Be the Best Houseguest EVER with These "Thank You" Gifts

A thoughtful gift can mean a lot, and it's still cheaper than a hotel room.
Publish date:
August 27, 2014
shoppables, travel, couch surfing, gifts, houseguest

I've been doing a lot of traveling the past few weeks. I hopped around the West Coast for a bit, and had the time of my life, and now I'm chillaxin' in sunny Florida for a hot minute before I scoot my way up the East Coast to Baltimore en route to NYC. Traveling for over six weeks is sort of exhausting, but also sort of awesome.

If I don't pack up and go somewhere on the somewhat regular, I go a bit stir crazy. (And you won't like me when I'm stir crazy.) Whether it's a cross-country vacation or just a weekend in a cabin a few hours away, getting out of town is integral to my survival.

But I'm a cheapo so I'm definitely not fronting the cash for hotel rooms once a month or more. Hotels are a fun treat every now and then, but when you travel as much as I like to, they aren't practical for my budget.

Luckily, I've got a bevy of generous and delightful friends and relatives scattered throughout the US of A, guaranteeing me a bed, sofa, or air mattress almost anywhere I might like to go. Staying with a friend is sometimes way more fun than a hotel. First of all, friend time! Second of all, your friend probably has better snacks than that hotel minibar and hopefully won't charge you $8 if you eat one of her bananas.

While a friend's house is technically free, that doesn't mean you should freeload. Be a good houseguest and respect your friend's space and their wishes. Don't be loud or messy or rude. Those are just pretty good rules for life.

Being a polite guest is a great way to show your gratitude, but a thoughtful "Thank You" gift goes a long way. Buying gifts for people can be difficult, but I've come up with some gift ideas for you!


When I was in San Francisco, I stayed one night at my friend Elaine's apartment. Our souls have been eternally connected since we spent a weekend drinking vodka out of Sprite cans and sleeping on the ground and dirty dancing at a blues festival in Mississippi a few years ago, and now she's a baller stylist in San Francisco. I make a point to only surround myself with people who are constantly working to better themselves, and Elaine is a perfect example of that. Because I believe in her potential, I gave her a copy of Sophia Amoruso's "#GIRLBOSS" as a thank you for letting me crash in her bed with her and borrow her clothes before we watched "Clueless" in Dolores Park.

Books are a great gift idea, duh. Everyone loves books and if someone doesn't love books, you shouldn't befriend them. A book by someone who works in the same field as your friend is a good idea. It's motivating and inspiring, right? Elaine works in fashion, so #GIRLBOSS was a perfect fit. There are books by well-known experts in nearly every field, so hook your friend up with some motivational words!

I think coffee table books make the best gifts. I love to buy myself books, but have a hard time convincing myself to spend $50 on a coffee table book, but that means I adore them when I receive them as gifts. Here are some coffee table books your friends are sure to adore as well.


It's hard to buy clothes for people, because sizes are weird. Jewelry and accessories are always a much safer bet. I like to buy my friends necklaces and bracelets from local jewelry makers at the farmers market or craft fairs, for something that's unique and will remind them of me more than a generic necklace from Forever 21 or something would.

If you aren't totally sure of your friends' jewelry preferences, go with something simple. Or choose a color you know they like. Simply giving them a necklace or bracelet and saying, "I thought this would go so nicely with that blue blouse you love" is a really simple way to be nice and awesome. Everyone should always be nice and awesome. Here's some cute jewelry pieces available for purchase online.

I love the simplicity of this gold cuff with an all black or all white outfit.

We all love pills, right? I DO. Celebrate your love for medications with this silver earring.

I love this simple, dainty bracelet from Catbird.

Kitchen Supplies

Eating food is the greatest, and cooking your own food is the second greatest. Kitchen supplies are a perfect gift for a friend who recently moved into a new apartment, or has expressed an interest in getting more culinary experience. Some great things you could buy for someone's kitchen include: a nice cutting board, a magnetic knife holder, quality spices or cooking oils, or something more specific and special -- maybe a fancy bottle opener, a stove-top espresso maker, or a kitchen timer.

If you're flying, it can be difficult to travel with kitchen stuff, so consider having it shipped to your friend's house while you're there, or have it shipped as a gift after you've left. If you're not sure what your friend's kitchen still needs, a fun, decorative item will work.

How about these cool arty coasters from the MoMA gift shop?

If you really love your friend, or if you're particularly flush with cash, how about an ICE CREAM MAKER, YEAH? (I will let you stay in my guest room for free for a long time if you buy me this.)

Also, no one can ever have too many dish towels. This Teddy Roosevelt dish towel cracks me up and I think I am going to buy it, and you should buy it for someone, too. Or for yourself. It's great, right?

Gift Cards

I think gift cards are generally pretty tacky, but sometimes they're your best option. Rather than spending $50 on a generic Target or Visa giftcard, opt for something a bit more personal. If you know your friend loves yoga, call a yoga studio near her and ask if you can buy her a class or two. Look in her area for some sort of activity or venue she would enjoy. Maybe there's an art studio near her that offers classes, or a smoothie place you know she loves.

A Nice Meal

For another few nights while I was in SF, my boyfriend and I stayed at his sister's apartment. We weren't really sure what to get her, and since she's moving soon and has been getting rid of things in preparation for it, we felt like giving her "stuff" might be annoying. (Moving is the WORST, as you know.) Instead, we made sure she and her girlfriend knew we would take them out for a good brunch while we were there. (Time out: Some other time, we should discuss how much I hate the "we" person I have become. BARF CITY. Okay, time in.) Everyone loves brunch. Look up a nice place in the area where you're staying, and make plans with your friend ahead of time.

Or, pick them up a gift certificate for a restaurant you know they love or have been wanting to check out.


All my friends are busy, ballerific types who don't often have the chance to relax or treat themselves, so I like to help them out with that. A good bath soak, exfoliator, face mask or lotion is a nice way to tell your friend, "You deserve a break. Here's a thing that smells nice. Enjoy."

How about a vegan bath soak made from organic coconut milk powder and vanilla oil? Mmmmm.

I'm obsessed with Malin & Goetz products, and this rum & lime handwash set is a delightful and practical gift.

If your friend/host is into painting her/his nails, Sephora always offers tons of cute nail polish collections. I love the colors in Julep's Resort Collection.

Neato Tech Stuff

The future is NOW, y'all. There is so much cool tech stuff out there, and a lot of it becomes more affordable every day. If you come to stay with me, I would like a hoverboard please. Here are some other techy gift ideas for all your cool friends.

iPhone camera accessories are the perfect gift for that budding Instagram celebrity in your life.

If your friend travels by bike a lot, show them you care about their safety with these nifty rechargeable lights.

When In Doubt, Head to Etsy

Buying locally crafted things is always cooler and more meaningful, but when that's not an option, Etsy is a great place to find amazing gifts. I once ordered my boyfriend a tea towel featuring a map of the city in England where he went to school. All I did was Etsy search "Bristol," and I found the perfect, adorable gift. Etsy is perfect for small trinkets, posters, greeting cards, jewelry, scarves, you name it.

Just be sure to plan ahead since some Etsy sellers can take a while to ship their goods.

What do you typically buy for friends to say "Thank You" for letting you stay at their place? If you DON'T buy your friends gifts, where are your manners?! Also, do not use this comment section to brag about how you only stay in hotels because I will only respond with Cher Horowitz levels of eye-roll, you snob and a half.