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How to Be a Good Guest: 14 Vacation Rental Tips

Not so long ago, non-traditional lodging sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and Couchsurfing were mainly for budget travelers and adventurous types, but that is changing fast. These days folks traveling for work, families traveling for vacation, people staying near aging parents, and even aging parents themselves can all find great places to stay in apartments and homes listed on these lodging sites. This change makes it more essential than ever for a traveler to learn how to be a good guest.

Be a Good Guest with These 14 Vacation Rental Tips

Despite being termed “guests” at a hotel, most travelers are accustomed to treating a hotel mostly as a private place to flop, invisible to anyone save the time-pressured cleaning staff. But Airbnb apartments and Couchsurfing spare rooms cast travelers more as actual guests in someone’s home—in which the host may be staying at the same time.

To make sure you don’t wear out your welcome, you’ll want to follow these tips on how to be a good guest in the home-sharing era.

Read the Listing Carefully

Being a good guest can be as much about knowing what to expect as it is about how you behave. Before you book, make sure any given property is a good fit for you, your travel party, and your plans.

A quick scan of a listing can be misleading. For example, does a place that supposedly “sleeps four” have two bedrooms with queen beds, or does it have space for two in a bedroom, one on a couch, and one on an air mattress on the living room floor?

Also, note that many of the things you take for granted at a hotel may not be available in non-traditional lodgings—such as Wi-Fi, parking, towels, toiletries, breakfast, coffee, and even bedding.

Showing up to a vacation rental with unrealistic expectations about the space or amenities can start you off on the wrong foot with your host.

Ask Questions

If a listing is at all unclear, use the lodging site’s messaging system to reach out to your host. Not only will you get answers to your questions, but you’ll also be able to establish a rapport with your host in advance of your stay (or figure out that you and the host might not be a good fit after all).

Don’t Fudge Your Information

When interacting with your host, be a good guest before you even arrive by being honest about the size of your travel party, whether you have pets, and other critical details. The host deserves to know what to expect from you as much as you deserve to know what to expect from him or her.

Get a Sense of Whether Your Host Is Active or Passive

Some hosts want to show you around, share their experience in the area, or even just hang out. Others are completely hands off. If you are social and gregarious, the former will work well; if you just want peace and quiet for a few days, the latter is a better situation. Swap those up, and you might be the wrong kind of guest for your host.

Be Clear About Your Arrival Time

Although you are a paying customer, most hosts aren’t on the clock in the way a hotel front desk person is; they are often fitting you into their daily lives. Be considerate of their time by keeping them apprised of your arrival status.

Also, if you know in advance that you’ll be arriving at an inconvenient hour—for example, you have a flight that isn’t scheduled to land till 11:59 p.m.—consider staying at a hotel with a 24-hour front desk for the first night. You can then move to your vacation rental the next day at a time that’s more respectful of your host’s schedule.

Leave Things the Way You Found Them

While many hosts do hire cleaning professionals, others take up bucket and mop and do the cleaning themselves. You don’t have to leave the place spic and span, as you will likely pay a cleaning fee, but leaving the remote, the coffeemaker, bikes, and other items more or less where you found them is a courtesy—and could save you disputes over the condition of the property upon departure.

Ask About House Rules—and Follow Them

Do the hosts prefer you take off your shoes before entering the house? Is there a curfew? Do they want you to lock the doors at all times or park in a certain spot? Be a good guest by asking about these rules and then following them (or working with your host to figure out a compromise if necessary).

Share Your Schedule

If your hosts will be in the house with you, it’s considerate to let them know if your schedule might impact them. For example, if you’re an early riser or a night owl, tell your hosts that you might be up and moving at times they will likely be asleep.

You might also want to let them know when you plan to come and go during the day, in case they need to get things done (such as mowing the lawn or having a visitor stop by) at a time that won’t impact your stay.

Don’t Lean Too Heavily on Your Host for Travel Tips

While many hosts happily share advice on local attractions and secret spots, they don’t know you well enough to guide you to your perfect visit, and their idea of a great outing might be your idea of a wasted afternoon (and vice versa). Also, not all hosts want to be your concierge. When in doubt, stick to simple stuff and logistics, like where to buy groceries, get coffee, get a decent breakfast, or buy gas.

Keep Some of Your Opinions to Yourself

Folks tend to like the places they live, so if you find their town boring, drab, or worse, keep it to yourself. No one wants to hear a guest say, “I don’t know how you can live here, it is so ______,” even if they secretly agree with you. Be a good guest by keeping your tone positive and treating your host’s hometown with respect.

Respect Your Host’s Neighbors

While you can expect some level of interaction with your hosts, their neighbors might not be as interested in interacting; some could even resent that the property accepts paid guests, so you might find yourself less than welcome. Talking to the locals is usually part of the fun, but be aware that not everyone is onboard.

Consider Bringing a Gift

Many hosts offer their guests a small remembrance of their stay—the host of a camper my family stayed in near Fredvang, Norway, gave my son a locally styled hat she had made especially for him—so you may want to stow a couple of simple gifts in your suitcase. Even if the host doesn’t offer you anything, offering a small gift is a nice way to show your appreciation for your stay.

Gifts that reflect your hometown can work well. If possible, lean toward things your host can use and not have to store forever, like local tea, coffee, or food items.

Treat Your Host’s Home as You Would a Friend’s

Your friends don’t expect you to clean up after yourself when you visit, but neither do they expect you to trash the place. When I visit my friend Greg, sure, I’ll leave some dirty dishes in the sink, but probably won’t leave them on the couch. Be a good guest by treating your vacation rental with the same respect.

Let Your Hosts Live Their Lives

Although they are your hosts, the property owners are most likely still going about their day-to-day lives. They are not on vacation, as you may be, so they still have to go to work, get kids to school, go shopping, and get enough sleep. Do your best not to get in their way.

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Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a biweekly glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.

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