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How to Be the Perfect Beach House Guest

My mom had a 72-hour rule when visiting us in Annapolis from her home in Chicago. She would come on an early afternoon flight, stay three nights and leave while we were still having fun. When I would say, "Oh, Mom, I wish you could stay longer," I really meant it, but she never did.
08/24/2015 01:16pm ET | Updated August 23, 2016
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My mom had a 72-hour rule when visiting us in Annapolis from her home in Chicago. She would come on an early afternoon flight, stay three nights and leave while we were still having fun.
When I would say, "Oh, Mom, I wish you could stay longer," I really meant it, but she never did.

This, because she understood her rule to be crucial: To leave when you are still welcome, when the visit still feels fresh.

My mom's tip, and a few more I'm about to suggest, can be your guide to being the perfect guest as summer vacation season is in its August peak. Follow these rules when you've been invited -- or have invited yourself -- to a friend's beach house and your chances of return invitations are upped big time.

First off, unlike my heartfelt urgings to my mom to stay another couple of days, most likely when your host says "I wish you could stay longer," they are really thinking: "Phew, now we've got the place to ourselves." So don't start immediately unpacking your bags. Give them big hugs, and effusive expressions of gratitude at the door, and leave behind some fresh flowers and a tidy bedroom.

Second tip segues from the tidied up room. Your hosts are not your housekeepers. Make your bed every morning, and don't sprawl your wet towels all over the room. Don't leave your clothes spilling out of an open suitcase in the center of the floor. Hosts generally wedge some closet space for guests, marked by a few hangers, and one or two empty drawers. Put away your clothes, and stick your empty suitcase in a corner.

As someone who receives frequent houseguests I can tell you that even if the door of your bedroom stays closed your host is checking it out -- to put in new towels, to empty your bathroom garbage bin, to see if you are a slob.

You get huge points if your room is clean, and your bed is made up. Underwear scattered across the floor or sticky dishes left on a nightstand are not cool, and could be demerits against the chance of a return visit.

Moving on from gross dishes with the residue of a midnight snack, which your host encouraged you to help yourself to at any time, is the all-important topic of how to handle yourself properly when it comes to meals. And this is a biggie so pay attention.

The perfect guest arrives with a basket of snacks that could include all or at least three of the following -- hummus, brie, wine, bagels, vegetables and fruit from a farm stand they hit en route.

Your hosts are about to feed you a dozen or so meals and you showing up with something to eat makes a wonderful impression -- again, earning huge points. You bringing food and drink means less money spent and less shopping for them.

Don't disappear with a cold beer to catch the sunset on the beach when a meal is being prepared. Be a partner in the kitchen. Offer to make the salad, set the table, go to the boardwalk for fries. After everyone is tipsy and full and happy, be the first to leap up from the table to clear the dishes. You want a surefire invite back next summer? Rinse them off, and put them in the dish washer. Tell your hosts to sit tight while you are doing these kitchen chores.

While I have given some clear instructions pertaining to dining and cleanliness, perhaps the most important issue that grates on hosts are guests who don't ever leave their sides. What earns the most points when I host guests are those who are independent. They know how to keep themselves entertained and don't ask me, "So what are we doing today?"

While we may go into town together, this is an outing that doesn't last all day. Give me the guests who bring crossword puzzles, the ones who go sightseeing alone (and come back with fudge), the ones who don't pull up a chair three inches from me when I'm drinking my morning coffee and start telling me about their sick mother-in-laws.

Know that your hosts cherish their personal space, particularly at a beach house where they are trying to have solace on a vacation, just like you.

Finally, comes the subject of bedtime, and when to say a hearty "good night." Some solid clues: Your host is yawning. Your host is asleep on the living room couch. Your host has said for the fourth time, "Wow, what a long day we've had..." You ask for a refill of your wine glass and your host snaps back, "Haven't you had enough?"

Pay attention to their cues. I go to bed early and when there are guests in the house who are loud and still partying at midnight I get grouchy. I may not make cheddar and spinach omelets for breakfast but instead go for a long walk and leave out a box of cereal.

Iris Krasnow is a bestselling author of relationship books and a frequent keynote speaker to women's and business groups. Connect with her on iriskrasnow.com.