Tips For How To Be A World Class Guest

How To Be A World Class Guest

My children are turning out just like me. Well-played, Karma. Well-Played.


Last time we shared tips for being a world class short-term rental host. While that was easy to write, sharing tips for being a world class guest is a bit more problematic for me.

If you have ever stayed in a hotel then you know what it’s like to stay someplace owned and managed by someone else.

And if you have ever lived in your parents’ or grandparents’ or some relative’s house for some portion of your life, or crashed on your friend’s couch for a night, then you know what it’s like to live in someone else’s house.

Those experiences can indeed create a false sense of understanding when it comes to what it is like staying in a short-term rental like an Airbnb.

While nearly 100% of the US population has at least one night in their life stayed someplace that didn’t belong to them, less than 3% of the US population rents out their home.

Someone deciding to become a short-term rental host, therefore, doesn’t necessarily understand what they are getting into without a little guidance.

So while I was able to see a value in writing about what makes for a great host, I questioned whether there is the same value in writing about what makes for world class guest.

In other words, since my target audience here are guests, not hosts, is my target audience even interested in searching for tips on being great at being themselves? And if not, then why write the article?

Creating a water-cooler space where us hosts gather to complain about guests is not what I am after.

Shoeless Joe Is ‘A Calling

But then I watched Field of Dreams again, and it did what it always does–inspire me to take an if-I-build-it-they-will-come approach to whatever it is I have been dreaming about doing (which is really my overarching strategy for this business, this website, this blog…my goodness, I guess my entire life at the moment).

So since I spend half my time wishing life were more like the movies I love, why should this time be any different, right?

If you are already a short-term rental host, you’ll more than likely agree with everything I have identified here as world class guest behavior, and likely have more to add (please do so in the comments!). And if I have remarkably found my target audience (I am hitting publish right now with no expectations), then on behalf of all short-term rental hosts let me say THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE!

We Learn From Our Guests

As a short-term rental host for now almost three years, I have been introduced to so many outstanding guests who showed both us and our homes incredible kindness.

Guests who at times had every reason to be justifiably nasty, or to want to seek alternative accommodations.

How Do We Get Out Of Your House?

Like the guests who got locked IN our home because our smart-lock failed to be smart and jammed on them making it impossible for them to unlock the front door.

They contemplated their options: climb out the windows or scale the locked privacy fence around the property–and for which they did not have access to unlock.

They were late for a family reunion dinner reservation, and ended up going with option B: scaling our six-foot fence—all six of them.

While we worked to solve this for them as quickly as possible, we were not fast enough to make their dinner reservation. Yet, they showed us remarkable kindness when someone else could have justifiably been a little more than frustrated.

It’s Raining Inside Your Kitchen

Or the guests who woke up to our living room ceiling soaked with water from a violent rain storm the night before that revealed a leak we didn’t know we had.

And despite their clothing and shoes and some other personal items wet from the leak, they remained incredibly kind and understanding.

They even reached out to someone they personally knew who could do the repair work if we needed, and who would offer us a family discount.

A World Class Guest

Or the guests who, as a thank you for allowing them to have a later check-out, cleaned and folded all of our towels and linens and then made all of the beds exactly as they found them, before they left. And then left us a bottle of wine.


We have learned a great deal about being kind from our guests. Not only is it our number one rule for ourselves at San Antonio Stays, but it is where we always begin when sharing any tips for how to be a world class guest (you know, for when exactly no one has ever asked us). 

But we’re building it anyway. Fingers crossed we find our Shoeless Joe.

So here is a short list of what I recommend as basic behaviors to being a world class guest. Follow these tips and you’ll be off to a better than good start making your time as a short-term rental guest enjoyable and stress free, for both you and your host.

6 Tips On Being A World Class Guest

And as a secondary benefit, these will also secure you your own 5-star review.

1. Communicate with your host

We like to think of ourselves as good communicators. We create several touchpoints with our guests prior to their scheduled check-in sharing all of the information they will need for an enjoyable stay, including some questions for them to help us personalize their experience. 

But here’s a story of how the communication wasn’t exactly reciprocated by our guests.

It’s The Wrong Day, But I Want To Come In Anyway!

There was a time not long ago when a particular group of guests failed to respond to any of our pre-check in messages. We then called them at the number they had listed on Airbnb only to find that it was not accepting any messages.

I woke up on the morning of their check-in to several text messages and missed calls from a number I didn’t recognize. It turns out these guests got their check-in date wrong, showing up a day early–at 2AM.

When they couldn’t get into our home, and found us not answering their calls and texts at 2AM, they became angry, left to stay at a hotel and texted us that they would be reporting us to Airbnb.

When we eventually connected with them and were able to show them their mistake, they had to admit fault and acknowledged they missed every communication we sent to them in the Airbnb app (because they didn’t have the app, and didn’t check their emails) and that the phone number they had listed on Airbnb was incorrect. Yet somehow they knew our correct address, so their attention was selectively focused it seemed when they were searching for the reservation details.

Key Takeaways:

  • Be responsive to your host’s messages; there are likely important details in what they send you…like your check-in date.
  • Have a phone that can receive texts and calls, and where your host has your correct phone number.
  • Download the app for the service you used to book your reservation (e.g. Airbnb, VRBO,, HomeAway) and enable it to send you notifications.

Oh, and we let them check in that morning despite their scheduled check-in time of 3PM later in the day…see rule #1: Be Kind.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw

2. Don’t confuse your host with a hotel concierge

Here’s another story.

I Know Nothing About Everything

It was 8:12PM on a Friday night when our guests arrived. My family and I were in the middle of our dinner, and about to start our movie night.

At 8:17PM our guests texted our personal number rather than use the AirBNB app (after not replying to any of the pre-check in messages) complaining about the Roku TV not being able to connect to anything.

No “hello”. No “we have arrived”. No “thank for the welcome gift”. (too needy?) Just “What’s up with the TV, it’s not working.”

Within three minutes, and prior to our responding to their first message, the guest called to yell at us (or at my voice mail) about there being a beeping sounding the house that wouldn’t stop. At 8:20PM they texted again that they didn’t like the neighborhood. 

Despite Fernanda’s better judgement, I left our family night and drove to our rental. But not before stopping off to get two pints of ice cream for their kids, and batteries for what I assumed was the source of the beeping—a smoke detector with a low battery.

I arrived to their kids happily watching TV; seems they figured out the Roku TV. After searching for the source of the beeping I discovered it was coming from their luggage—a baby monitor that wasn’t turned off, and in need of its own new battery.

And they had, since shouting into my voicemail, met my neighbor from across the street who greeted them warmly and invited them to stop by his home on Saturday if they wanted to grab a burger. He was having a barbecue for his family.

Despite their sheepish apologies, and every issue having been addressed without my intervention, my own family night was by now over. And with just a moments hesitation before their Defcon-5 text messages and the sky-is-falling voice mails, perhaps everyone would have enjoyed their evening a little more than we had. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Whereas a hotel has a 24/7 team, a short-term rental host is usually just themselves, and managing your rental while also managing a full time job and their family.
  • Being kind here would have gone a long way, especially if it was action item #1.

3. Follow your host’s rules

Like every other child in the history of children, I would ask my parents “why” to every one of their rules. And like every other parent in the history of parents, it drove them certifiably crazy.

I don’t know how they didn’t either kill me or abandon me to the psych ward of our local hospital. And usually, because they were likely considering both as options, they would in an exhausted state of frustration reply, “because I said so.”

Not very explanatory, but at the end of day, as valid as any other response would have been. After all, it was their house, and so it was their rules. 

My House, Still Their Rules

When I was old enough to decide whether I accepted or rejected their rules, it was on me to decide to either continue living with them or choose to live somewhere else. At some point, I was sufficiently notified of all the rules and was free to decide to reject them.

To continue living with my parents as an adult and spend every day rejecting their rules would be as insane as, oh I don’t know, reading the rules of an Airbnb host, deciding I rejected them, booked with them anyway, and then questioned and complained about their rules to them the entire length of my stay before writing a negative review on them for all of the rules I had full knowledge of before booking their home.

(See what I did there…pointed sarcasm in a run-on sentence. So much for my SEO ranking.)

And if Google said so, it must be true.

All sarcasm aside, a great way to be a great guest is to:

  • Read your host’s rules.
  • If you do not accept their rules, keep searching for that perfect short-term rental that will make you inexorably happier than you would be had you booked a rental with rules you didn’t agree with or understand.
  • Follow your host’s rules.

You could honestly skip every other tip listed here, and practice this one and only this one, and you will earn the respect of 99% of your hosts 100% of the time.

I’m Good With All Of The Rules Except These

What are the house rules I have questioned all of the time?

  • “Your listing says “no pets,” but my two dogs are house trained. Would it be ok if I brought them?”
  • “Your listing says “no smoking” but would it be ok if I was careful?”
  • “Your nightly rate is <fill in the blank with whatever it happens to be that night>, but I was wondering if you could lower it for me?”
  • “Why do you charge extra for more guests? I don’t think that’s fair.”

I can hear my parents’ voice echoing between my ears. You can too, right?

The most direct answer to all of them is the same reply my parents offered me…because I said so. After all, it is my house, and no one is forcing you to stay there.

And I know better than most just how many options are available to guests on sites like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. All of those options make it crazy competitive for me to eek out any profit. I am not, unfortunately, and despite my dreams of monopoly, the only rental in town. 

We don’t think it is alright to complain to McDonald’s for not having any pizza on the menu, right? Or Starbucks for not serving alcohol? Or the bar we are forced to go to instead of Starbucks for not allowing us to bring our crying two-year old, right? 

Nice…all in agreement together. We can proceed.

Start With Just An Inch In Their Shoes, The Mile Can Come Later

Let’s all try something anyway.

Imagine you invited someone over to your home for dinner. You shopped for the ingredients, you set a beautiful table, you prepared a meal you have had complimented before and that you believe is a fair representation of your kindness.

You even asked that someone if they had any dietary restrictions before deciding on your menu, and respected any they shared with you.

Excited about your dinner, you share with them the night before that you are going to have these great appetizers you’ve been looking forward to making, and then some special cheeses with a wine you picked out, before moving on to the main course which will be something on the grill.

And then that someone comes over at your scheduled dinner time and questions why there is no salad, complains that they don’t understand why they have to wait for the main course through cheeses they don’t eat, and that they don’t think it is fair they weren’t allowed to bring their dog to dinner. Oh, and they forgot to tell you they just became a vegetarian.

Yeah, that’s exactly how all hosts feel.

So What’s Up With The Extra Guest Fees?

Now, that said, I want to share an expanded answer to that last one. Charging more for extra guests is something I have many hosts me ask about for their own listings. And so it’s worth more than a “because I **** said so” answer.

You may be thinking same home, what does it matter how many people are there?

So here is the answer. 

  • More guests equates to more wear and tear on a home.
  • More guests equates to more utility usage (lights, water).
  • More guests equates to more laundry, and higher cleaning costs.
  • More guests could equate to higher insurance costs. More guests equates to a greater chance that…a party happens (usually against the rules); someone breaks something; et cetera, et cetera.
  • More guests simply equates to greater time, greater risk, greater expense.

And since short-term rental hosts are, in most cases doing this part-time and not multimillion dollar corporations, every risk, expense, and time needs to be financially off-set just so the host can remain in business.

Rules around guest maximums and additional guest fees are not meant to rip off guests, but rather, no different than any other exchange of goods and services, a means of a business owner mitigating the risks that could mean the end of their livelihood. 

Respecting these rules will go a long way with your host. 


4. Leave the space better than you found it

My mother would tell us to always treat others the way we wanted to be treated. And when we were sleeping over a friend’s house, she would remind us to treat their home as we would treat our home.

The problem with that is we treated our home like garbage. We tossed our toys everywhere and didn’t clean up after ourselves. We treated our mother as though she were a maid. And we were disrespectful when she asked us to clean up after ourselves.

Not the behavior she was looking for when she instructed us to treat our friend’s home as we treated our own. 

So this tip is a little different.

The Golden Rule, But Better

This tip accepts that everyone is different, comes from different backgrounds and cultures, and different points of reference.

And this tip is the easiest in the world to baseline.

When you walk into your host’s home, take stock of its state. Its cleanliness. Its order. And when you check out, leave it better than how you found it.

And if you do that, you are not only guaranteed a full-star review from your host, guaranteed the appreciation of both your host and their next guest, guaranteed the universe bestowing positive karma upon you, but you are making the entire short-term rental community a better place. 

Powerful stuff, indeed. No joke.

And what’s more, leaving the space better than you found it is the most effective way of helping your host improve as a host, and making the space better for the next guest (which if prior guests did the same, would have made your own stay better). It’s all about paying it forward.

What’s In A Cleaning Fee?

But I paid a cleaning fee when I booked. That means I’ve already paid for someone else to clean up after me, right? 

Nope. Not even close. So wrong.

A cleaning fee is not what you pay in exchange for permission to leave your trash, dirty dishes, empty beer cans, and spent prophylactic sheath (yes, that has happened) on floors, counters and under beds.

A cleaning fee is what hosts charge for their expense in preparing the home for your arrival after the last guests check out.

You can see in our profile that we have multiple homes, and so we use a small team of two wonderful individuals who rely on our reservations to put food on their families’ tables. Our cleaning fee pays for their time, and 100% goes directly to them.

And their time is spent doing laundry, scrubbing every surface consistent with CDC guidelines in a world where COVID is a long-term tenant, and resetting the home to the pristinely clean home you found upon your arrival. 

Some of your hosts may not charge a cleaning fee (which is either an indication they are comfortable not being paid for their own considerable time required to clean the home; or they have already hidden the cleaning fee into their nightly price; or you are going to get what you paid for and a home/apartment not as clean as you deserve).

Let’s Do Some Math

Additionally, a host’s choice to not hide the cleaning fee in the nightly rate but rather make it visible as a separate charge may be used to discourage shorter-term stays.

Take a look at the economics for the host in the graphic below.

Longer reservations means less turnover, which equates to less expenses and less time required for what could be less profit per week for shorter reservations. And if the host is doing the cleaning themselves, then a longer reservation means they don’t have to schedule as many hours of travel and cleaning time.

In the example above, the host may have been able to get another 2-night stay booked for the week, but then would likely need to have a cleaning team available to quickly turn over the home on a day when guests were both checking out and checking in. But then their profit would have been the same as a 6-night reservation for the week.

As hosts, we prefer longer-term stays because it requires both less time and less expense. And the cleaning fee is not only a means to compensate our staff for their time and work, but ourselves in the event we don’t have a team. 

5. Don’t be a jerk

This is not exactly the same as BE KIND. Because it is entirely possible to choose to simply not be kind without being a jerk. Being a jerk takes not being kind to a whole new level.

Like the guests we had that profanely disparaged our neighbors because of their Hispanic ethnicity. Mind you, we live in San Antonio, the largest Hispanic-majority city in the United States, with 64% of our population being of Hispanic origins.

We don’t screen our guests for geographical intelligence, or for racism, but having the former and not the latter will always make for a far more enjoyable host-guest relationship. 

So would not being a jerk.

Please Rate Your Hosts On Whatever Platform You Booked With Them…Their Livelihood Depends On It.

6. Rate your stay, correctly

Let’s imagine a scenario.

You had a lovely stay at your short-term rental. Your host answered your questions, and promptly. The space looked exactly like it was pictured in the listing.

And any part of your stay that you didn’t enjoy, but that was not at all within the host’s control (like whether you were able to find parking downtown, or if it rained every day you were there, or if the house down the street was having a party that kept you awake) you decide to indeed accept was entirely outside of your host’s control.  

Great stay! Definitely 4 stars!!

If that is your review on Airbnb, then you effectively murdered your host and their ability to attract future guests.

Walk Middle, Sooner Or Later, Get Squish, Just Like Grape.

Remember in the original Karate Kid movie when Mr. Miagi is telling Daniel “Walk on road. Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, get squish, just like grape“?

Well, your rating of your host is our imagined example above is just the same.

Rate them perfect, the host is safe. Rate them a zero, and you had an honest-to-god awful stay with a host who should never be allowed to host again.

But rate your host anything less than the full stars rating, and your host sooner or later will get squished by the algorithm, just like grape.

Not Like Your Review Of Asparagus At Your Local Restaurant

Unlike your online restaurant review, where your four-star review means a good to great experience, a four-star rating for a host on any site with an available 5 stars will eventually mean the end of their business.

That doesn’t mean you should feel sorry for them, or lie on your review. Just know that if the scale is based on five stars, and you give your host 4.5 stars, it is little different at the end of the day for that host than if you gave them zero stars.

The algorithm will murder them for a less than perfect review. The algorithm is based on the volume of perfect scores they have, and determines whether they even show up as a search result for a traveler on their platform.

And if their home doesn’t show up in the search results, it cannot be booked, and the host cannot earn.

Moreover, too many less than perfect ratings may eventually get the host kicked off the platform.

The Review Your Host Deserves

If everything was as advertised and your host followed our six tips for being a world-class short-term rental host, then your host deserves a full-star review.

You do the community, however, a service by including in that full-star review anything and everything that would be of value to a future guest in the comments field.

Like if you didn’t have enough bath towels (if you didn’t have any bath towels, give your host something less than perfect as they deserve it). Or if you didn’t have extra paper towel (if you didn’t have any paper towel, give them something less than perfect as they deserve it). Or if you didn’t like the fluffiness of your pillows (if you didn’t have any pillows, a less than perfect score is again justified).

Those examples, however, would also be appreciated as private comments. A quality host will do everything they can to address those for the next guest, without suffering their public profile including complaints about pillow fluffiness.

It may not be a fair system, but it is the system hosts are required to participate in if they wish to remain in this business.

And the party down the block, the constant rain you experienced, and the trouble you would have parking in any city’s downtown, well as much as we wish we could have made that different for you, it is as beyond our control as…yeah, the weather.

Continuing a 2000 year-old tradition

There is always something we can learn from others, whether they are good at what they do (teaching us our DOs) or they aren’t (teaching us our DON’Ts), and more importantly if you are actually looking for the lessons.

To find the lessons we need to have what’s called a growth mindset. 

A Growth Mindset

In Carol Dweck’s incredible book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she compares the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset.

A growth mindset believes that talents and abilities can be developed through hard work, good strategies and input from others.

While a fixed mindset defends those talents and abilities as being innate and immune to improvement or development. 

No matter our intentions, we all suffer at some point with a fixed mindset.

Challenges, criticism, and being compared with others have the habit of forcing us to feel insecure and then grow defensive. And no growth can happen when we are here–in our fixed mindset.

Also, just having a growth mindset does not guarantee that good things are going to automatically happen.

We have to both continually challenge our understanding of our ability to do our task while also accepting risk taking. And then reward ourselves when we learn useful lessons from the risks taken as we intentionally seek better ways to complete our tasks.

It’s how we guarantee we are always positioned to get better at what we are doing. And it guarantees we will improve as a guest in someone’s home, not to mention improve as a human being.

Following in the Footsteps of Gilgamesh

The oldest work of literature in the world is the epic of Gilgamesh, and among more things than this post has space for, is about a king who serves in the role of both host and guest. It is the earliest written account of the host-guest relationship.

We love hosting, engaging with our guests; and we love being a guest and engaging with our hosts. Both experiences and interactions consistently teach us something new and allow us to grow not only as hosts and as guests, but as human beings.

And in so doing, we are allowed to continue a tradition born over 2000 years ago with Gilgamesh.

Not a bad gig at all.

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Published on: June 1, 2022  -  Filed under: Airbnb/VRBO, Entrepreneurship, Life Lessons, Travel  -  Tagged: ,

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