Bring a thoughtful gift

Ollinka/ShutterstockWhile you should certainly plan to contribute to the groceries and activities, a thoughtful hostess gift is a gesture that starts the visit off right. "It doesn’t have to be elaborate—just something that lets your host know you appreciate their hospitality," says etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, owner of The Protocol School of Texas, based in San Antonio, Texas and author of the new book Modern Etiquette for a Better Life. A set of linen cocktail napkins, a gift basket sent in advance, or a box of special chocolates from your favorite bakery is a nice touch. Here are some more affordable and lovely hostess gift ideas.

Allow your host family their own time and space

Jack Frog/ShutterstockYour host is not responsible for your entertainment the entire time you are visiting. "Make plans, get out on your own, and avoid monopolizing your host’s schedule," Gottsman adds.

Be mobile

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Rent a car so your transportation needs are met. Additionally, if your child needs a car seat, be sure to make arrangements. "Your host shouldn’t have to make calls or locate safety equipment for your toddler. If you don’t plan to bring a car seat, have one sent ahead of time to your destination," Gottsman says.

Clean up after yourself—and your host

VGstockstudio/ShutterstockSpeaking of little ones, children are expected to keep their area clean. "Whether they are staying in a room with one of your host’s children, with you, or their own space, give them some responsibility, depending on their age," continues Gottsman. "Remind your child to place their dishes in the sink, make their bed, put the toilet seat down, and put away the toys or games, etc." Here are more tips on how your children can be respectful.

Pitch in

Soloviova Liudmyla/ShutterstockSmall acts like assisting with dinner, running to the grocery store, setting the table, or throwing a load of laundry in, can ease the chore-load of your host. "If you are staying at someone’s home for a few days, help with daily chores," says Gottsman. She also encourages that teens take the trash to the curb, tidy up common areas, and sweep walkways.

Be mindful and conserve

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Turn off the lights, reuse towels, and keep your shower brief. "Don’t assume your host will want to run a half-full dishwasher," points out Gottsman. "Recycle and follow the host’s request when it comes to stripping the bed when you leave."

Don’t complain about pets

Syda Productions/ShutterstockYour host’s pets are part of their family, so don’t ask them to board their pets or complain about them. "It’s not your place to ask them to restrict their furry companion to a spare room or to put them outside while you are visiting because your son is ‘afraid of cats.’ A host will most likely change their pet habits a bit, but it’s not an option to insist they send them away because you don’t like dogs," Gottsman says.

Leave your pet home

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Arrange for a pet-sitter or board your pet during your absence. "Don’t ask if you can bring your sweet, fluffy animal," says Sharon Schweitzer, founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide in Austin, Texas. "Someone in the host’s home may have pet allergies." Here are all the etiquette rules dog owners must follow.

Leave the home how you found it

VGstockstudio/ShutterstockBefore departing, Schweitzer advises to remove the linens from your bed, clear the bathroom of used towels and place them in the laundry room or on the washer. "Ask your host where the clean sheets and towels are kept so you may make the bed and replace used towels," she says. "Some hosts may decline your offer, instead preferring to do it themselves, but others will be thrilled. Be sure to double-check that you haven’t left any personal items, including mobile phone chargers, so your hostess doesn’t have to mail anything back to you."

Don’t extend your visit

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You may think you are welcome to stay for a few more days, but your host is probably anxious to get the house back in order. "They will likely be expecting more guests; a timely departure is the right thing to do," says Gottsman.

Send a handwritten thank-you note

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Within 24 hours of departure, write your hosts a thank you note expressing your appreciation for their hospitality, says Schweitzer. "Include a small token of your appreciation such as a bookmark if they were especially accommodating, even if you brought a hostess gift."