HINT: A little appreciation and elbow grease goes a long way
Having the chance to stay for free in someone’s home as you travel is a tremendous gift. Homestays and staying with friends, or friends-of-friends are all great options for long-term travelers or travelers on a tight budget. You get the chance to hang out with locals, forge powerful connections with new friends, and get a snapshot into everyday life in a country.
But when someone is kind enough to open their home to travelers. it’s vital that we be good houseguests.
Throughout my travels, I have frequently stayed with locals and it has enriched my life in so many ways. But I’ve also hosted travelers from the states and abroad, and I’ve seen first-hand how easy it is for travelers to take this generosity for granted. I’ve even met hosts who are so burned out as a result of feeling taken advantage of, that they’re considering never hosting again.
That says a lot about how much damage we, as guests in someone’s home, can cause. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Being a good guest in someone else’s home is easy, but it does require a little effort. Here are my top 10 tips for travelers who want to be a good guest in someone’s home.
Top 10 tips for being a great houseguest
1. Be grateful
Say thank you. No, really. Let the words roll off your tongue frequently and generously. Thank your host specifically for every kind thing they do. And if another traveler or guest does something kind, thank them too. To do this requires you to take time to notice the things others do. Are they cooking for you? Buying groceries or toilet paper that you’re using? Are they cleaning up after you? Reciprocate when possible.
2. Clean up after yourself, and more
This is a big one. Your host is not your housekeeper or your personal chef. Being a homeowner requires a lot of time and energy, especially when you have multiple guests cycling through. You can pitch in to help around the house. So, don’t just wash the dishes you use, but others, as well. Pick up the broom and sweep the place. Do laundry for others, and wash your own towels and bedding that your host provides. Clean the restroom. Scrub up, mop, dust, and mow. Leave the home better than you found it. If they’re paying someone to do laundry, pick up the bill. After all, you’re using the laundry, doesn’t it make sense to help out with that expense?
3. Take your host out to dinner or make dinner for them
Think about what you would be paying for lodging. It’s a lot, right? So it makes sense to give some of that back. I’d recommend 10% or more, if you can. (if you can’t, do even more cleaning and pampering of your host.) Take your host out to a nice meal and pick up the whole tab. Or if that’s too much for your budget, buy some groceries and cook for them.
4. Replace everything you use or break
Groceries, hand soap, toiletries and cleaning supplies don’t come cheap. Yet, when someone welcomes you into their home, you are using items they have purchased. It shouldn’t be a burden for people to host travelers. Don’t help yourself to ANYTHING without permission. This includes groceries, alcohol, treats and more. Resist the temptation to help yourself to other traveler’s food and alcohol as well; they’re probably on a budget too and may not have the funds to donate to your travel expenses. Perhaps most importantly, if you break something, replace it with the same item or something similar.
5. Don’t bring uninvited guests to the house
Your host agreed that you could stay, not your friends. Not the guy you met at the pub. Not the tour guide you clicked with. If you meet up with a local and want to have them as an overnight guest, get a room elsewhere. I’ve seen this happen so many times, and it puts the host in a really awkward position. In addition, it puts their personal items and the possessions of others at risk for theft. It’s in poor form. Just don’t do it.
6. Respect your host’s boundaries and needs
Maybe your new host doesn’t drink alcohol. If so, know their boundaries. Maybe they’re okay with you coming home after a night of partying, but maybe they don’t want booze in the house. Perhaps they go to bed early. If so, be mindful of their need for rest, and keep down the noise at night. Maybe they don’t eat meat and would prefer you not cook it in the house. Use that as an opportunity to learn how to cook vegan food. Overall, strive to have a conversation early on about expectations and you’ll ensure it’s a positive experience on both sides.
7. Keep your space clean and neat
I get it. Backpacks tend to explode when opened. But that’s no excuse for being a slob in someone else’s living space. Do your best to keep your space neat and organized. Don’t leave your crap around the house, including dirty laundry, bathroom supplies, personal items and more. Keeping your space, and the rest of the house clean, shows that you have respect for your host.
8. Be curious, rather than set in your ways
By staying with someone, you’ve been given an opportunity to learn about and understand their way of life. So, set your opinions aside and be open to a new experience. Not all people live the same way, have the same house rules, believe in the same religion, subscribe to the same politics or have the same habits. And let’s face it, you can chat with people who believe the things you do when you get back home. While discussion about certain issues may be welcome (take cues from your host), for the most part, remember that this is a great chance for you to listen and observe, instead of impressing your beliefs on others.
9. Bring them a gift
Whether you make or buy it, a thoughtful gift is always appreciated. So bring your host something you know he or she loves, or something you love that you want to share with them. Maybe you can find some products made in your hometown or state, or perhaps you know your host loves a certain food or drink. Bring them something they love, and you show that you appreciate all they have done for you.
10. Pay it forward
The only way homestays can work in the long run is if the kindness is reciprocated. Inevitably, the people generous enough to host you are giving more than you are to the process. So give back. Host others. Volunteer with exchange programs or homestay communities. Donate to the organizations that have enabled you to travel on a budget by staying in the homes of locals. It’s a great way to ensure that the kindness keeps going.
Use these tips to be a great houseguest when you travel
As travelers, we have a responsibility to match, or even exceed, the kindness locals show us when we’re in their cities and their homes. Keep the kindness going by giving back to those who generously open the doors of their homes to you with these top tips for being a great guest while traveling.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning features, food and travel writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications, providing powerful storytelling to her clients.
Posts on the Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World travel blog are never sponsored and have no affiliate links, so you know you will get an honest review, every time.
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.