6 Ways to Be a Good Guest When You're Broke

Staying with friends can be a great way to save money while traveling. But keep in mind that an invitation to visit does not equal an offer to fully support you during your stay. In fact, you should be spending time and effort to thank them for the free lodging.

Two traditional ways of thanking hosts are bringing a nice gift from home and treating the host to dinner out. But what if most gifts and restaurants would strain your budget? There are still ways to show your appreciation and leave as one of those visitors your host will invite back, again and again.

1. Put Extra Thought or Effort Into the Gift You Bring

Lack of funds never excuses arriving empty-handed. One of my favorite gifts from an arriving guest was a woolen hat that she had finished knitting on the flight. If you can't make something or buy something, bring a book from your bookshelf, inscribed to the host.

2. Share the Work and Expense of Meals However You Can

The host may invite you to take most meals with the family, or offer to share the occasional meal with you. Don't let this hospitality go unreciprocated. If you go out to eat together, pick up your host's check. If you can't afford to do that, don't eat out together, or only go to restaurants where you can afford to treat.

If your budget allows absolutely no restaurant meals during your trip, you can still display good manners by contributing groceries to host meals and by offering to cook one or more meals for your host. When your host is cooking, do everything you can to help — within your host's comfort range. Some people don't like sharing their kitchens, so ask before pitching in on food prep. At the very least, offer to clear and wash the dishes, and take out the trash.

Also, don't assume that your host wants to share every meal while you're in their house. A good way to broach this topic is to ask if you can keep a few groceries in the fridge. If your host invites you to join her on a grocery run, do not just watch her buy groceries. Take the hint that you should buy some for yourself, or better yet, pay for everything in your host's cart.

3. Be an Asset to the Household

Beyond mealtime, how can you make your presence a positive? Can you keep children occupied, or baby-sit while your hosts enjoy a date night? Walk the dog? Run an errand?

4. Think of Your Host While You're Out and About

If you go out sightseeing while your host is at work, bring back any affordable or free goodies you can. You treated yourself at a famous bakery? Bring back a brownie. You found an intact sand dollar on the beach? Present it to your host's child. These inexpensive gestures are a way of acknowledging that your host made your fun possible.

5. Be Good Company

Don't fill your days with so much tourism that you don't have time to sit down and talk with your host, who presumably invited you because they wanted to see you. Offer to do something your host enjoys, whether it's playing a board game, watching baseball on TV, or taking a stroll through the neighborhood. Laugh at your host's jokes. And for goodness sake, don't keep your host up so late that they're exhausted at work the next day. Notice when your host is ready to go to bed and take the cue to retreat to your own space.

6. Don't Let Your Host Spend Money on You If You Can't Reciprocate

There are some relationships — parent and child, for example, or employer and employee — when it's okay for one party to pay for everything. But for most friendships, even if your host has more money to spend than you do, it's bad form to let them pay for everything. At the very least, you should warn your host if you can't chip in.

For instance, if your host offers to drive you to a number of distant places, or let you borrow their car, you should warn them if you can't fill the car with gas. Better yet, come up with a more affordable way to get places on your own, or restrict your travels to locations you can reach on your own dime.

In the end, if you can't afford to contribute anything to your upkeep and transportation while on vacation, you probably can't afford to go on vacation. But by being open with your host and making extra effort to be thoughtful, a budget traveler should be able to visit friends without taking advantage.

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6 Ways to Be a Good Guest When You're Broke

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Guest's picture
Terri Lynn Phillips

This is a fabulous article. I must repost this. I hope you don't mind. I will be sure to give credit. Thanks for the useful information.

Guest's picture

Excellent advice....will help me to avoid some pitfalls when visiting family this spring.