Escape from New York

Want a return invite? How to be a great vacation house guest

By Sharon Krum | July 13, 2015 - 10:59AM
Congratulations! You just scored the only thing that matters in New York in summer —an invitation to stay at a house in the Hamptons/Catskills/insert newest coolest getaway here. (And 10 extra points if you’re staying with Hillary and Bill — although we hear they’re  taking their time committing.) 
Whether you’re staying a weekend or a month, and whether your host will be there to uncork the wine or not, behaving well is your number one priority.  Here’s how to make yourself the most popular guest of the summer. 
If your host and their family are at home:
Come (and go) bearing gifts
Arriving with a present is the best way to say thank you for being invited before you even unpack. A gift upon leaving says sorry for breaking  your crystal vase and accidentally sitting on your cat (and any other misadventures). A handwritten thank-you note — much more thoughtful than a quickly written email  —  is a must once you’re back in the city. 
Mind your manners
So, you had no idea your friend’s father was into taxidermy, and there are dead animals everywhere that creep you out. Or the matching chintz curtains, sofas and bedding at the beach house are giving you a headache. Welcome to the world of people with vacation houses and questionable taste. Newsflash—it’s a big club. 
Your job: Say nothing critical, either in person or on social media. You don’t hear them mocking your Troll Doll collection do you?
Bickering? Keep your gloves on
If you’re a couple, there will be no fighting, even if you duked it out all the way there in the car. Snipping at the table or by the pool  makes everyone uncomfortable, and if your hosts wanted to have a stressful weekend, they would have invited their in-laws to stay, not you. Save it for your Wednesday sessions with your marriage counselor, and swap the whine for a glass of wine instead. 
Clothes are a good idea
Unless you’re  shooting porn, it’s not okay to be underdressed in your host’s home. Breakfasting in your underwear or nightgown is officially Too. Much. Information. for people you normally only see at work. But if you are shooting an X-rated film, may we suggest closing the curtains? 
Keep it clean
Even if there is a housekeeper, don’t assume anything. Make your bed every day, tidy your room, and when you leave, strip the sheets. 
Be your own tour guide, and be generous
It’s lovely if your hosts organize your itinerary or drive you around, but definitely make plans to keep yourself busy,  and Uber if you don’t have a car. Always offer to pay for dinner, and if you visit a farmers market, bring flowers or a pie back for the host. Thoughtful gestures matter.
Participate, not isolate
If everyone is playing croquet after lunch, then you get right in there! Yes, we know it’s a lame game, but something terrible happens when New Yorkers go to the Hamptons — they start to think they’re British and it’s 1924. 
Guesting doesn't include sexing
We know the whole point of summer is a hot romance, but sneaking that cute guy/girl from the bar into your room at midnight is not going to happen. Handy hint:  Sex-on-the-beach  isn’t just a drink, you know. 
If you have their place to yourself:
Animal House is a movie, not a suggestion
You have your own place! Wonderful. But please don’t trash it, burn it down or otherwise turn it into a fraternity house. Keep it clean and don’t bring your dog (no matter how adorable) unless you ask beforehand.  If you can bring Rover and he chews through the antique rug, offer to fly to Turkey to buy another one. Don’t score something cheap on eBay and hope the owners won’t notice.
Don't raid the pantry
It’s impolite to leave the cupboards bare. Your lovely hosts  might tell you to help yourself to anything, but please replace everything you use, eat or drink before you leave. Which is why you’re not going to drink that expensive Champagne they got for their wedding. You do know you’ll have to get a mortgage to buy another bottle.
Stay indoors — or at least stay safe outdoors
The idea of being “at one” with nature is so overrated. Why not stay inside and Netflix? But if you do go for a hike upstate  and see a bear, taking a selfie with Paddington  is not a good idea. Here’s a better idea – Run. There is nothing homeowners hate more  than having to call the Medical Examiner. 
Thanks and come again
Before your trip,  find out what your hosts like to collect, be it wine or Pez dispensers, and leave one with a handwritten note as a thank you. 
Finally, book a therapy session on your return. If you don’t have a therapist, steal  one. The experience  of living in a house 50 times bigger than your apartment is so overwhelming, returning to your shoebox will induce Post-Holiday House Depression (PHHD).  As many New Yorkers know, crying about it for $250 an hour is the only fix.
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