How to be a good holiday guest

Party guests help the host cook in the kitchen.

Are you headed out to visit some friends and family for the holidays? Whether it’s for one night of merriment or a weekend of family togetherness, be sure to review the book on how to be a good guest.

It’s not a huge book but paying attention to the details will go a long way toward making things easier for your hosts and ensuring another invite.

Plus, you can set an example for others who may be guests in your home next year.

Arriving a little late is right on time

A strange-but-true rule: Show up after the invite start time, because the definition of arriving “on time” means arriving 15-to-30 minutes late. Go figure.

If you do arrive at the beginning, either offer to help or stay out of your hosts’ way as they put the finishing touches on the house, food or themselves.

A tray holds Artistry Studio Bath Fizzy, an Artistry Signature Select Mask and Artistry moisturizing cream. There's also a white mug, a candle and a succulent plant.

Bring a gift

Whether you’re attending a party or staying for a few days, make sure to bring a gift for your host. Choose your gift based on the length of your stay and how well you know them, but it’s hard to go wrong with consumables like nice wine, delectable treats or a candle with a subtle scent.

Looking for a larger gesture? Try gift certificates for restaurants, massages or other self-care experiences. For the long-term guests, consider treating them to a nice meal for all of you, whether at a restaurant or in their home with you as the chef.

Help your host

If you have any diet restrictions, let your hosts know well in advance and maybe offer to bring a dish to pass that works for you.

On your way, text to see if you can stop at the store for ice or other last minute needs on the way there.

If you see an empty chip bowl, fill it. Or offer to help get people drinks or other refreshments as they arrive. Clean up throughout the event and especially if you’re one of the last people there.

Your host will love not having a huge chore at the end of the night or greeting them in the morning.

A woman laughs and claps her hand at something while sitting at a dinner table with friends.

Small talk: Prepare for it

Between serving food and drinks and greeting guests as they arrive, your hosts have a lot on their plate. They can’t spend all their time with you, even if you don’t know many other people.

Make the effort to interact with other guests, especially those who may look like they don’t know anyone either. Mingling is what parties are about, right?

However, it’s probably best to leave certain subjects alone, including politics, how others should be raising their children and other topics that could be considered taboo. Shouting matches are not good manners.

Phone etiquette

Keep your phone in your pocket. Scrolling through texts or social media amid a festive crowd sends the message that you would rather not be there.

Some exceptions:

  • If you volunteered to be the party photographer, snap away and make sure you share them with the hosts.
  • Checking in on kids or others who might need you while you’re there.
  • Occasionally checking the score of the big game. Chances are others at the party are also wondering if the home team can pull it off and it will add to the camaraderie.

A child kneeling on a bed throws multiple stuffed animals in the air.

Your darling children

The key word there is “your.” Children may have been invited, but unless they specifically hired a babysitter for all party guests, they are still your responsibility.

Keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t break a precious heirloom or lick a serving spoon on the buffet table.

The easy and obvious

Don’t put your feet on the furniture. Use coasters. Take your shoes off at the door. Don’t over-indulge on food and drink. Don’t bring an extra person without clearing it ahead of time.

For those spending a few days, find little ways to help while you’re there. Keep your belongings contained so they don’t intrude on your hosts. If you’re using a sleeper sofa, put it all way in the morning. Bring your own shampoo, toothpaste and toiletries.

And try to respect their routines, like what time they eat, get up, go to bed or their TV habits. Don’t make them sit through “Wheel of Fortune” when they always watch “The Big Bang Theory.”

Saying goodbye

When a party’s over, don’t ghost. Give your host a hug and thank them. When a longer visit is over, take the sheets off the bed, gather up your dirty towels and get them to the laundry.

And for those overnight guests, make sure to leave when you say you’re going to leave. You probably know the feeling of “I’ll be so glad when they’re gone.”

It’s not because your hosts don’t love you. It’s because having guests underfoot takes work and can be stressful. They want to hang around their house in their jammies to recover.

Hands holding a handmade thank you card.

Write a thank you note

Whether you leave one in the room you stayed or write one when you get home, your hosts will always appreciate a thank you note.

Try to mention something specific from the party or your visit that you especially appreciated and offer to host next year if you are able.

And when it is your turn, your guests will likely remember what a delight you were and return the favor.

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