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by Rebecca Burton

With holidays just around the corner, dinner invitations and travel plans are filling calendars once again. Though it’s a delight to throw a dazzling party or play the ultimate host, this season also offers the chance to shine as an ideal guest. While gifting your host a good bottle of wine is standard procedure, we think being a stellar invitee is more about what you do than what you bring. Try these tips to cement your spot at the top of every guest list for the coming year.

Take on a task

If your friend is hosting a formal dinner party, offer to create the place cards or bring a whimsical party favor to make the place settings pop.

Play butler

Arrive early to greet guests and take coats to the bedroom. This will give your host time to finish any last-minute food prep or focus on introducing guests to each other.

Play bartender

If your host prefers to be the first face at the door, offer to be the designated bartender for the first hour. Get everyone settled in and comfortable with drink in hand.

Play busser

While many hosts prefer to start cleanup after all the guests are gone, you can ease the job by tidying up throughout the night. In advance of dinner, let the host know she can signal you when it’s time to clear dishes before the next course. At a more casual party, help by doing a quick sweep every hour to clear up discarded plates and empty bottles.

Give directions

If you’re staying with a host for more than an evening, there are even more ways to sparkle as the “best guest ever!” Great guesting is all about reducing the items on your host’s to-do list and making your stay as stress-free as possible.

Rather than ask hosts for detailed directions to their place, simply request the address. Do a bit of research on your own and then share the route you plan to take. This way, they only need to review what you propose and recommend adjustments if necessary.

Send your itinerary in advance

Hosts will be anxious to ensure you have a good time during your stay. Ease their worries by sending a proposed schedule of activities as far in advance of your visit as possible. Highlight the events you hope they’ll attend and if these activities require a ticket or entrance fee, treat your hosts as thank you gift.

Wake up early to make breakfast

Give one of the best gifts possible—a chance to sleep in! Pick up all necessary ingredients for breakfast the day prior to create a simple, delicious start to everyone’s day.

Come with a laid-back activity

Bring two copies of a short book or favorite magazine you can both read and discuss during a quiet evening. This is a great way to relax together with little effort or expense. A new movie also does the trick!

Play babysitter

If your hosts have children, offer to take care of them for an evening. You could take the kids out for an activity while the parents relax at home or put the little ones to bed while they have a night out on the town.

Send a thank you gift once you’re home

Rather than show up with a one-size-fits-all gift, do a little detective work during your stay to send something unique and useful after your visit. Was a favorite candle burning low? Send a replacement. Did your host crave a specific candy while you were there? Ship a stash. Did you attend a concert together or hear a new song while out and about? Send the music as a gift via iTunes. Whatever you choose, you can be sure the thoughtfulness will bring back warm memories of your visit and leave you both looking forward to the next!