How to be an Amazing Overnight Guest

July 8, 2013    |    By +
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Whether you’re crashing at your friend’s house for one night, or staying with relatives over a long holiday weekend, there are some things to remember as an overnight visitor. The golden rule serves as a good general guideline here: “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” Everyone knows what it’s like to have a lousy house guest. They wake you up when they come in and out at all hours, they eat you out of fridge and cabinet, and they leave a relentless mess in their path. Don’t be the house guest you despise.

I know that no one is perfect, and trying to be perfect makes a vacation feel like work. Instead, brush up on the gift tips I’ve put together below before you plan your next overnight stay so that you can compensate for your less than perfect behavior.

overnight guest etiquette

Gifts from the Overnight Guest:


  • Bring something from your hometown that they may not be able to get in theirs. I like the idea of bringing local delicacies to share, whether it’s local beer or baked goods. Anything unique to your region is a great conversation starter.
  • Give something that they can put in their guest room for future guests to enjoy, like a carafe and glass set for the bedside table or a fun book to flip through before hitting the hay.
  • Send a framed photo from your trip to visit them along with a thoughtfully inscribed thank you card.


  • Overstep your bounds by getting something too personal, like linens or a piece of artwork.
  • Stay away from scented candles, too unless you know their tastes very well. If they have a favorite scent and brand that you are aware of, something scented could be a nice gesture. Otherwise, steer clear.

Gifts from the Extended Stay Guest of Three Nights or More:
(Similar to that for Overnight guests, but up a rung)


  • Bring a collection of things that you can use together while you’re there, like midnight snacks, a favorite game and a movie to watch.
  • Bring something that they can use after you’ve left, like a throw blanket for the guest room or a hammock for the backyard.
  • Send a plant or tree that they can remember you by. Fruit-bearing trees are a fun “gift that keeps on giving.” Be sure to know if your hosts have a green thumb among them before giving this gift. That’s why this is best sent after you have visited.
  • After you’ve spent the weekend getting to know them, tap into a shared interest that you discussed during your trip. If they love tea, get them a collection from your favorite tea shop. If they love cooking, get them one of your favorite gadgets for their kitchen.


  • Give anything that requires knowing their size, like slippers or clothing items.
  • Give anything that reflects the place you are visiting. They probably already know about their lighthouses, history, and local flora and fauna.
  • Do anything elaborate. Most likely your hosts have their own idea of what they want to share with you, so keep your gift simple and unobtrusive.

Whether you know your hosts well or they’re new friends; whether they go the extra mile for you during your stay or not, remember that they are putting you up in their home. Not only should you strive to not irritate them, you should make sure to be the kind of guest your host will write home about – all you need to do is follow the simple advice above!

See more of my favorite gift ideas for the host if you want even more inspiration.  And if you’re an etiquette lover like me (wishful thinking on my part, maybe!) then you should see all of our etiquette posts.


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Meet the Gurus

Kathryn D.W.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is the senior manager of content at She was formerly the executive editor at Honolulu Magazine, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Oahu. Her career has included staff positions at Country Living Gardener and Power & Motoryacht. Her latest book is "Hawaii's Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!"

Gwen P.
Gwen is the Editorial Curator at In addition to writing blogs, she creates gift guides, curates the site, and produces content for our social media channels. As a freelance writer, she created blogs on fashion, art, travel, health and lifestyle. A talented jewelry designer, she's also a yogi and a hospital volunteer with her therapy dog, Lilo, a Pomeranian.