Setting Healthy Boundaries with Houseguests

Hosting guests in your winter vacation home can be a pleasant experience and a lot of fun. Nothing compares to the feeling of seeing your friends and loved one’s relaxing and enjoying the comforts of your home.

That said, houseguests can also create problems – even if they are your kids, grandkids, or best friends from home.

Friends and relatives who invite themselves, overstay their welcome, don’t respect the rules of your home, or display other deviant forms of guest etiquette, can be a significant headache for snowbird hosts.

Read on to learn why preventing problems and setting boundaries with houseguests is so essential. It’s easier to enjoy quality time and make memories when everyone knows what to expect and gets along.

Avoid Awkward Moments

middle aged couple entertaining house guests

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This may seem obvious, but it’s crucial to avoid inviting guests to stay at your home unless you genuinely want them there.

Even though you adore your loved ones and miss your close relationships when you’re away that doesn't mean they'll make for a good houseguest. You might not want close friends to stay in your winter vacation home and disrupt your normal routine or alone time.

Some snowbirds also have a bad habit of telling acquaintances they are welcome to come and stay anytime in their guest room. If you’re merely being polite and don’t expect acquaintances to ever say yes to your offer, think again.

When they do take you up on your offer to come and stay to enjoy the warmth and sunshine, it can be awkward for everyone involved.

Likewise, some snowbirds struggle to set boundaries and say no to house guests who invite themselves over when they’re in the area.

Remember, it’s okay to kindly refuse to host any guest. If anyone tries to invite themselves to your home, politely tell them you can’t host guests at this time.

Recommend a nearby hotel, vacation rental, or send them an Airbnb listing, and invite them to a dinner out. Have them over one evening for a bottle of wine or sangrias and a night of game playing, or suggest you do something else together instead.

Limiting your invites to people whose company you genuinely enjoy is a great start. However, even your favorite people have the potential to be burdensome and intrusive guests.

Don’t assume there won’t be issues just because your adult child or best friend is coming to stay. If anything, problems with someone you adore can be even more awkward to deal with.

Setting Rules and Boundaries so Everyone Thrives

Spending time considering what you’re comfortable with and figuring out how to communicate that positively and proactively is key to having a great time with your company.

Here are three things you can do before your house guests arrive.

1. Think Ahead

Spontaneity is great, but it doesn’t work when it comes to houseguests. Some planning may be necessary to ensure your guests will have everything they need during their stay.

Planning and boundary setting can also help you avoid any issues that could be an inconvenience to you and your daily routine.

Discussing things ahead of time helps you learn about your guest’s expectations. This is important because people’s expectations of any situation can differ.

  • What do your house guests want out of their “vacation” to your snowbird home and community?
  • Does being away from home mean they go out for every meal, or will you be buying groceries and providing three meals a day?
  • Do they plan to sleep late, or will they be up and out of the house early every day?
  • Will your visitors expect you to be their tour guide taking them to local attractions? Or are they looking to you to attend or throw parties or events?
  • Is your home just someplace nice (and cheap) to sleep versus a hotel or Airbnb? Or is their visit a chance to spend time together and deepen your relationship?

Thinking ahead and clarifying expectations will help avoid problems. Let your houseguests know what you can offer and what you’re willing to do during their stay.

Most importantly, be honest. Remind guests of your expectations too.

If you feel stressed thinking about shopping, cooking dinner, sightseeing famous attractions, and entertaining guests, don’t hold back from saying no to whatever you are uncomfortable with. Or ask for help. There's no reason a guest in your home can't lend a hand to set the table or open that bottle of wine.

2. Discuss the House Rules for Guests Early

One of the most important boundaries to discuss with any potential houseguest is the length of their visit.

Be cautious of open-ended visits with houseguests who want to go with the flow. While it sounds nice, not having a time limit could end up creating an uncomfortable situation for you.

Instead, let your friends and family members know the amount of time you’d be comfortable with them staying. That way, if they’d like to remain in the area for an extended visit, they can book other accommodations if needed.

This is your home and personal space, which means you can be as strict as you want to be. If there are “house rules” in place, be sure to let your guests know before their visit.

If you know your family or friends enjoy staying up late partying, explain any ground rules that may apply in your snowbird home that are different from rules back home.

Have an acquaintance coming to stay? Politely let them know your available time, house rules, and if your household is free of things such as certain foods, allergens, or other products.

It may seem like you’re being flexible or unwelcoming, but savvy guests will be happy to know what to expect before they arrive.

3. Be Straightforward

If you’re wondering about the best way to approach these conversations, know that you can reduce a lot of awkwardness by addressing things head-on.

Simply say that you feel the best way to avoid problems is to discuss rules, boundaries, and expectations in advance. Let your future guests know that you’re excited about their visit and want to help it be a great experience for everyone.

While some of your family members and friends might be surprised at this assertiveness, bringing up guest etiquette, expectations, and house rules before they arrive will be appreciated by thoughtful visitors.

When your house guests aren’t excited about the boundaries you’ve discussed, this gives them time to make alternate plans such as securing a short term rental.

Rules Matter But Flexibility Does Too

Much fun can come with having loved ones come to stay. And while there are people who take advantage of others, most terrible houseguests are wonderful people who don’t mean to cause problems or hard times for their gracious host.

They often don’t realize what they’re doing is bothersome.

Even if you do your best to discuss the ground rules and clarify expectations in advance, a fair share of your visitors may still behave in a way that bugs you at times. But it’s important to pick your battles in life.

Don’t let an unruly or insensitive guest take over your home or create a financial burden. But if your guest’s mistake is innocent, it’s okay to let it go.

When you find yourself getting annoyed, take some deep breaths, and check your body language. No one wants to stay in a home where they don’t feel welcome.

Remember, their visit is temporary, even if you have a friend overstaying there welcome. Still, there’s no such thing as a perfect guest – or perfect hostess.

Years from now, when you look back on this visit, it’s the happy times and close relationships you’ll remember, not the little inconveniences.

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