As many traveling parents know, one of the easiest ways to save money on travel is to cut the costs of room and board. With hotel rooms running at $150 or more per night, and family meals for three or four people equaling nearly that much, many single parents seek out other, cost-effective solutions, such as staying overnight with friends or family.
In addition to getting to visit friends or relatives whom you may not have seen in a while, the benefits of stopping over at another person’s home while en route to your destination are obvious. Few friends will charge you for the use of their guest room or sofa, and even fewer will insist you pay for the home-cooked meals they serve. (Grandma, of course, will even pack your cooler full of sandwiches and cookies on your way out!)
However, if you and your children are not polite, sociable, and good guests, you will find your future requests for overnight stays met with “sorry, we’re too busy right now.” Even the kindest cousin will remember messes and rudeness, and be less willing to open her home the next time around.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to ensure both you and your kids are excellent guests.
Bring a host gift
The host gift, once a standard part of visiting etiquette, is now so rare that it’s a guaranteed way to ensure your hosts will always be delighted to have you visit. Consider something inexpensive but unique, like a box of locally-made candy from your hometown. Present the gift immediately after arrival.
Adjust your lives to fit your hosts’
One of the conundrums of visiting is that hosts will often go out of their way to adjust their lives for their guests, while good guests will often attempt to adjust theirs in return. Make sure that you and your children understand that, while you are visiting Aunt Kathy and her children, you wake up when they do, you eat what they eat for breakfast, etc. Yes, when Kathy asks, it’s okay to say that your youngest prefers apple juice to orange, but your hosts should never feel like they are putting themselves out to accommodate you.
Clean up your messes
If your kids are in Boy or Girl Scouts, they probably know the Leave No Trace rule: this also applies to being guests in someone’s home. Don’t leave toothpaste stains in the sink, offer to clear away your own dishes, start each morning by making your bed, don’t leave your belongings scattered everywhere. (These are also good practices for your children to keep up once you return to your own home.) A good guest makes as little extra work as possible.
Say “yes!” to everything
Your hosts are probably going to go out of their way to entertain you. Say yes to everything, whether it’s a hike around the local park, a visit to the best Italian restaurant in town. When your best friend from college wants to show you all her Facebook pictures of her last trip to Niagara Falls, say yes — and teach your children that when your best friend’s little girl asks them to play Chutes and Ladders, they have to say yes too.
Don’t forget the “Thank you!”
When I took my children on an Amtrak cross-country tour of the US, we spent a night in Chicago with a former high school classmate and her own children. The next morning, while the kids and I were riding the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to New York, I was busy using Amtrak’s Wi-Fi to arrange a flower delivery to show my appreciation. By the time we hit South Bend, our hosts had a lovely bouquet delivered to their door with a personalized thank you message. Cleaning up, being agreeable, and fitting the schedule of a host always brings smiles but additional touches like flowers are what bring return invites 🙂
If you follow these tips, you and your kids will be the best type of guests: the kind that everyone hopes will return someday.