Recently we've spent time visiting both a member of our family in lovely Edinburgh and some very close friends in grey old London as part of our wider worldwide journey.
On this journey we've rested our heads in all kinds of places; Airbnbs, guest houses, hostels, hotels and even campgrounds, but staying with friends is just that much more comfortable. If you're really lucky, like us, you get a cup of tea on arrival, great catchup chats, solid recommendations for places to go and things to do and maybe even a meal thrown in.
For all those lovely benefits, there are a few unwritten rules which we've been working on when it comes to staying at someone's house.
We could write a list about as long as I am tall (that's about five feet if we're yet to meet) with all the nuanced rules about being in someone else's space, but here are the five that have made all the difference for us:
Make the bed every day until your last.
Making your bed has a bunch of benefits, from helping you feel like you've achieved something for the day to keeping the room looking clean and tidy. I implore you to make your bed every day of your stay until your last for two reasons. Firstly, no one wants to deal with stripping a bed they didn't even get to enjoy sleeping in, and secondly, no matter how clean a person you are, there is something gross about having to touch someone else's used sheets (Much respect to all the housekeepers and mothers out there!). So, on your last day, strip the bed and put all the sheets into a small pile. If you're extra good, pack everything into a single pillowcase and leave it at the end of your bed.
Get your hands dirty.
Your objective should be to make it seem like you're not even there. Get in the kitchen and make yourself a cuppa if you're thirsty, make a meal for everyone if that's helpful to your host, do your own dishes and tidy up after yourself. No-one wants to be faced with a mountain of dishes that they didn't create (again, mothers, I feel for you!).
Offer help, then do it.
Notice your host is out of milk? Pop out and get some! See the laundry needs hanging up? Get hanging! Don't just make those familiar sounds "Do you need a hand with anything?" if you see a hand is needed, then make sure you give it.
Let your host get on with their life.
Get out there and entertain yourself. You might be on holiday, but your host might not be. They may still need to go to work, they still need to go to the supermarket, they still need to go to bed at a reasonable hour and maybe not down a bottle of wine every evening. Get your sightseeing out of the way, catch up with other friends and family if you can, make the most of your holiday budget and generally get out of the house and let your hosts have a rest! Then you can catch up on one another's day when you're back in the same space again.
Whatever you do, don't use the bathroom at peak time.
People have their own schedules, and bathroom ones are often especially close to one's heart. If your host is still heading to work while you're there, make sure you stay out of the way until you know the bathroom is clear. If you're an early riser and you're using the bathroom first, make sure there is always enough hot water for everyone else. A cold shower, while good for you, can ruin someone's day before it's even begun!
So, there are our five most important rules when staying with friends and family in their homes. It all comes down to one of my favorite bits of advice: "Don't be a dick." Look after your friends and family well and they might even invite you back.