The ten commandments of couch surfing

Posted by Stacy Baas on January 15, 2013 0 Comments

Last year, we logged 45 guest nights at our house. 45! 

That means almost an 1/8th of our year was spent with another person (or 2) sleeping on our air mattress and sharing our dinner table. Luckily, as I look back at the year and the steady stream of visitors, I can say those 45 nights were some of the best of 2013.

I think with a track record like that (I didn’t total up years prior, but they are likely on par with 2012), I have some authority when it comes to saying what makes a good – and not-so-good – house guest, so I’ve compiled here my own personal Ten Commandments for being a great couch surfer.

Commandment #1: Thou shalt organize your own airport transportation. Particularly if you are flying in after 10pm, before 6am, or during rush hour. Your host is likely to offer you a ride, and you are welcome to take her up on it if it comes your way. But she’ll secretly be delighted if you magically show up on her doorstep.

Commandment #2: Thou shalt BYOB (bring your own breakfast). Again, your host will likely have something available, and possibly be ready to cook, but if you show up in the kitchen with a banana and a PowerBar, he’ll happily pour you a cup of coffee and nix the omelet and French toast plans.

Commandment #3: Thou shalt make your bed. Every day. It’s not a big deal if you don’t, but it’s so nice to walk past the spare room and see a neatly made bed. In the case of couches and futons as sleeping quarters, those get disassembled and reassembled every night. No exceptions.

Commandment #4: Thou shalt have a plan. You don’t have to have a full itinerary for your visit (in fact, please DON’T do that), but at least have one activity in mind that you would like to do. Chances are your host would like to do it too, and will be relieved to have a surefire win among the visit’s planned activities.

Commandment #5: Thou shalt make or buy one meal. Feeding an extra body for 2-10 days can be a lot of work, even if it just means agreeing on take-out. At our house, we love it when a guest wants to cook for us. We get a chance to relax and hang out in the kitchen, and they get a chance to show off their skills. Everybody wins.

Commandment #6: Thou shalt take a little time on your own. Every day. Everybody needs a little down time, including your host. We call it “toes up” around our house: when everyone retreats to separate corners and relaxes in whatever way suits them best. Read a magazine, take a nap, or put those toes on the ground and head out for some fresh air.

Commandment #7: Thou shalt make yourself at home. Really. Certainly, you should ask before you start rummaging through your host’s cabinets, but if you know where the coffee cups are, feel free to pour yourself a cup. The same goes for cleanup. If you’d put it in the dishwasher at home, then do it at your host’s house too.

Commandment #8: Thou shalt love your host’s family. While our guests purportedly come to see all of us, they are often really just visiting one of us. If you’re visiting a friend who happens to have three kids, be sure to pay attention to – and spend some time extolling the virtues of – said children. If you’re there to see your daughter, make a point to spend some quality time with your son-in-law too.

Commandment #9: Thou shalt leave before your host is happy to see you go. Short version: don’t stay too long. Go out on a high note and you’ll have your host clearing his calendar next time you want to plan a visit. Stay a day or two too long and the invitation won’t be so readily extended next time.

Commandment #10: Thou shalt return the favor. “I’d love to have you,” are some of the nicest words. And when said with honesty, not obligation, can lead to some of the best memories.


OK, all you houseguests out there…What are YOUR commandments for being a great host? I need to know, because this year’s gaggle of visitors is due to arrive any day now, and I need to up my game this year.  Feed ‘em to me in the comments below.





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