The Guide to Hosting Overnight Guests Etiquette

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Recently, I got to thinking about hosting overnight guests etiquette – financially speaking. There are of course the rules nearly everyone follows when guest is in town:

  • Your house is always supposed to be super clean when a guest comes over.
  • You always give your guest clean sheets and clean towels. (And if you don't…. you are freaking nasty…)
  • You should always have an itinerary of things to do/places to take your guest.

Then there are the other house guest rules, the less-common ones. I specifically want to talk about hosting house guest rules that impact your finances. This is, after all, a financial etiquette post.


Hosting Overnight Guests Etiquette -Is it supposed to be expensive?


My brother is a college student. He paid for ALL my meals during a recent visit. Granted, this was because I made the trek from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa to act in his short film, but still. Most good hosts cook breakfast/lunch/dinner for their guests, but what about if you want to go out to eat?

I have had hosts who have paid for meals out, and others who have not, and I haven't been offended either way.

I did a little research, and by research I mean I polled my friends about their own house guest rules. Apparently paying for meals out depends on a variety of factors:

The number of people staying at your house– Some people would be willing to purchase one out of town friend dinner if it was just the friend in town, but never for a family or multiple people staying over. If I had a large group of my sorority sisters staying with me I'd probably just offer to cook dinner for everyone, instead of chance-ing it in a restaurant.

The distance traveled-Most agreed that if you live within driving distance they probably wouldn't spring for dinner. However, if you bought a  plane ticket and traveled thousands of miles, a dinner might be in order. Most often offer to cook for their guests no matter how much distance is involved, but going out to seems to be another situation for most folks.

Who did the inviting?-Are you crashing on a friends couch so you can take a prestigious job interview? Then YOU better be the one buying. Did your friend beg you to come visit her in Milwaukee before her baby comes? Then yeah, she should probably offer to buy you dinner. These, of course, are just my opinions. 

Bottom Line: If someone comes to visit, you should at least prepare to feed them at least once inside your home. (I'd pick breakfast – this is also the cheapest and easiest option.)



Hosting Overnight Guests – Airbnb Host



Listing rooms in your home is different than being a landlord, mainly because it's less work and time involved. However, with Airbnb,  it’s easier than ever to list a room in your house.

How do I become an airbnb host?


Hosting on Airbnb is your chance to earn extra money by showing off the best of your hometown. Travelers from around the world use the home-sharing site to find unique places to stay— spaces just like yours—and Airbnb does a lot to help hosts feel
comfortable and confident welcoming guests. For those who feel a little skeeved out by this, everyone who travels on Airbnb needs to submit a profile photo and confirmed phone number and email address.

For extra assurance, hosts can also require their guests to submit a government-issued ID. 


If you've got a spare bedroom….you've got a serious income generator on your hands. Airbnb connects travelers with homes in their area. Click here to find out what hosts in your area are making, and start imagining the possibilities.


Setting up your listing on Airbnb is the work of 30 minutes, but in order to get guests (and dazzle them enough so they leave great reviews), here's how to be a good Airbnb host. 




How can I be a good Airbnb host?


Over the years I've found that with any type of hosting or at-home entertaining experience, ease lies within preparing in advance. 


  • Be honest about your listing. Think of this as your time to successfully set expectations about what guests will receive. 
  • When hosting for a profit, cleanliness is everything. Ideally you clean for all guests, but especially if someone is paying for your space – keep it extra fresh. 
  • Put together everything guests will need prior to arrival: towels in the bathroom, Wi-fi password, extra toilet paper. All those small details (and leaving extras!) will cut down on any awkwardness and unnecessary questions upon arrival.
  • Leave small snacks for guests. 
  • Nothing is better than all the right coffee accouterments: cream, sugar, non-dairy creamer, etc. , coffee scoop, fresh grounds.
  • If you're staying with an Airbnb guest inside your home, a nice greet and a quick tour will do wonders. 



How to be a Good House Guest



If you want to be a good house guest, it's important to do/remember the following:

  • Always try to bring some type of small hostess gift. As someone who hosts often, I know that gifts like these are not expected, but always a delight to receive.  I also follow up the trip with a thank you note or bring a card to leave behind for my hosts. 
  • If I didn't have time to get a host gift, I then buy dinner on the first night, or at some point when we're out to eat over the weekend. Always. Compared to what it costs to stay in a hotel these days, these costs are nominal. 
  • Let your hosts have private conversations and/or private time.  I always make it a point to offer to take the dog (or kids) out on a walk or to the playground so I'm not always “underfoot.”
  • Follow the “house rules”: take shoes off at the door if the family does, don't leave personal belongings in common areas, don't put feet on the furniture, ask permission before taking food or operating electrical appliances like washing machine, etc. 
  • Find ways to entertain yourself. Make your own plans, do your own thing, unless a host specifically invites you to something or asks what you'd like to do together. (For me, this is a biggie, it's so stressful to try and come up with a weekend's worth of plans!)
  • Clean up after yourself.  Also, help load the dishwasher and clean up after meals.
  • Bring any food items you plan on consuming and ask the host if they need anything from the store. 
  • Strip sheets and towels prior to departure. Even if they tell you to leave it, take them off the bed anyway and leave items to be laundered in a nice pile.
  • Try to match the rhythm of the host. This is especially crucial if you're sleeping in a common area or don't have a room of your own. Don't sleep in till noon if they're an early riser, and don't stay out late clubbing if they go to bed early. While doing your own thing is a perk of staying in a hotel, you're in someone's home, so don't totally disrupt their routine.


How to be a Good Airbnb House Guest


Airbnb is a bit different than staying with a friend or family member because you're paying to stay at someone's house. Still, because it is someone's personal property, there are a few things you can do to be a good Airbnb house guest.

It's also worth noting with an Airbnb you can either rent a whole house or rent a room in someone's home. In which case, you become more like roommates than houseguests.

  • If you're staying with someone in their home try and be a good roommate. Don't be loud, or rude, or linger.
  • Clean up after yourself, especially in the common areas (if any.)
  • Even though you're paying for the room, try and be conscientious of your hosts' schedule. 
  • Don't touch their personal belongings. Don't eat their food. Ask permission if you'd like to use something that is theirs.
  • Follow the house rules: (Same as above). It's their home. You have to follow their rules. 
  • If you had a good time, always leave a review of your stay. This helps them find more guests and create a steady stream of income!
  • Do you tip an Airbnb? No, you don't. They're providing a service for you, but they're not serving you. As such, don't expect service or tip. 


The TL: DR


I know there are many frugal people out there who will balk at this. Or people focusing on their financial goals like paying off debt, or saving up for a home, who may worry about this small splurge. But hear me out. How often these days do people from out of town come to visit? I feel with the internet, and the increasing costs of travel, in-person visits only become rarer. Enjoy the person you're with and focus on the moment, rather than pinching pennies.

And of course, there is always the option of planning meal at-home well in advance, so no one has to worry about splitting the bill. Since you are hosting though, and not running a bed and breakfast, don't expect guests to fork over money for the increased food bill for the weekend. 


There's more than one way to be a good host and a good guest. With Airbnb you can also get paid for your hospitality. Click here to set up your listing and start earning cash for your spare space.







    • Anne
    • May 7, 2019

    I am an artist in my 50s. After managing my money very carefully my whole life I bought a small vacation property. The house was unfinished and completely unfurnished and I am having to incur significant debt to get it to a livable state. During my month-long visit to work on my house and to furnish and decorate it entirely, my friend, who makes at least three ties my annual income, came for a visit. She stayed 9 days.

    I picked her up at the airport, several towns away, in my rental car. I have paid for all of the gas. I have driven her around the area to show her sites. I have cooked for her. All while working at home renovation projects. She did not buy me a meal, did not offer a gift for the house, did not offer to pay for gas or contribute to the rental car costs. I’m really disappointed in her and do not know how to speak to her about it. She has a major blind spot about her lack of financial generosity. She says she knows she has emotional issues with money from being poor in her childhood, but she still does not change her behaviour.

    1. Reply

      I would try and bring this up to her in a very kind way. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that… maybe send her an article about staying over etiquette and ask her what type of gift you should bring to someone’s house you’re staying at. Or just be really over the top about it when you come to stay with her.

    • Michelle
    • February 3, 2013

    I always spoil my guests as they are always coming from overseas. We typically cook most of our meals at my place. I try to cover all of the food costs because my friends are taking the time and have spent the money to visit. But, they love grocery shopping because they are from other countries-so, who am I to stop them? My friends also usually manage to pay for a couple of meals out during their stay after a quick tug of war for the check. I also cover transportation costs and typically pay for a treat (one friend got a ticket to Lenny Kravitz and also got to see the Black Eyed Peas-she visits a lot. I’m in her wedding!) I love my guests 🙂

      • Anne Todd
      • May 5, 2019

      I would disagree with feeding guests breakfast lunch and dinner.
      We have a lovely beach home and have guest quite frequently. We are paying for the boat gas, the house being cleaned and free lodging and more. It is not fun for me to try and figure out what to feed them and to provide the food. I feel that they can take part by bringing food and contributing something to their time in our home. It’s actually offensive if they feel like we should provide everything and then they can buy us one meal. We want to enjoy our home and time with our guests too and not feel like we are working the whole time. Most guests get it but there are a few that don’t. I think the rules are different if you have guest two three times a year. We have around twenty to thirty. But as a guest I would always ask what can I do to contribute.

      1. Reply

        This is super helpful. Thank you for chiming in and very good points I hadn’t thought of. You’re right, you shouldn’t have to feed your guests.

    • Kendal
    • January 31, 2013

    I agree that it really depends on the specifics of the arrangement, but I do find myself going into “hostess mode” whenever anyone crashes with us. Clean sheets and tidy community spaces are a must, but I also enjoy having tasty snacks and drinks available. I have learned to let people cover the cost of some things, whether it’s groceries or dinner, if they really want to. I certainly want to reciprocate in that way when I stay with others, so it’s best not to have a drawn-out argument about it.

    • Canadianbudgetbinder
    • January 31, 2013

    We don’t get many guests stay at our house but when me mum and dad came they paid for dinners out and a small mini trip. They said it’s because they want to do it, and we have no kids so they want to spend some money on us. Plus they said we opened our home up to them and if they had to come here to Ontario it would cost them a heck of a lot more for accommodations. When it comes to family, money is not really an issue with either of our families, we do what we have to, split bills, pay, it all works out and we are happy. If someone was to crash on our couch for the night, I’d likely cook also but if we went out, they’d be paying for their own. All depends on the situation in the end for us. Great post.

    • Leah
    • January 31, 2013

    This has come up recently for me, too. It really depends on how far they’ve come. My friends from the next state over came by, and we went dutch. My friends from across the country came to our home, and my husband and I paid for practically all of their meals. If my family came from out of state, I’d offer to pay, but I’m sure they’d pick up the bill.

    VERY interesting to see all the responses!

    • Chris
    • January 31, 2013

    My rule is I always pay. If I am going out to eat with anybody I always offer to pay except when with my dad. I probably learned it from my dad so that’s why I submit to his superior billfold. I also do the dance of “I’ll pay” “No, I’ll pay”. It has to be done. It’s insulting not to offer to pay and you only give in if the other person is very forceful in their claim to pay. If someone visits me I usually stay in and cook them something. If I visit someone else, I usually offer to take them out to eat at least once while I’m there and pay to thank them for letting me stay with them versus getting a hotel room.

  1. Reply

    I always pay for dinner if I have guests staying at my house. When we go to my in-laws, I expect them to pay and I order whatever I want. Muaaahhahahhahahhahh

  2. Reply

    Here is my rule of thumb, if it’s a close family member or best friend who drove or flew to see me and to visit me then, cooking or eating out should be covered by me. Cooking at home several times, eating out only 1 fully paid for meal.

    • Andrea
    • January 31, 2013

    When I stay with my sister, the first thing I do is go to the grocery store and buy the things I typically eat. Anything I don’t eat while I’m there can go home with me, but I definitely don’t expect her to cook big meals every day or take me out to eat. I know there are situations where that may be different, but I’m always prepared to pay my own way when I go anywhere, and I’m sure to let people know that. If they choose to buy me dinner, that’s nice of them, but I definitely don’t expect it.

    That said, when I have guests, I’m always prepared to feed them. I just never want to assume that other people think the same way.

    • Anne @ Unique Gifter
    • January 30, 2013

    Excellent topic. I agree that there are lots of nuances, such as the couch crashing to go to an interview. (Done that, couple wasn’t home for the weekend, left wine and a cheese grater (they needed one, it was on a shopping list I saw)). Most of our house guests are either only passing through for a night, or related. Our parents pay for everything when they visit, sometimes trying to refund us for groceries we buy! When my bro passes through, we pay for everything (broke student). Our friend came all the way to visit from Yellowknife once and insisted on paying for dinner out… that one was awkward because HELLO he paid for the plane tickets and bus!!

    • krantcents
    • January 30, 2013

    When my wife and I visit relatives in New York (from Los Angeles), we usually pick up lunch out every other time . Near the end, we spring for a really nice dinner. When they visit us, they do the same.

    • Grayson @ Debt Roundup
    • January 30, 2013

    I agree that it depends on the situation. I usually don’t pay for people that are visiting me, but that depends on the relationship.

    • SavvyFinancialLatina
    • January 30, 2013

    We believe that we should pay for all of our stuff when we go visit family members or friends. This does not include parents.
    They are doing us a favor by letting us stay in their house. Usually we invite them out once for dinner, they take us out once, and we pay for the rest of our meals and entertainment.
    If we stay for an extended period of time, more than one day, we usually give small gifts in exchange for their generosity.

      • SavvyFinancialLatina
      • January 30, 2013

      We also leave everything super neat and clean.

      My mom has family that comes leaves the place a mess when they leave, refuse to pay for anything, and she doesn’t even invite them anymore. She says after 20 years of dealing with that, she can’t take it anymore.

  3. Reply

    I think you’re right, it depends on the situation. But if you’re going to clean for me and make a bed, I will buy you dinner. And if you don’t let me do that, I will send you something when I get home.

  4. Reply

    Weird. I always thought that if I went to visit an out-of-town friend (even at their invitation) and we go out to eat it was always my responsibility to buy in order to reciprocate their hospitality. Unless they strongly objected and wanted to go Dutch on the bill.

    This might be a bit more a guy thing, but beer is a very complicated matter–probably as complex a manner system as most of us get. As a guy you should always have beer for your other dude friends if they’re coming over and never be stingy with it. Yet if you plan on going/staying over at someone’s house you should always bring your own as well. It sounds stupid–like knowing there’s cake at your friend’s, yet you also bring a cake. But it’s the way that works. Occasionally a guy will come from out of town and didn’t make a beer store before they closed. Understandable and acceptable–no worries. …It’s just the dude (and we all know one) who shows up empty-handed every single time and always helps himself to yours. :/

      • L Bee
      • January 31, 2013

      Haha. I love that you just added some “bro code” at the bottom of my post 🙂 I really hadn’t ever thought about beer before, but all my male friends always make it a point to bring some wherever they go!

    • Seanna
    • January 30, 2013

    I think it’s the guest responsibility to come with a hostess gift (flowers or alcohol are always safe bets), and offer to make dinner one night (or take them out) as a thank you for free lodgings and hosting you while you are there!

      • L Bee
      • January 31, 2013

      I love the idea of flowers, because thats not something I normally buy for myself and my house (even though all the design blogs tell you to). Thanks for stopping by!

    • Pauline
    • January 30, 2013

    It really depends on the purpose of your visit. If I go somewhere specifically to visit a family member who has invited me over, then that person should pay for dinner, and I would pay if someone travels a lot to see me. But if I live in London and you want to crash at my place because you can save on hotel (and see me of course, what a pleasure), then I wouldn’t tend hand and foot on you, and would expect you to cook at least a meal or take me out for dinner as a token of appreciation.

      • L Bee
      • January 31, 2013

      Agreed. I’d much rather have a meal out than a hostess gift.

  5. Reply

    Hmm. I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule, to be honest. We try to be very hospitable to guests, showing them around and sharing what we have at home, but I wouldn’t pay for anything for them, especially not when going out to dinner, for example.

    • Budget & the Beach
    • January 30, 2013

    I think it totally depends. I’ve had some guests who wanted a place to crash if they were in town for business, so they might take me out and expense the meal. Or it’s been my parents in town and they take me out. If we stay in, I do the cooking and buying of the food, but I would hope they would help me clean up. God I hate rude house guests. But if I have a friend who wants to just stay at my place and they are a decent house guest and we go out to eat, then we would probably just split the bill.

    • Travis @DebtChronicles
    • January 30, 2013

    Great question……I expect you’ll get as many different answers as you get responses. 🙂 If I have house guests, I expect to supply meals while they are at my home. To be honest, if I cook (which usually involves a grill or smoker), we’re going to have meals that are better than 95% of the restaurants we’d go to anyway. If we end up going out to eat, it’s usually a joint discussion/decision, and at that point everyone’s on their own.

    We recently had this exact situation – we had friends come across the country (Kentucky to Minnesota) and we rotated the meal at different people’s homes. One night we went out…..and everyone paid for themselves.

    • John S @ Frugal Rules
    • January 30, 2013

    I think it depends on the situation. If it’s one person and they’ve travelled a bit then I have no problem paying for a meal out as I think it’s a nice thing to do. We also like to ask them where they would like to eat and try to go somewhere local as opposed to some chain.

    • Manda
    • January 30, 2013

    It depends on my relationship with the person and the situation. For example, I will probably always buy my brother dinner whether or not he visits me or I visit him, as he’s my younger brother and the least I can do as an older sister is buy him dinner. When I’m visiting a friend at his or her family’s, I will offer to pay for my own meal (generally, I get turned down) and I always, always bring a gift for the family as a thank you for letting me stay with them. Between friends, we generally split the bill and pay our own way.

    • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies
    • January 30, 2013

    In general, we usually pay for at least one decent dinner out whether we are the guest or the host. If the other party reciprocates, that’s okay. But other than that, we informally go dutch. We’ll alternate cooking or buying groceries. It’s usually not a huge deal.

    • Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank
    • January 30, 2013

    We always pay for and look after our house guests. I feel like it is our responsibility to do so if they are coming from somewhere to see you.

  6. Reply

    For us it depends more on the relationship than who has traveled. Our most recent house guests were my parents and they paid when we went out to dinner. They also pay when we’re staying with them. As far as friends go, I expect to pay for ourselves all the time and if our friends offer to pay we accept (and we bring hostess presents when we stay with friends).

  7. Reply

    We just got back from vacation and dealt with this very issue. My policy is to let the host pick up the tab if they want to, but always purchase at least one meal if their hosting is saving me time, energy, or money. In this case, having a free places to stay saved us hundreds of dollars, so we were more than happy to pick up a few meals!

      • L Bee
      • January 31, 2013

      Definitely pay for a meal if you are staying with someone. If it’s a long stay (like maybe more than two days) I’d bring a hostess gift as well! And always send a thank you note!

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