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I'm going to be staying with friends and family over the holidays. Will a gift express my thanks, or should I offer to take my hosts out for a meal? If we go out, do I have to pick up the tab?
Many guests do take their hosts out to dinner as a thank-you, but it’s not required. In fact, there is no one "proper" thank-you gift.
Can’t cook? Don’t offer to. They love wine? Bring a nice bottle that doesn’t break the bank. Heard about a great new sushi bar, and you’re feeling flush? Ask to take them out. (When dining out
for a non-thank-you meal, it's fine to offer to split the bill instead.)
If you're planning to treat your hosts, arrange it in advance; don’t wait for the check to arrive to spring your credit card. “I’d like to take you to dinner, which night would work best?” If you want to cook a meal, arrange this beforehand as well.
Houseguest gifts can be given, wrapped or not, at any point during the stay. If not, you can always send a gift afterwards. Think:
In the end, the only must-do thank-you for a guest to give is exactly that—to say thank you. Say it once when you leave, and again with a handwritten note, mailed from home.
This article originally appeared in Anna Post’s question and answer column on dailyworth.com on November 29, 2010.