Manners Matter: The Reluctant Guest

Dear Mary Pat,

My wife’s brother and sister-in-law have a second home in Door County that they insist that we use when we visit here. I’m never fully comfortable since I’m afraid our kids are going to damage something, and to be honest, I’d be more relaxed if we stayed in a hotel where there aren’t any valuables to break! I’m grateful that they offer it, but then I’m never sure how to properly thank them. And I know a lot of other family members want to use it, so we never want to use more than four days at a time. If it were up to me, I’d like to stay for 10 days. Is there a way to politely say, “Thanks, but no thanks?”


Guest Not

Franklin, Wisconsin

Dear Guest Not,

If you’re able to come to Door County several times a year, perhaps there’s a possible compromise here: Stay at their place during the nonpeak season, and stay where you like during the high season. You can say that you’re grateful for the offer, but you don’t want to deny someone else the option of using the place. You might also want a pool or something on the water, or to try a different town. As long as you aren’t rude in your refusal, I doubt they will be offended.

When you do stay at their place, you can send them a nice thank-you note, make sure the place is as clean as when you arrived, and maybe get them a gift certificate for one of their favorite restaurants. And if your children damage something, just let them know right away and offer to find or fund a replacement. 

I hope this helps. Don’t overthink it.

Good luck,

Mary Pat

Miss Pat was educated at the Finnish Finishing School for Fine Ladies. Eloquent in edifying etiquette, she is fluent in seven languages, including the language of love. Mary Pat has generously extended her counsel to you and will answer any and all inquiries. Email her at [email protected].