Ten Rules for Being a Good Host

Posted on
Feb 16, 2010

I figured I couldn’t take the piss out of my brother yesterday without taking a few moments to talk about what it means to be a gracious host. Because yes, opening up your home to someone is a wonderful and generous thing to do, but if you leave them so emotionally scarred that the cost of future therapy sessions will far outweigh what they would have spent on a hotel, it’s not at all worth it.

Here are my ten rules for making sure that your guests have a lovely vacation (and if it isn’t lovely, these rules will make sure they can’t blame you):

  1. Give them clean sheets. Not everyone has a spare bed (or spare bedroom). But even if someone has to sleep on the couch, a nice pristine sheet can make all the difference. Our host’s once graciously gave up their own bed for us, but after we climbed in, we realized the sheets had not been changed. I spent 2 hours the next day trying to wash someone else’s B.O. out of my hair. (Shudder).
  2. Clean up communal areas. While no one expects your house to be spotless (it’s where you live, after all), take some care in cleaning up a bit before your guests arrive. Remove embarassing ointments and fungal creams from the dining room table. Secure whips and chains in the hall closet. Kindly ask your husband to put on pants. You know, that sort of thing.
  3. Watch out for your guests. Travel is kind of a hectic thing. So when you’re in a strange city, it’s always nice to have someone looking out for you. I’ll never forget the time we stayed with our friends Todd and Lauren, and, since their dryer was broken, I had hung my clean underwear from the curtain rod to dry.

    One night, they had some friends come over, and were giving them a tour of their place.

    Lauren grabbed me and said, “Hey, just so you know, your underwear is still out drying, in case you want to move it.”

    And then, she looked at me earnestly and said, “But you don’t have to. I don’t care if you don’t.”

    I will always love her for that.
  4. Play tour guide. That doesn’t mean that you have to escort them on every outing they take, or provide them with an annotated tour of every inch of your city (in fact, that would probably be very, very lame). But free up some time to show your guests around (at least a little), help them get oriented, and tell them what they absolutely can and can’t miss.

    Dad and Margit took us to a few German villages. Clearly, Dad had an AWESOME time. Hence the ear-to-ear grin on his face. /sarcasm

    Dad and Margit took us to a few German villages, which were all quite lovely. Clearly, Dad had an AWESOME time. Hence the ear-to-ear grin on his face. </sarcasm>

  5. Feed them. Again, you don’t have to have a four-course meal waiting for them each night after they’re done traveling, nor do you have to take them out to the 2-star Michelin restaurant across town. But do make sure that your fridge isn’t barren: some snacks, treats, breakfast items, and something to snack on in event of a hangover would all be appreciated.

    If you do choose to take them out, it doesnt have to be expensive. Just memorable.

    If you do choose to take them out, it doesn't have to be expensive. Just memorable.

  6. Let them in on your schedule. There’s nothing worse than waking up in a friend’s home to find it empty and dead-quiet, and realizing you don’t know if everyone was suddenly raptured, had to leave town under duress, is sleeping in, or is already at work. Let your guests know your schedule so they won’t worry – and make sure they realize it’s your schedule, and not something they have to adhere to.
  7. Get them back to the airport. Even if you can’t give them a ride, help them find bus routes, a shuttle, or offer to call a cab on their behalf. Don’t forget to advise them on traffic situations to and from your local airport (e.g., “You’ll need to be there during rush-hour. In Seattle, that means leaving 4 hours early.”)
  8. Give them alone time. Don’t hover over your friends every waking moment. They’re adults – they know how to take care of themselves. Suss out how much time they want to spend with you (and how much alone time they need) and try to provide them with it. It is their vacation, after all.
  9. Don’t ignore them. While being your friends substitute shadow isn’t pleasant, being completely AWOL ain’t that great, either. Don’t disappear without letting your friends know where you’re going. Even if you aren’t a morning person (or an evening person) be sure to say “Good morning” and “Good night”. And try to be cheerful – your guests are on vacation, and if you’re grumpy or brush them off, it could ruin their entire trip.
  10. Offer them a spare. Whether it’s a pair of house keys, a car you aren’t using, or even just an umbrella, offer your guest a spare whenever you can. Not only will they appreciate it, but it will make things easier on you, too – they’ll have more freedom, and you won’t have to worry about them as much.

    I really, REALLY should have thought to lend Giselle my spare hiking boots. Sorry, babe. Next time, I promise.

    I really, REALLY should have thought to lend Giselle my spare hiking boots. Sorry, babe. Next time, I promise.

Of course, there are some things no one can control. Until my weather control machine is complete (right now we’re looking a launch date of May, 2011), there’s still nothing you can do about rain or foul weather. But if you try your damnest to be pleasant, and your guest is open to it (and hell, they should be) then odds are you can both end up having a great time.

That last line is also a good rule for sex. But that’s another post.

Leave a Comment

  • Having read these last two posts, I now want to come stay with you, or have you come stay with us. Either way, you seem like remarkably good company. Just don’t make me go through airport security with you.

    • Goldie

      I recently visited a niece in San Diego. It was a one-day air round trip from Sacramento. It was a reunion of sorts. I sent $100 ahead to help absorb expenses since she is a married housewife with 3 small children. I rented a car and drove from the airport to her home knowing they have only one car and little children. I arrived on time. She let me know they don’t wear shoes in the house, so I politely removed my shoes only to feel how sandy her tile and floors were. I wasn’t offered anything to drink. I waited several hours. I had planned to cook with her teaching some great recipes that meets the needs of a family. Unfortunately, dirty dishes were piled four feet high. I arrived at 9 am and I pulled out a breakfast casserole that only needed baked. It was baked and she served her kids. Nothing for me and still nothing to drink… I was there to serve her and the family. By now, I am horrified and trying to make the best of it. Well, noon rolled around. She opened a jar of PREGO, boiled, noodles and offered me her spaghetti. I had to stand barefoot in the kitchen to eat, still nothing to drink… She had only four chairs around the only table so her kids and one cousin occupied them. Adults standing and eating… You’re reading correctly.

      I hung in there, but was relieved when it was time to leave… She never showed me the bathroom. There came a time I needed it, so I found on my own. It was not properly supplied or clean of course. When I came to town next time, of course I was short on time unable to visit. I went to visit her mother and planned to talk with her about this problem since I tried to raise it with niece twice and she didn’t “get it”. What do you think my niece did when she found out I wouldn’t have time to see her? Yes! She invited herself and her unruly children to her mom’s where I planned to visit. Don’t worry, she told us to plan for her around 3 pm then changed the schedule to 1 pm. Of course, you know she arrived at 4 pm. If I were smart, I would have skipped the trip or left at 1.30 pm after she was good and late.

      One last point, she came to see me at her mom’s so she could ask for money. I have given her $3,000 this year but she could use a little more!!!! I spoke with her mom only when two attempts yielded no return. Do you think she will inherit that $3 million from me? Ha!

  • Excellent advice. Sad that there are SO many people out there who need to read this, but they do.

    I’m REALLY looking forward to your weather control machine launching. Will you be taking weather requests?

  • Aww – thanks, Philip. But since you live less than a mile away, that might be weird.

    Trisha – I’m working on it. Stat. 🙂

  • Lauren

    Awww! You’re the best Geraldine! We loved having you and Rand in San Francisco and are hoping you come back to visit soon. The dryer works this time, I swear!

  • Goldie

    There is a high price for rudeness…

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