How To Be A Great Houseguest

Hi Annabel,

I’m working on an article about being a good houseguest, and I’d love your expert opinion on when someone has clearly overstayed their welcome. What, in your opinion, is the optimal amount of time you can stay at someone’s home as a guest? I’d say no more than four nights if they don’t have a dedicated guestroom for you, and no more than a week if they do. Any longer than that and they’d better be very close family.

What do you think? I’ll humbly defer to your opinion!

Best, G

Hi G,

Thanks for the note!

There’s an old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin that states, “House guests are like fish. Both begin to stink after three days.”

I think the most important distinguishing factor here is not whether there’s a dedicated guestroom, but rather how close the relationship is between house guest and host.

For example, if you were to have a brand new baby, your mother or sister might unpack and stay on your fold-out sofa for two weeks. But when you visit a college friend and her family at their summer home, three days is plenty.

Having company takes a lot out of a hostess, even if she’s willingly volunteered for the job. Ideally, you want to depart with your hosts wishing you’d stayed just one more day (as opposed to bolting the door behind you, high-fiving each other and breathing a giant sigh of relief).

Other habits of gold-star guests:

1. Clearly communicate your schedule and adhere to it, i.e. “I’ll be arriving at 6 p.m. on Thursday and heading back to the city early Sunday afternoon.”

2. Bring a thoughtful hostess gift. It can be anything from a coffee table book to a fabulous bottle of wine. (Or better yet, the monogrammed Kate Carlyle ice bucket pictured here!)

3. Be game for whatever your hosts have planned. This isn’t the time to say, “I’m not really a museum kind of person…” or “I was really hoping we’d go to that darling little restaurant down by the beach.”

4. Speaking of restaurants, it’s always nice to pick up a check for lunch or dinner.

5. Write a lovely thank-you note just as soon as you get home.

Good luck with your piece!

Graciously yours,


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