190319scl Kirsch

Have a big social gathering coming up? If you’re traveling to a friend or family members’ house and want to be a great guest, consider treating your hosts to a meal or offering to help with food prep or cleanup afterward.

After 28 years of marriage, I’ve hosted countless family members and friends for holidays, weekend visits and more. My husband and I have hosted two dozen teenagers at cast party sleepovers (that’s another story in its own right!) and a dozen family members who jockey for bathroom, bedroom and breathing space during long holiday weekends. As South County is a popular visitor destination, you, too, might have guests knocking on your door. These suggestions represent my successes and failures as a houseguest and host!

Guests and hosts should:

• Discuss expectations before the visit. Hosts should clarify up front their willingness/ability to chauffeur guests around Rhode Island, to cook or eat out each night, and how many days the visit will last. Whether guests are arriving for a family wedding, birthday, holiday or “no-reason” visit, agreeing on the basic parameters will make for a less stressful visit. Only after one relative returned home from visiting me did she voice her anger: she expected me to pick her up at Logan Airport in Boston during rush hour; I expected her to catch the Bonanza bus from Logan Airport to Providence, where I would pick her up. Don’t make my mistake!

Advice for guests:

• Bring a hostess gift and/or send something after you’ve returned home. Consumable gifts, such as wine, liquor, specialty foods or candles (unscented) are good, especially if you don’t know the hosts’ decorating tastes or their desire to declutter. And, just as our parents taught us, write a thank-you note after you return home.

• Treat your hosts to a meal at a restaurant of their choice and/or offer to make dinner for everyone. Offer to help with food prep, unloading the dishwasher, etc., but if your hosts decline, don’t insist. Every time I sat down to relax, read or stare into space, one visitor asked me – multiple times a day – “What can I do? Do you have any jobs for me?”   

• Embrace “house expectations.” Are your hosts comfortable giving you a house key and the information for their alarm code? Do they have quiet hours after 11 p.m.? Are cell phones off limits during meals? Remember: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

• Be flexible; if your hosts aren’t up for going to the newest museum exhibit you’re dying to see, take the initiative and go anyway: Uber, Lyft, cab or, if you’ve driven, Google maps will get you there.

•  Don’t expect your hosts to be your own personal concierge or tour guide. If you’ve visited before, you might have some favorite places you’d like to see again, while first-time visitors can research and learn about museums, historical sites, parks, restaurants or theatrical events that look appealing. You might end up introducing your hosts to some South County gem they’d overlooked.

• If you leave your bed unmade and toss your clothes on the nearest chair at your own home, keep your guest room the way you found it. Before you leave, tidy up the rooms you used and ask if you should strip the bed and toss your sheets and towels into the washing machine.

Advice for hosts:

•Whether you have a dedicated guest room or an extra bed in your teenager’s bedroom, you want to know what that space will be like for your guests. So, sacrifice sleeping in your bedroom and spend a night or two in the guest room space. Is the bed comfortable or have the 30-year-old bedsprings sprung? Is there enough overhead and bedside reading lighting; how about closet and/or dresser space for guests’ clothes? Address those deficiencies before guests arrive, if at all possible. Shortly after we moved to a new condo – and before I could test the guest room – I sought the advice of out-of-town friends who came for an overnight visit: What was missing? What did we fail to provide? That can work when your guests will be open and candid.

• Provide an extra blanket and identify the guest bath and face towels. If guests must share a family bathroom in high demand at certain times, let them know when they can expect less competition for the space.

• Taking unused hotel toiletries is not theft! Put those toiletries in a basket with lotion, shaving supplies, an unused toothbrush and toothpaste, tissues, etc., for forgetful or disorganized guests.

• Point out the location of breakfast items – cereal, fruit, bagels, coffee maker and toaster – unless you’re planning on making them breakfast.

• Want to go the extra mile without breaking the bank? Put some bottled water, snacks and reading material in the guest bedroom. As a chocoholic who loves seeing a wrapped chocolate on the pillow of my hotel bed, I do the same for guests. Stock up on your guests’ favorite foods or beverages; it’s an easy way to demonstrate your affection for them.

Guests and hosts should:

• Keep a sense of humor, don’t take anything too seriously, and enjoy!

• Remember these thoughts: “Guests bring good luck with them,” a Turkish proverb, and “Fish and visitors smell in three days,” by Benjamin Franklin. 

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