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Ask the Etiquette Expert: How Can I Be the Perfect Holiday Houseguest?

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Question:
I'll be visiting a friend for the holidays and would like to make sure I'm a stellar houseguest. Do you have any tips that could make my visit more enjoyable?

Answer:
  • Stick to a schedule. Send your host your flight information and a time frame for your visit, including arrival and departure information. Once confirmed, stick closely to your arrival day and avoid extending your visit by adding additional days.
  • Arrive bearing gifts. A small hostess gift, an invitation to lunch and/or dinner, depending on the amount of time you plan to stay is a gracious gesture of thanks. When you factor in the amount of money you are saving on a hotel, it's worth every penny. I've created a Holiday Pinterest board with gracious host/hostess gift ideas to get you started.
  • Follow your host's daily schedule. You may be a late sleeper, but if your host has a hearty breakfast on the table at 8:00 a.m., the polite thing to do is to show up to the table dressed (even if it's in your cozy bathrobe) and ready for conversation. Ask your host what her preference of dress is for breakfast. Does she prefer casual and laid back or is everyone generally dressed and ready to walk out the door for a sightseeing holiday adventure?
  • Pack respectfully. Showing up with multiple large suitcases, hanging bags, skis, and a couple of over-stuffed duffel bags is probably more than your host has room to handle. She should not have to empty an entire guest room to accommodate your holiday wardrobe and sports gear.
  • Don't show up with extra guests. Don't even think about bringing your family pet or an extra friend of your child's if it wasn't mentioned in the original conversation. Asking your host if they would mind an extra few people (and furry friends) to join you on your visit makes it uncomfortable for your host.
  • Check your wallet before you drive away from your front door. A holiday visit is not the time to forget your ATM card. Bring plenty of cash, and let your credit card company know you will be traveling so they don't put a fraud alert on your account. Be over prepared, rather than caught off guard.
  • Let your host know in advance if you have dietary restrictions. Unless you have an allergy, it's impolite to turn your nose up at the menu because you don't eat "carbs." Clearly, if you have a medical issue, you must discuss it with your host, but if you are trying to shed a few pounds, or simply are a picky eater, it may be best to stay elsewhere so you can eat what you want, when you want, and not put your host family out during an already busy time of year. Also, don't expect your host to prepare a hot meal every morning, noon and night.
  • Take turns making dinner. When you have a large (or small) group of family and houseguests, it's a relief to the host to have others pitch in and help. That also includes offering to help wash dishes, set the table, and keep your guest room tidy, picking up after yourself. Your host will want you to return, rather than wish you were already gone.
  • Respect your host's house rules. You may disagree with their politics, television choices or the way they parent their children, but it's not your place to interject your own preferences and particular parenting style. You are a guest, not a voting member of the immediate family. Even if you are the grandmother!
  • Make your own plans. It's a stiff expectation to have your host to entertain you 24/7, especially when she has a job, still needs to holiday shop and has daily duties of her own. Offer to rent a car, do some sightseeing and visit friends you haven't seen throughout the year. Unless she has an extra car for guests, it would be an inconvenience to offer her car for a few days or a couple of weeks. This also gives your host a little time off.
  • Please exit on the day you promised. While no doubt your host is saying how much fun they had during the visit, you can rest assured that he or she is thinking it will be good to have their house back. They may even be expecting another set of houseguests when you leave. Leave at the scheduled time and don't forget to write a thank you note when you get back home.

For more Holiday Etiquette tips, visit my blog, connect with me here on The Huffington Post, follow me on Pinterest, and "Like" me on Facebook at Protocol School of Texas.