“Come and stay next time you are in our part of the world!” – it’s an offer we have nearly all made and have had extended to us at some point.
If you are about to head off overseas and are thinking of cashing in that offer from your oldest dearest friend, pen pal, long lost relative or internet pal, please take a moment and answer the following questions.
Have you checked that the offer was genuine?
This is a tough one – faced with the prospect of people coming to stay, potential hosts often feel a little boxed in. On one hand, it can be a blast – long hours to catch up, plenty of opportunities to linger and foster friendship. On the other, it can interrupt routine, work, family and their budget.
If you know someone well enough to stay in their home, you should know them well enough to ask for an honest answer. Everyone has time pressures that can clash with a social event, so make sure your hosts aren’t in the middle of their busiest time of the year, or a family crisis, or recovering from an illness before you land on their doorstep.
We’ve all seen those farcical scenarios in movies where people come to stay and disrupt everything – some of us have felt we lived through them with guests too! Be a considerate guest.
Set some guidelines
How long were you thinking of staying? Make sure your hosts know exactly. There is a wonderful saying that suggests ‘fish and friends go off after three days.’ If you are planning on staying longer than that, you may need to set some ground rules and offer to make a financial contribution.
If you’d like to just use their home as a base, explain what that means; ‘we’ll be in Australia for three weeks, but have x planned for the first week, then we’d like to stay for the night of the 13 & 14th and then could we leave our large luggage with you while we do a bus tour and then we’ll have one more night with you before we fly out…’ Information is power for all concerned.
Respect the house rules
If you walk into an immaculate home, keep it that way. If your hosts stay up and sleep late, don’t crash around in the kitchen at the crack of dawn. Help out; not only with things like the dishes – make dinner if your hosts are out at work all day – notice things they may be missing that could be useful, and buy them as a thank you and always leave your space in the same condition or better than you found it.
Live the household routine. If there are small children in the house, the routine will be different than if it is all adults. If there is an older relative there, you may need to include them too.
Read the signs
Communal living on holiday can be so much fun. If only half the party is on holiday, remember that too many late nights can be hard. Read your host’s mood and do your best to be a low-impact guest.
Staying with people rather than paying for accommodation can save you a packet! That is worth more than a ‘cheers,’ on your way out the door! Make your thank you equivalent to what you have received – if you’ve stayed for a weekend, bringing food and leaving a beautiful bottle of wine and flowers should be fine. For a longer stay, you may like to stretch to a lovely dinner out for your hosts, a massage voucher, an adventure or something lovely for their home or garden.
If you are using someone’s holiday home, boat of camper van – it is polite to leave money for petrol, power or incidentals. Most people will protest if you offer them cash – leave it in the form of vouchers or somewhere they can find it rather than just handing it over.