Whether you're staying for two hours or two weeks, being a great guest comes down to three things: communication, gratitude and flexibility.  Here's how to be the best guest... and get invited back again.

Before You Arrive

Communicate.  Let your host know your plans for arrival, visit and departure.  Be as self-sufficient as possible - make plans for transportation, activities and meals as applicable.  Ask your host about her plans, too.  And never, ever, ever show up unannounced.

During your Stay

Bring a gift.  Start your visit off right by giving a thoughtful hostess gift.   (A few of our favorites, here.)

Lend a hand.  At a minimum, help prepare meals, set the table and do the dishes.  Keep your eyes open for other ways to help, too: run an errand, watch the kids, or take the dogs for a walk.

Follow the leader.  Pay attention to how your hostess lives in her home and follow suit.  Are her shoes off?  Then yours should be too.  Additionally, do your best to be self-sufficient.  Don't let your host wait on you hand and foot.

Keep it clean.  Make your bed every morning (or deflate the blow-up mattress that is taking up the living room) and keep your things consolidated and picked up.  Do your dishes and wipe down the bathroom counter.  Before you leave, ask your hostess how she'd like to handle your linens and towels.  She may prefer you leave the bed made, if she launders sheets right before guests arrive instead of after the last ones leave.

Pay up.  Have you borrowed their car?  Fill up the gas tank.  Have they cooked you every meal?   Contribute to groceries.  Be conscious of expenses your hosts are incurring to your benefit and chip in.

After You Leave

Say thank you.  Send a hand-written note to your host, and invite her to come visit you next time!

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