Been invited for the weekend? Pack your bag and prepare for a relaxing time with old or new friends. But keep in mind that being a good guest requires more than accepting the invitation with enthusiasm.
Before You Arrive
If you're driving, make sure you understand the directions. No host wants you to get lost -- and no one wants you to spend hours looking for the right road when you're expected for supper. If you have a GPS device, plan to use it but it's a good idea to ask your host if there is anything about the trip you should be aware of (major detour; obvious landmarks).
If you travel by public transportation, offer to find your own way to your host's house. Don't automatically expect someone to pick you up at the airport or train station. On the other hand, if such an offer seems genuine, accept graciously.
Be sure to carry the host's telephone number with you and be sure to provide him with your cell phone number. If you know you will be delayed, call as soon as you can. And don't be surprised if your host calls you if there's some minor schedule change.
Ask your host what you can bring. If he or she insists that you needn't bring anything, don't arrive with a full-blown dessert or similar dish. You might intrude on someone's carefully planned menu.
On the other hand, don't arrive empty-handed.
Bring chocolates, homemade cookies, a few jars of preserves or nuts, or bottles of wine. Flowers are always appropriate. Other ideas include scented soaps, candles, high-quality paper napkins and guest towels, and gourmet oils and vinegars.
When You Are There
You have been invited for the weekend to visit with your friends or family. Be prepared to chat and catch up. Bring along a few photographs from a recent event or of your kids or grandchildren -- but don't lug an entire album or a long-playing home video with you.
Offer to help with simple household chores. Set the table, make the salad, load the dishwasher, or set up games.
Ask for anything you need but don't make unreasonable demands. If you frequently need over-the-counter medication, bring it with you. Pack reading material, extra sweaters, a raincoat, and a hair dryer.
Bring your own toiletries. Don't expect your host to supply shampoo and toothpaste.
When You Leave
Before you leave, ask your host what to do with your bed linens and towels. Not everyone wants the beds stripped right away -- there may not be room in the laundry room. If you're asked to remove your sheets, offer to make the beds with fresh linens.
Leave when you say you will. Don't linger long into the day or ask to spend another night! Arrange to get to the airport or train station on your own.
When you get home, send your host a thank you note. Depending on the nature of your relationship, this could be an e-mail or postcard. Even family members and close friends appreciate this courtesy.