Thanksgiving and Christmas are only weeks away and I'm sure many of you will be traveling to visit family and friends. When we are with our loved-ones we often get comfortable (or not) and sometimes may abuse our host's kindness. To avoid that pitfall, I wanted to share with you my 8 tips for how to be a good house guest. Over the years, I've stayed at a lot of friends' and family members' homes while traveling. My parents did a good job of instilling some of the neat and tidy qualities that make me a good house guest (and to always send a thank you note whenever I receive something), but some of the other tips I've learned just by experience. When we moved to Phoenix in August, one of my friends offered for us to stay at her home while they were in Europe. We were at her house for almost two weeks while we searched for a house to rent. It worked out perfectly. We basically house sat for them while they were away and they graciously allowed us the time we needed to find our new home. Even though my hosts were out of the country, I took the time to keep the house clean, followed the house rules, updated my host about her home while she was away, and left them a thank you gift. We all need a little reminder sometimes, so I thought I would share my 8 tips for how to be a good house guest this holiday season: 1. Define Your Timeline Be very clear with your host when you are arriving and when you are leaving. Define a clear timeline for your stay and let your host know if you are bringing anyone with you. This ensures there are no surprises. Make sure you leave when you say you are leaving. If you need to extend your stay, be up-front with your host and offer to find other accommodations. If your extended stay will negatively affect your host in any way (or you can tell they're sick of you), get a hotel. If you are bringing a pet, make sure the host knows. If your host doesn’t like pets, find another option. Keep the pet in a kennel outside, in the garage, or see if there is a local ‘pet hotel’ that can host your animal while you are away. 2. Be Sparse and Tidy Keep your things in one area and keep them tidy and organized. If you have a designated guest room, just make sure your things are kept neat. When I have stayed at friends’ places with smaller spaces (like my friend’s studio in NYC), I re-packed my suitcase every night so my items were contained. Besides keeping your things in one area, also clean up after yourself. If you are using the bathroom, hang up your towel. If you are using the kitchen, clean your dishes and put them away. 3. Help Out If you are house-sitting, you can ask your host or hostess if there are things you can do to help while they are gone. If your host/hostess is home during your stay, you might offer to make dinner one night, help clean up after dinner, or watch their kids so they can go out. Be thoughtful and considerate and try to find little ways throughout your stay to help. 4. Follow the House Rules When you first arrive, pay attention to the household behavior. You may see that people don’t wear shoes in the house, so follow suit. In our recent stay, our hostess left detailed notes about various house rules, like when to turn up the AC to avoid high-energy costs at peak times. We respectfully followed rules, as any houseguest should. If your host doesn’t give you details, you might ask about any special rules you need to follow. 5. Bring Your Own Generally, you can expect your host to provide a place to sleep and bathe. Your host will most likely provide sheets and towels, but you shouldn’t expect anything more. You should always bring your own toiletries, and should either buy or offer to pay for groceries. Your host may offer these things to you, but be prepared to provide them yourself and be gracious if they do offer these extras. If you end up eating your host’s food for several days, you should give your host some cash or offer to go grocery shopping to replenish their supply. 6. Entertain Yourself Don’t expect your host to have a daily itinerary for each day of your stay. Pre-plan the things you want to do on your trip and figure out your own transportation to meet your travel needs. If you host wants to be involved in your sight seeing, that’s great, but don’t expect them to cart you around, either. When I stay with friends, I try to communicate with them a few days before we arrive to get a feeling of their general availability while we are in town. That way, there are no surprises and I have a good picture of when I will spend time with them and when I’m going to be on my own. 7. Clean Up I mentioned staying neat and tidy already, but this point of cleaning up has more to do with if you are house-sitting. Not only should you make sure to clean up after yourself, if you are house-sitting, you should try to leave the house just as clean (or cleaner) than how you found it. During our recent stay at a friend’s house for more than a week, before we left, I stripped the beds and washed the sheets and towels. I also cleaned the kitchen and bathroom counters, rearranged the dining room chairs and cleaned up the playroom my son had frequented. I doubt your host is going to expect a maid-style service, but do your best to clean up and respect their space. 8. Be Thankful You can never say thank you too many times. If you are staying with your host, you might actually arrive with a gift and then follow up with a thank you note after you leave. If you are house-sitting, I would suggest leaving a present for your hosts to find. It’s not the dollar amount, but the thoughtfulness that is important. Perhaps you take your host out for her favorite dinner, or get her a really nice bottle of wine. Think about your hosts and choose something that you know they will really like. I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season. If you're traveling to see relatives or friends, I hope my 8 tips for how to be a good house guest will come in handy.