Travel Frugally As A Gracious Houseguest

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-09-1127

One of the cheapest ways to vacation is to be a houseguest.

We get a lot of visitors to our home throughout the year on a regular basis. And we’re always happy to host guests, especially those friends of ours whom we haven’t seen in ages. In return, we get free lodging whenever we visit friends wherever they reside, many of whom are conveniently located by kids’ amusement parks. It’s nice when someone is able to welcome you into their homes when you’re traveling: it saves quite a good chunk of change, as even budget motels these days can cost between $30 to $100 a night.

But the role of a hospitable host is not for everyone, given that I know a few who really *dislike* having to put up guests, even though it means having to offer space, company, room and board for less affluent relations who would so appreciate the opportunity to visit.

I never quite understood this lack of generosity, but after hearing a few personal stories from friends, I realized why not everyone wants to open their doors and oblige. Unfortunately, not everyone is cut out to be a warm and welcoming host just as it is the case that not everyone is cut out to be a pleasant and gracious houseguest.

Houseguest Visits Gone Wrong

It started as just a couple of weeks until “Carl” could find a place of his own. Sure, no problem, “Carl” could stay with us until he saved up first, last and deposit. While we were on vacation, “Carl” could even have the place to himself as long as he watered the plants and fed the pets. Well, the only thing “Carl” watered while we were in Hawaii was himself — with every drop of alcohol in the house, even the bottles in storage. Although the plants were dead, at least the pets were still alive.

Our friend flew in from Australia for a solo, one-month trip, so we were surprised when he got off the plane with his new girlfriend, whom we did not know. They broke up within five days, barely spoke to each other, and occupied two bedrooms in our home for the next SIX MONTHS! Then he married someone else, and she stayed at our house alone for ONE MORE month! She probably would have stayed forever if her visa hadn’t expired.

houseguests, visitors in plane

Realistically though, it may actually be in everyone’s best interest to have certain visiting guests in professionally maintained accommodations elsewhere. In fact, you may even go as far as arranging to pay for your guests’ room and board elsewhere (especially if your visitors are close relations) just to keep the peace and escape the “adventure” of staying under the same roof with them.

In order not to get to that point, hosts and houseguests can get along in a more symbiotic fashion by following a few house rules. It’s all about expectations — how a host expects his houseguests to behave and how a houseguest expects to be treated in someone else’s home. Here are some tips to ponder on this topic:

Have A Pleasant Visit By Following A Few House Rules

#1 Visit with people you like.
Sounds easy enough, until those family reunions come around and bite us in the rear. For some families, such visits can be tricky. If you’d like to make it a go no matter where you go, then shelling out the bucks for a peaceful stay at a hotel is definitely a good investment.

#2 Be courteous and share your schedules.
Hosts and guests would be well-served if they maintained open lines of communication and kept abreast of each other’s plans.

#3 Take time out from others in the home.
Don’t feel obliged to spend every single moment with your guests or hosts as the case may be. That way, you have time to restore your energies, de-stress and just enjoy your moments in privacy and solace.

#4 Offer a gift to the host.
Any host would appreciate a nice token of gratitude. Here are some great ideas for saying “thank you” to your host.

#5 Honor the host with a dinner or other show of appreciation.
This is another way to extend courtesy towards the host.

#6 Leave the host a thank you note.
If you’re not treating the host to a bash or a simple gift, a note may suffice.

#7 Discuss any need for extra accommodations (such as for children or pets).
If your host is a pet lover, then by all means discuss the possibility of bringing over your pets on your visit. Generally though, it’s probably not a good idea to take pets to someone else’s home. [But that budget motel will be happy to accommodate your 4-legged (or other) friends!] Discuss in advance if any children will be coming along in order to properly prepare for their stay.

#8 Be prepared in advance as a host.
By doing all you can to get ready for the visit, you can avoid having to spend money unnecessarily. These tips by The Simple Dollar and My Two Dollars can help you cut down costs as a host.

#9 Tit-for-tat: trade roles on a later date.
If you’re a houseguest who can afford this, you can think about offering your place up for visits from your hosts in the future. If this is not possible, then even some time as a “day host” for future visitors is a nice gesture. Are you open to temporarily swapping houses with other people? With the existence of home swapping services, I would think that this is a feasible idea for vacationers.

It’s wonderful to be invited into someone else’s home and have the chance to cut costs during a visit, but it takes a little more to keep the reality of the experience just as wonderful as it sounds.

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Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

David September 11, 2007 at 8:43 am

“The Uninvited Extra” sounds really scary. Glad I didn’t have to go through that. I’m sure most people will leave my house after visiting for just a day =).

David2 September 11, 2007 at 9:43 am

Thanks for the mention! 🙂

Brian September 11, 2007 at 12:16 pm

Excellent recommendations.

I cringe every time my in-laws (and their collegiate children) visit, because they bring with them 4 dogs and a cat to add to the disorder. I usually mention up front that the animals will be restricted to a certain area of the house and they must be taken out at regular intervals.

It is also customary at any get-together (whether at my home or another family member’s) that the visiting family buy at least one meal for the host. In the end, this is much cheaper than a hotel room and allows for more family-time.

Brip Blap September 11, 2007 at 7:26 pm

I think I must be one of the luckiest people in the world because I genuinely love having my in-laws and my own parents visit. We have a great time, everyone is good about keeping to themselves when it’s time to do so, and everyone’s on strangely different bathroom schedules.

#3 is critical. Too often people feel like they are being rude if they go off to a different room and watch TV or go for a walk or go out. It’s actually critical to a pleasant stay!

Silicon Valley Blogger September 11, 2007 at 11:52 pm

Family dynamics are all so different, it’s interesting how we all respond to vacationing houseguests who request us ever so politely if they can stay over.

In our case, it has always been a great pleasure for us to have people stay. We’ve never had any experiences as those that were written up at the San Jose Mercury News. I cannot imagine how it is to be faced with such interesting houseguests. For us, it’s all a great give-and-take because we are all able to enjoy company as well as cut down on vacation costs whenever we do the traveling ourselves.

Annie September 12, 2007 at 2:36 am

Love this post! We had an “unexpected extra”. Our lodger and friend moved in for six weeks to househunt in this country. After a couple of weeks, her boyfriend moved in too. And they both stayed for a YEAR.

Boy, were we ever glad when they left!

It made us vow never to have lodgers again…

Alex B September 15, 2007 at 12:31 am

I highly recommend staying with old-friends when travelling!

I’ve gone on a couple trips to Washington DC where I stayed with some old college friends. It was great! I would commute into town with Steve, and I’d sight-see while he worked, then we’d meet up and drive/metro home together. Then I’d go on a run with him and his wife through the wooded suburbs. Then we’d have either a home cooked meal or go out to a restaurant that they knew was good.

I initially felt awkward about imposing, but it was by far the best approach for me (and cheapest) — and my friends seemed to really appreciate that I was making the effort to re-connect with them.


Silicon Valley Blogger September 22, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Glad you guys are able to share your houseguest and travel stories, both good and bad.

My goodness, who ends up staying in someone’s home for a YEAR? How did you work it out? I hope you were able to receive even some rent from this arrangement.

I have to say thanks for inviting us over to your cabin so many times in the past. That would definitely turn out to be an ultra-affordable fun vacation. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the pleasure to take you up on your offer yet, but with time, I’m sure we’ll get that chance.

Pinyo November 2, 2007 at 12:45 pm

My family is similar to yours in a sense that we have guest almost all year round. In fact, my dad’s friend who stay for a month is about to leave today.

We even converted our dining room into a den/office/guest bedroom because our son will now occupy the only guest room left.

Generally, I enjoy my guests and never have any problem…well, except once.

Family Vacations April 4, 2008 at 8:51 pm

Great tips for saving on your trip. Imagine how much more you can do with the savings from not staying in a hotel. The first rule made me laugh!

Vacation Rentals for Rent By Owner June 12, 2008 at 1:05 pm

I’ve only done this a few times and not only was it cheap and didn’t cost me anything but I also felt out of place. Sometimes I wished I hadn’t of done it sense I felt like I was a burden and completly out of place. I think it depends on who you are personally.

Jeremy G. June 22, 2008 at 5:15 am

I am currently printing this and posting it on my front door! I’ve lived in Hawaii for exactly one year and have had EIGHT house guests so far. Most have been my best friends, so no love lost there, but everyone should seriously memorize your list before staying at someones place, no matter what the circumstances. Thanks for the good post!

Kiwi Accommodation June 22, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Really good advice to save on travel costs on your next holiday. Another method gaining some popularity is house swapping.

Donnell June 27, 2008 at 12:27 am

Setup a trade-a-stay website exactly for this purpose, this could be gold! 🙂

Rahul June 27, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Great tips for saving on your trip

Vacation loan July 12, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Excellent idea… but unfortunately, when I want to get away, I want to really getaway and being a houseguest just doesn’t fit the bill. Definitely some great tips though. Thanks!

Robert June 25, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I’ve just come back with my family from a dream holiday in Orlando, Florida. I think the most important factor of good, relaxing holidays is planning. We’ve planned our journey very carefully; we hired a car to travel around which I think was the best decision we made. My favorite place was Disney and the kids loved it. I really recommend Florida as a place to visit and make sure you plan it well!

Terri July 24, 2010 at 5:57 pm

We are lucky to have two acre property and if anyone wants to stay they can just bring their tent, pop up or travel trailer and hook up to our electric. That way they have their own space for their privacy. We have a fire pit and do enjoy the company. I had a visitor in my house one time but he didn’t want to leave. We finally had to send him to the neighbors!

Linda April 26, 2012 at 7:25 am

We live in a tourist area on the east coast of Florida and have had a lot of company over the past six or seven years. Our experiences have run the gamut from amazingly fun to horrible. After Katrina and Wilma there was literally no where to stay, so we had four relatives/friends stay for six weeks with us. It was fabulous. They were wonderful house guests and great company. We hated to see them go. We’ve had friends stay that were horrible mooches. Others were relatives with terribly misbehaved children and parents that were even more rude than the kids. One couple, after I had prepared a steak and lobster dinner as we were sitting down to eat declared that he couldn’t eat his steak and that it HAD to be re-cooked! On another visit, relatives left our guest bedroom and bath in such a mess — Juice and coffee spills on the bathroom sink, cereal and sand left in an unmade bed and wet towels on the floor. I was embarrassed for them. Needless to say, both of these families will receive hotel reservations on their next visits.

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