Houseguest Etiquette: Tips on Being a Gracious Guest

Being a gracious guest is easy when simple houseguest etiquette is observed. When friends invite you and your family into their home, your responsibility as a good houseguest is to make it as easy as possible on your genial host. Remember you are not checking into a luxury hotel, however lovely the accommodations may be! Show your gratitude for the hospitality by following a few houseguest etiquette tips:

Be respectful of the utilities. Don’t let the water run incessantly as you take a 30 minute shower and remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room. Keep the air conditioner at the temperature your host has it set on, even after they leave for the day and you are left behind to “swelter” in a 76 degree home.

Tidy up.
Pick up your wet towels and dirty socks off the floor.  Make the bed daily and clean up after yourself and your kids in the kitchen. Offer to assist with the kitchen duties; which include washing the dirty dishes.  Don’t wait to be waited on—roll up your sleeves and jump in.

Be open to new things
. If your host suggests a rousing game of scrabble, start digging for tiles. Be open to learning new games, try a new activity, and sample new foods. Pick up a book you wouldn’t normally read—you may be surprised to learn there is more to life than the business journal.

Under (not over!) schedule.
Plan for some downtime where you can truly unwind. This takes the pressure off your host to entertain you non-stop and gives you time to relax and really enjoy your visit. Wake up before everyone else, put on a pot of coffee, sit on the porch and watch the birds eat from the feeder.  Better yet, take a walk and appreciate your new surroundings. Staying with someone in their home allows you to enjoy a new neighborhood, meet new friends and recharge your batteries (literally and figuratively).

Don’t forget to bring your own charger
! I’ve had three houseguests this summer and all three have forgotten their cell phone charger. I finally went out and bought a couple of extra to keep on hand. I love the idea of giving my guest something they will appreciate as a little gift and a battery charger, wrapped in colorful paper, has been a huge hit.

Be mindful of the way you treat items in your host’s home
. One example: washcloths. Black mascara does a number on your host’s beautiful new guest towels. I carry a few of my own ratty washcloths to use with my favorite make up remover, Trish McEvoy. I rinse them out nightly and let them dry, and often just toss them if I am at a hotel. I don’t even like soiling hotel towels with my black mascara! Supplying my own towels is a simple solution and eliminates worry.

Re-stock the community supply of bottled water or soft drinks
. When you are out and about, pick up a couple of cases of bottled water or your host family’s favorite soda or juice and stock up their fridge. Make sure the cases make it all the way to the refrigerator rather than sitting in the hallway for someone to trip over.

If your visit is an all-ages family gathering, don’t forget to include the children in activities and mealtime conversation.
It’s easy for the adults to get caught up talking, so make an effort to work everyone into the dialogue when you’re all together around the table. Beware of this overly used conversation starter: going around the table and asking everyone to say something good and bad about the day—ugh. Be creative and encourage happy, engaged conversation. Ask the question and you go first!

Re-plump the pillows.
If you are the last one to bed, fluff up the pillows and straighten up the cushions on the couch or chair you just were sitting on. Push in the dining room chairs and restack the magazines on the coffee table. As a host, it’s a nice feeling to wake up to an orderly home.

Leave a gift for your host
. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate or expensive. A small gift with a handwritten card is a thoughtful way to say “Thank you” and express how much you appreciate their efforts.

Before departure, ask what your host would like you to do with the sheets.
Make the bed? Wash the sheets? At least offer to pull the sheets off the bed and put them in the wash. Leave the bathroom tidy and empty the waste basket; do whatever you need to do to leave the house ready for the next round of summer house guests.


Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.


  1. Mary says

    These are great tips! I haven’t ever ruined anyone’s washcloths but I like the idea of bringing my own just in case. I usually get a few groceries, at least some snacks, since I’m a bit particular about what I eat.
    Sometimes figuring out what to give your hosts as a thank you can be difficult. I try to get something consumable; wine, spices, tickets to an event, pastries… at the end of my last stay I made some banana nut bread while they were out.


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