How to Be a Perfect Houseguest

Crashing with family or friends? Etiquette experts weigh in with 13 tips on the delicate art of mooching so that you can be the perfect houseguest—you know, the kind that hosts invite back.

Spend Some Time With Your Hosts
"It's assumed that guests and hosts will hang out and share some meals together," says Dresser. "The host's house is not a hotel. It's not just a place to crash. It's offensive if you show up, disappear, and only come back to sleep and shower." You should still be able to find plenty of time to sightsee, with or without your host.

Get Out of Your Host's Hair
Don't expect your host to be a tour guide for the entire visit. When you arrive, plan a rough itinerary for what you want to see and let the host know that he or she is welcome to come along. Include some downtime in the itinerary, along with some time apart. "If your host has work to do, or even if you just feel like everyone needs a break, disappear for a little while," says Post. "Read a book, explore town by yourself, or go for a walk."

Give a Good Gift
"Do you have to show up at the host's house with gift in hand?" asks Post. "No. Absolutely not. Do you have to buy something? Again, no. A nice gift could be something you make—a pie, a scarf. Taking your hosts out to a nice dinner can also count." Fox suggests bringing a bottle of wine, a flowering plant, or some gourmet chocolates. "Special blends of coffee and tea are acceptable too," she says.

The key is knowing what your hosts like and don't like. If you're unsure what to give, listen for cues during your visit. Make a mental note when your host mentions loving a restaurant or shop, and get a gift certificate.

Handwrite the Thank You
"An e-mail thank you is still a no-no," says Post. "It's OK to jot off a quick thanks on your Blackberry from the airport, but you must follow that up with a handwritten note within a few days afterward." It's also nice to return the hospitality by extending a hearty "If you're ever in our neck of the woods..." invitation to the folks who just graciously hosted you.

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