Everyday Cheapskate: A Gracious Guide for How to Be a Good House Guest
It was shocking, if not surreal. The email message was from a woman I'd never met and whose name I recognized only because, a few months earlier, she mailed me a book she'd written.
The message announced that she and her family were planning a road trip to Disneyland and would just love to stay with us since (at the time) we lived nearby and oh, wouldn't that be so much fun. She gave a tentative date they would be arriving.
Everything I know about what not to do as a house guest, I learned from that experience, from the moment they drove up (cue music for Cousin Eddie and family from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation") to the time they finally departed.
Full disclosure, because I have friends and relatives who read this column, be it known that all our other house guests have been wonderful. Exemplary. Do not worry. This is not about you.
It need not be engraved on parchment, but you do need some indication that you are invited. Do not send a cryptic message ("Looks like we will be in your area in a couple of weeks!"), hoping that will result in an invitation. And for goodness' sake, don't just show up.
Nail down the dates of your visit, and then stick to them. When your host does not offer specific dates, that does not mean to say as long as you like. Listen for subtle clues ("We'll be super busy toward the end of July").
DO NOT BE VAGUE
If the two of you plan to arrive with four children, two dogs and the new kitten -- spell it out. Do not assume your host will just know this intuitively.