Step 1: Ask.
You’re a lucky person. You’ve got friends who live in beautiful, faraway places, places that it would be inconvenient or idiotic, logistically and financially, to visit without staying with them. So you want to go stay in their house, eat their food, dirty their linens, and have them drive you around? Then you have to ask them. You do not tell them. And you wait for them to say, inevitably, “Of course! We’d love to have you!” before you book your tickets. Just in case.
Step 2: Plan.
If you’re coming into town for a work thing and just need a bed to crash in at night, make sure your hosts understand that. Alternatively, if you want to hang out with them every moment of the day for four days straight, make sure they know that too. Those are two very different commitments.
Talk to them about the kind of things you think you’d like to do while you’re there, in case they’re completely sick of that sunset boat ride you really want to do because every single person who visits them always wants to do that same stupid boat ride. More important, ask them what they recommend you see. While you don’t want to just show up and plop down on their couch and say, “OK, guys, entertain me!” you do want their input on your itinerary. After all, they live there–they’re the experts. And if there’s anything in particular you really want to do while you’re staying with them, figure that out in advance, so they don’t wind up taking you to the doll museum on the day you wanted to compete in the hot dog eating contest.
Step 3: Remember all the stuff you were supposed to learn while you were growing up if you were raised right.
Pick up after yourself. Say thank you. Offer to help–with dishes, with cooking, with taking out the garbage, whatever. Say thank you. Don’t whine if something doesn’t work out the way you’d planned. Say thank you!
Step 4: Do something extra nice.
These friends of yours are being amazingly kind and generous with their time and energy and food and space by letting you stay with them. Besides saying thank you (Did you not read Step 3? Go back and read Step 3!), you should do something extra nice to show them thank you. This could be bringing them a present (especially one from home, something special they might not be able to get where they live) or taking them out for a swanky dinner or helping them with a project while you’re there (“Oh, you need to paint your bathroom? I’m really handy with a brush.”). Just do something, and they will spend the next year talking about how awesome you are and how they can’t wait to have you back.
Step 5: Return the favor.
You live somewhere, too. Somewhere where these folks don’t live. Invite them to come stay with you anytime. Mean it. And then maybe send them a link to this list.