Five tips for being a gracious house guest

welcome matEvery year I speak on dining and business etiquette essentials to a group of college students who are in a leadership program hosted by the University of Washington Women’s Center. The program is called the Alene Morris National Education for Women’s Leadership. It’s a six day intensive program that focuses on increasing women’s representation in leadership positions in the non-profit, private, and political sectors. The program teaches the women participants many important and essential skills that will help them to be great leaders.

In addition to giving the training my husband and I also hosted one of the participants in our home. Our house guest, Charlotte, was a smart, talented and interesting young woman. She also was a great guest. She made it easy and enjoyable to host her.

If you’re planning on visiting friends or family this summer here are five tips to be as gracious of a house guest as Charlotte.

Make sure your arrival time is convenient for your hosts

Charlotte checked in with me about a week before her scheduled arrival date to ask when she should plan to arrive. She then kept me updated on her plans and schedule as the day approached. On her arrival day she was running a little late but let me know when to expect her. All of this made it much easier for my husband and me to plan our day and make sure we were home when she arrived.

I knew Charlotte was only staying for a week since that’s how long the program was. But if you’re visiting family or friends be sure you are clear about your arrival and departure dates and that they are convenient for your host. Don’t over stay your welcome.

Bring a hostess gift

A hostess gift is a small way to say thank you to your hosts for having you in their home. After Charlotte settled into her room and unpacked a bit she gave us a framed print of a painting she had made. She is a talented artist so it was quite a nice gift. Hostess gifts don’t need to be expensive or elaborate. It could be a delicious delicacy from your home town, a potted plant or a nice serving bowl or platter.

My sister-in-law and her daughters have a neat tradition of taking note of the things you mention liking when you’re out shopping. They then buy one of those items later when you’re not around and give it to you at the end of their stay. It’s always a wonderful surprise to receive something you admired, and it shows they are thinking of you.

You could also plan to take your hosts out to dinner at their favorite restaurant or cook them a nice meal. It’s a great way to both say thank you and to give them a break from having to cook and clean for you.

Be helpful

Charlotte was gone about 13 hours each day so we didn’t see her much. However, her first night with us we enjoyed a meal together and Charlotte helped set the table and clear the dishes. She offered to do more but we wouldn’t let her. Always offer to help and look for ways to make it easier on your hosts.

At the end of your stay, take the sheets off the bed and put them and your used towels in the laundry room or at least in a pile on the bed so it’s easy for your hosts to gather and wash them.

Be grateful

It takes a lot of energy hosting people in your home. Your host needs to focus on your comfort and keep you entertained, whether that’s just being attentive to you when you are up and about or planning activities while you are visiting. So, even if the activities or meals are not to your liking it’s important to express your appreciation and gratitude for your host’s efforts. Be amenable and don’t complain. That includes not saying how uncomfortable the guest bed is.

Charlotte was very complimentary and appreciative of both the little and big things she experienced in her stay with us – the arrival meal, the room she was staying in, the bed, our hospitality. It made it much more enjoyable hosting her.

Send a thank you note

After your visit be sure to send or leave a handwritten thank you note. If you leave the note, it could accompany your thank you gift. Charlotte left a very nice note handwritten on a card she had made. She also followed up with an email thanking us again for the visit. She was truly a gracious guest and we would gladly welcome her in our home again.

What tips would you add to this list? What makes a great house guest? Have you had any terrible house guests?


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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Robin on July 3, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Let your hosts know in advance if you have any dietary restrictions. What a terrible waste of money and/or time if they prepared local delicacies such as salmon or shellfish only to learn you don’t eat them, or are allergic!

  2. Arden on August 1, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Yes, Robin, agreed!

  3. Beth on May 23, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    I prefer my guests just to make the bed on the day they are leaving, and leave it made… am I alone in this? That way the room looks nice even if I can’t get to washing the sheets for a few days.

  4. Valerie on May 20, 2022 at 7:42 pm

    Thank you, Arden, for the great tips and reminders. Plus, I am still grateful for what I learned in your class. Your tip about hostess gifts helped me. I gave a little something while staying at AirBNB’s when I was exploring some towns one summer. The gifts were small and the appreciation returned was big. A meal is also fun though I have found some people are territorial about their kitchens. Always delighted to see your email.

  5. Andrea on May 20, 2022 at 7:42 pm

    Bring your own phone/device chargers. Offer to take your hosts out for a dinner or pick up a meal and bring it home. Ask what time they typically wake up and go to bed and adjust your schedule accordingly.

  6. Arden on May 23, 2022 at 11:17 am

    Valerie, I bet your Airbnb hosts loved your thoughtfulness. Good for you. Thank you for saying hello.

  7. Arden on May 23, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Andrea, really great tips! Love asking your hosts what time they wake up and go to bed and to adjust your schedule to match that. Very thoughtful.

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