Q. Karen, most of us know how to be good hosts when someone is staying at our home, but could you remind people of how to be good house guests? It seems as if family members, in particular, don't always respect the way the hosts do things.
A. Having house guests can be a fun and wonderful experience. However, there are those guests who try the hosts' patience and leave them feeling as if they never want them to come back. And if those guests happen to be family, a return visit is likely and something the host will not look forward to.
So, if you happen to be a guest, even a family guest, here are some guidelines that will help you be a considerate guest:
*Arrive on the appointed date. Don't arrive earlier or stay later than the dates agreed upon. And don't bring any extra people with you.
*Bring a small hostess gift. A gift of food, wine or something that can be used during your stay or be saved after you have gone is considerate. If your stay is lengthy, offer to take your hosts out to dinner at some point during your visit.
*Be prepared to leave your pets at home. Asking to bring pets can cause a lot of confusion and extra stress for the host. If they do insist and say it's okay, then feel free.
*Don't expect to be waited on. Your hosts are not your servants and you should be prepared to help out by making your bed daily, keeping your clothes and personal items together and out of the way and leaving the bathroom picked up.
*Do offer to help in the kitchen with food prep and cleaning up. Your host may decline your offer, but your willingness to help will not go unnoticed.
*Ask about the schedule of events during your stay. If there are outings or sporting events planned be sure to be prepared with the expected attire so you will be appropriately dressed.
*Allow for some down time. Don't expect to be entertained every minute of every day by your host. Finding time to do some things on your own can be a welcome respite for your host.
*Follow the house rules. If the host retires at a certain time, consider retreating to your room instead of staying up all night watching TV And don't expect to sleep until noon when the rest of the house is up and ready to go for the day.
*Bring a robe. You may have to share a bathroom that is down the hall and if acceptable, you may want to wear one at breakfast.
*Don't make unreasonable dietary demands. If you have special dietary needs, be prepared to bring some of your own food or pick another time to visit.
*Be prepared to strip your bed and gather dirty towels the day you leave. Some hosts may not want you to bother, but offering is appreciated.
*Do send a thank you note.