At this time of year, it’s inevitable. At some point, you’re going to have visit family and friends, and more often than not, you’ll have to stay. Staying in someone’s home is the ultimate measure of closeness. When you feel comfortable enough to tiptoe downstairs and blearily pour yourself a cup of coffee sans makeup (and bra) in front of another human being who isn’t your significant other, you know you’ve reached a new level of friendship intimacy.
Playing houseguest can be a delightful time, but if you don’t follow proper etiquette you could cause unwelcome tension (and a whole lot of mess) at an already stressful time of year.
So, with that in mind, here’s what you need to know about how to win over anyone by being the perfect houseguest this holiday season.
Limit your stay, if you can
Try to keep your stay to under three days—anything longer is stressful for you and your host. Plus, it’s far easier to pack lighter for a shorter stay. Don’t be that friend that drags along three suitcases for a weekend trip—odds are good that you won’t be the only person who has to carry that luggage around. Bring only the essentials, and pare down your baggage as much as possible.
Know the game plan
Communicate with your hosts exactly what your itinerary looks like for the duration of your stay. If you’re crashing with your partner’s parents for the holidays, they’ll probably want to spend a fair amount of time with you. But if you’re sleeping on your favourite cousin’s couch for a few nights, she’ll probably be a little more flexible about when and where you hang out.
Bring the essentials
Don’t rely on your host to have a fully stocked bathroom (and kitchen) when you arrive. Bring your own toiletries and self-care necessities so you’re not draining their conditioner or using up their “fancy” soaps. Feel free to use towels and bathmats, just hang them up neatly after using.
And if you have dietary restrictions or special needs when it comes to food, you should come prepared. Like to have your regular vegan protein smoothie in the mornings? Be sure to bring all the fixings (and maybe your own Nutribullet or shaker cup). If your situation is more serious—like a fatal food allergy or if you’re sensitive to cross-contamination—you should let your host know that you’ll provide your own food and make plans to stop by a local grocery store to fulfil your needs. A medical condition is nothing to be embarrassed by, but if you’re feeling a bit awkward about eating on your own, offer to cook a few meals for your hosts.
Come bearing gifts
It’s hard to be annoyed at someone who brings you presents! If you know your hosts well, wrap up something you know they’ll love, like a coffee table book about interior design for your cool, city-dwelling older sister or a bottle of French wine for your aunt and uncle who just got back from their first trip to Paris. On the off chance you’re staying with someone you’ve never met before for Christmas, a beautiful bouquet and vase are always welcome.
Leave no trace
Seriously, leave nothing behind. Clean up the bathroom immediately after you shower, make the bed before you head downstairs for coffee, pick up the bedroom (don’t leave your thong or bra out, we’re begging you), and do your dishes. It might sound extreme, or even a bit like you’re walking around on eggshells, but it’s always better to be more aware than obtuse.
It takes all of five minutes to write and send a thank you note, and it means a lot to whoever’s on the receiving end of things. Need something to say? Here’s a basic template:
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING US IN YOUR BEAUTIFUL HOME THIS HOLIDAY SEASON. I LOVED SPENDING TIME WITH YOU, ESPECIALLY WHEN WE WENT ***** … AND I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT THOSE ***** COOKIES! YOU’LL HAVE TO SHARE THE RECIPE WITH ME NEXT TIME WE GET TOGETHER. THANK YOU AGAIN, AND LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU SOON!