) is also good etiquette.
And, don’t forget, after you stay, a thank-you card (or at least an email) is really important!
4. Keep it Positive
Having a hard trip? Lose your luggage or miss a flight on your way in? Wish the weather were better for your vacation? Don’t dump that on your host. Really. Don’t. Complaining about your trip when you’re staying in the home of a friend is a good way to make an okay visit into a terrible one. Keep your outlook positive, even when things go wrong, and you’re more likely to come away with good memories for both you and your host.
Want some tips on how to be a kick-ass host? Check back next Thursday!
Hi! I’m Beth. Thanks for visiting Everyday Travel Stories, a site that celebrates all of the glorious travel opportunities on our planet.