It doesn’t take much to become a mooch. Afraid you’ve crossed the line? IgoUgo editors (and self-confessed mooching victims) help you keep your travel tactics aboveboard—and keep your hosts from avoiding your calls—with ten simple rules. Because no one wants to become a travel-mooching horror story.
1. Thou shalt give thy host plenty of advance notice. Don’t be the person who calls asking for a place to crash the next day—or even the next week. A month in advance is a good rule of thumb.
2. Thou shalt not bring an assortment of friends and pets. If you’re traveling with a companion, ask your host for permission to bring him or her along. The “advance notice” rule is especially important here. And if you’ve got multiple companions in tow, step back and put yourself in your hosts’ shoes before you even ask.
3. Thou shalt not take hospitalities for granted. Be considerate and double-check with your host about what you should bring. Don’t just assume that towels, sheets, pillows, and toiletries will be provided. If you can fit an extra towel or a sleeping bag in your suitcase, bring it.
4. Thou shalt put the convenience of thy host above all else. You adhere to check-in and check-out times when you stay in hotels. Keep that frame of mind when staying with friends and family: be sure you’re arriving and departing at times that are convenient for them. And unless they offer a ride, make your own arrangements for transportation to and from their home.
5. Thou shalt exercise common decency. Don’t come and go at all hours of the night. Don’t bring new friends back to your hosts’ home. If your hosts drive you places, pay for a tank of gas. Wash your dishes. Pay for your own groceries. You get the picture.
6. Thou shalt not expect thy hosts to be tour guides. Remember: you’re on vacation, but your hosts aren’t. Respect their space and daily obligations. There’s a good chance that they’ve already seen and done most of the things on your itinerary, so come with a plan that you’re comfortable with whether your hosts are joining you or not.
7. Thou shalt adhere to the Leave No Trace philosophy. Camping enthusiasts know the mandate well: leave a campsite exactly as you found it. Same goes for staying with friends and family. Take out the trash. Strip the bed before you leave. Better yet, launder your sheets and towels. There’s no better way to impress a host—and ensure an open door on your next visit.
8. Thou shalt do damage control. If something goes wrong—your hair gel explodes all over the carpet, you break a glass—take care of the issue. Don’t just offer to clean the carpet or buy a new glass. Clean the carpet. Leave money to replace the broken glass. Just do it.
9. Thou shalt show thy gratitude. A thank-you note or gift sent after your departure is de rigueur, but don’t wait until then to show you appreciate the hospitality. Bring along a small token of your appreciation to give upon arrival—a bottle of wine, homemade cookies—or take your hosts out for dinner before you leave. Because moochers are less likely to make these kinds of gestures, those little extras go a long way toward separating you from the pack.
10. Thou shalt not disappear after the trip. Travel moochers are less likely to keep in regular contact with their hosts and less likely to offer their own hospitality to visiting friends and family. Take the high road: starting with a thoughtful thank-you note, keep in touch with your hosts, and when they travel to your city, return the favor. Staying with friends and family when traveling should always be quid-pro-quo.