Spring is finally here and summer is within view. The warmer weather heralds the approaching season of vacationers and having bought a lake front home, we’ve become the place to be.
Last year was our first summer on the lake and for 3 months straight, I barely had time to replace bedding and restock between guests and many groups would descend upon us at once and for extended periods.
Having suddenly become everyone’s vacation spot for the first time and surviving it, caused me to consider what a good houseguest is as well as what sort of Houseguest I have been. A wonderful houseguest is a delight whose return visits are looked forward to with joyful anticipation, however a poor one not only is no longer invited but dreaded.
While doing research for this post, I discovered hosts from around the world had much to say on the subject and more specifically, that I am not alone. I found reoccurring faux pas and pet peeves that I have endured myself. Have we become so self centric or have we forgotten the equal importance of being a good house guest as to being a good host?
Let’s delve into the Do’s, don’ts and the ” Oh Hell No’s!
First, if you have not been specifically invited but would like to come for a visit, talk to the host and plan your visit during a time that is convenient to them and their schedule. Don’t force yourself upon them nor invite yourself to their existing plans. Along with this, do not invite others to come with you! Another important rule of etiquette is to set and stick to specific arrival and departure times. Don’t show up unexpectedly in the midst of their preparations nor overstay what they’ve prepared for and absolutely do not just show up with your bags in hand!
If you haven’t hosted visitors, you may not have considered the amount of work and planning that goes into having visitors or vacationers at your home. For me, I begin a couple weeks in advance of the arrival. The entire house is cleaned from top to bottom in the fashion of a good spring cleaning. Beds that haven’t been used in months, are stripped and laundered. Each meal, breakfasts, lunches, dinners and desserts are planned ahead and a list comprised of all ingredients needed. Each bath is equipped with freshly laundered towels and stocked with essentials my guests may have forgotten, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, razor, lotion and soaps.
Hostess tip: I always pack my own essentials while travelling but when paying $100 or better for an 8 hr use of a hotel bed, I do not hesitate to take the provided toiletries….I paid for them! I collect these in a box I label, hostess supplies. If these are unused, consider putting together baggies of toiletries and distributing them to the homeless.
Considering the additional work and expense the hosts are undertaking to provide a clean, inviting environment, wonderful meals and entertainment, one must consider how to be considerate of them and here are a few suggestions.
When your host / hostess says ” Help yourself. Make yourself at home.” DON’T! While your hosts are being polite and want you to feel at home… they want you to feel, at their home, not yours. Don’t rifle through their things, help yourself to the fridge or pantry, etc. Do pick up after yourself, keep your room tidy and ask for your needs or to use their items. Respect for others property and space is something we all should have learned as children.
Speaking of children: When visiting or vacationing at someone elses home, do make sure that you aren’t taking a vacation from your parental duties. Make sure your children are well behaved in others homes. Don’t let them run wild, ransack the house and do not expect your host to be your babysitter, correct your kids for you or take up their caregiving. It’s an uncomfortable position to place your hosts in.
I can’t believe I have to add this one but…do your laundry at your home! I had unexpected guests show up at my home the day before I was to recieve invited guests. They trashed the guest rooms, descended upon my pantry like locusts without even asking, eating up meals I had planned for guests and brought with them 5 loads of laundry! I’ll put all of these under the “Oh Hell No” section.
Bringing a hostess gift may sound antiquated in today’s world but it’s not. Just as bringing a bottle of wine or flowers to a dinner party, it is a token of appreciation with the acknowledgment that your hosts, for all intents and purposes, are supporting you and/or family for the duration of your stay. They’ve provided shelter, the extra utilities, meals, entertainment. They’ve gone to great lengths in cleaning, providing toiletries, beds and towels that smell of fresh linen…it’s worthy of gratitude isn’t it.
Do, either take your host to dinner or purchase and cook a meal for them during your stay. Be helpful during meal prep or make sure that you do the cleanup. If your host / hostess refuses to let you do the dishes, insist that you help them in doing so. I once had 12 people, 5 family groups in my home at once for 5 days, who ate 3 meals a day. That’s 180 plates of food. Number of meals provided by others, ZERO. Number of people who helped prepare meals, ZERO. Number of people who cleaned up after a meal, ZERO. By the time I cooked a meal then served it, while everyone else was out enjoying the lake and I had cleaned up afterwards, it was time to start the next. I was literally chained to the kitchen the entire time! Trust me, it’ll be appreciated. It makes these tasks less work and more social, allowing your hosts to be apart of the festivities and fun instead of feeling like “The Help”.
Much frustration may be avoided if as hosts / hostesses, we set a specific time for breakfast. Clay is an ultra early riser, therefore coffee is always ready when guests begin to wake but it’s difficult to manage breakfast if guests are all getting up at different times. You don’t want guests who got up at 7am starving while waiting for the 11am risers and throwing off the lunch meal schedual. Find what works for you and communicate it to your guests. In my house, we may offer coffee and pastries to early risers while stating that breakfast will be served at 9am, lunch a 1pm, dinner at 6pm.
Departure day: Ask your hosts if they prefer you to make the bed or strip it. I usually will get up early on departure day to gather towels and bedding and launder them, remake beds and restock towels prior to leaving though I don’t expect that from my guests. I personally prefer guests to put used towels in the laundry basket and just place the bed in order but asking your hosts preference is best. For me, I’m exhausted after hosting so I take the rest of my day after guests leave to relax. Piles of bedding left on floors pressures me to get to work right away where I’d rather get to that tomorrow.
In a nutshell, communication is key to time spent together and enjoyed by all…be polite and show gratitude. Don’t be the recipient of a great time but a part of one. If you enjoy your time together and long to be invited again, don’t hesitate to go the extra mile. My young niece, Cait, is so adept at graciousness that she sends a Thank You note after each visit, describing what a wonderful time they had and having her is always something I both welcome and look forward to.
Thank you guys from the bottom of our hearts for hosting us this weekend! We truly had an amazing time and love your new home. You two went above and beyond with the food and accommodations. We’re so blessed to have you guys pour into us and love on us. Love you both! And I think Henry conveniently left his fishing pole and tackle box so he has an excuse to return this summer!