Holiday Travel Tips: How to Be a Perfect Houseguest

Whether staying at a friend's or relative's house, proper house guest etiquette is a must. Use these holiday travel tips to ensure you're the perfect guest!

The holiday season is nearly here, which means many of us will be leaving town to visit family. In fact, about 40 percent of travelers stay with family over the holidays. So after you’ve landed at your destination and picked up your rental car, it’s off to make yourself at home with relatives or friends.

Whether you are eager to get your vacation started or tired from a long trip, keep in mind that your hosts are also making last-minute preparations for your arrival. Here is a list of tips for how to be the best possible holiday houseguest while keeping your house stay stress-free.

Before You Go

  • Consider the best luggage for your space. If your hosts have limited space and you’ve brought a lot of luggage, leave the biggest pieces in the car and bring in smaller suitcases filled with essentials to keep you covered a few days at a time. Then, after a few days, switch out their contents with the clothes you left in the car.
  • Pack in comfort. Bring an extra sweatshirt, slippers, pajamas and a robe in case your hosts keep their home on the cool side. You’ll stay warm without having to quibble over the thermostat.
  • Plan entertainment in advance. The holidays can be hectic, so alleviate additional stress for your hosts by planning your own agenda for your visit. Before your trip, research and help track down activities that you can enjoy together, such as checking out local light displays. Got kids? Make sure to bring entertainment for them, such as toys and board games, as well as a bin or bag to store these items. Doing so will help keep the kiddos both occupied and organized.

While You’re in Town

  • Make a quick stop by the store. Call your hosts when you’re on your way from the airport. Ask if they need anything — a gallon of milk or a dozen eggs for the holiday cookie recipe they volunteered to bake with your kids. While you’re there, pick up some snacks and breakfast items, like granola bars or cereal, which are quick and easy to set out and clean up and won’t burden your hosts with having to cook a hot breakfast every morning.
  • Keep the living room livable. If you’re sleeping in a common area on a sleeper sofa, help your hosts by making up the sleeper sofa when you get up for the day. Work with your hosts to find the perfect, out-of-the way nook to store your suitcase when not in use so no one trips over it in a high-traffic area of the house.
  • Cook and clean in the kitchen. You probably already take your dishes to the sink and help clean up in the kitchen after dinner, but don’t forget that some dishes need special care. If your hosts served Thanksgiving dinner on their fancy china, ask them for the best way to clean the dishes. During your stay, offer to take meal prep off your hosts’ plate for a day and make a simple crockpot dish. Cooking something simple means you’ll use fewer dishes and you won’t take over the kitchen — often the most popular room in the house — for too long.
  • Enlist help from the kiddos. Whether it’s taking the hosts’ dog for a walk, creating individualized place cards for everyone at the Thanksgiving Day dinner table, or even just setting the table, let your kids share in the spirit of giving, too.
  • Give your hosts a mini break. If you have other people to visit while you’re staying with your hosts, share your family’s schedule so your hosts know when you’re busy, and ask about their schedule, as well. Perhaps they’ve got a standing date with friends on Sundays or they’d love to go hit a few golf balls. Volunteer to take all the kids to a movie to get out of their hair for a bit.

When It’s Time to Head Home

  • Leave memories, not a mess. Just as you tidy up your sleep area each day, do so when you leave. It’s also a good practice to gather up all the linens and towels you’ve been using for your hosts so they can be washed.
  • Give them a souvenir of sorts. Though your hosts didn’t travel for the holidays, they were a part of your journey. Show your gratitude with a thank-you card, a bottle of wine, a gift card from their favorite store or have your favorite photo from

About the Author

Rebecca Strauss is a freelance writer, focusing mainly on travel. She writes and edits primarily for Scuba Diver Life, and has written for Rough Guides, fodors.com, Caribbean Travel and Life and USA Today. She’s visited more than 50 countries and is always planning her next trip.