This is my second year away from home. And while I wouldn't necessarily call myself homeless, let's just say that when the dorms get shut down or the Kosher food gets cancelled (on Thanksgiving, for example), I have to find somewhere to stay. Luckily, my friends are all too glad to invite me over when I casually mention that I'm from Florida and have no place to go. Here's how I and other out-of-towners like me can pay back these wonderful host families.
1. Bring a gift. It can be a dessert, flowers, or a bottle of wine. These are your only options. Why? I don't know.
2. Shower quickly. So you usually shower for twenty minutes? Cut it down to ten or less. Especially applicable if you're staying with a large family, or if there are other guests staying over as well.
2. Offer to help. Multiple times. Your host mom may shy away from letting you into the kitchen at first, but if you notice that the family is setting the table, grab some forks and get to work. Also, offering to help once isn't enough. Make yourself useful throughout your stay.
3. Befriend the small children. You're probably staying over on a holiday, when Mom wants the kids out from under her feet. Read them a story, play dolls with them, whatever. You get to enjoy their cuteness, and Mom gets a break.
4. Compliment, compliment, compliment. If the food is good, say so! And if it isn't, compliment anyway. The mom (or dad) who went through all this trouble to make a gigantic meal is sure to appreciate some gratitude.
5. Don't make your friend's room a mess. You may be staying over anywhere from one to three days. Bring a grocery bag to put your laundry in. Place your shoes neatly by the door. Etc.
6. If you need something, ask. Your hosts can't read your mind. Don't make your stay unnecessarily difficult by being shy when you're hungry or thirsty or need another blanket. It doesn't bother them.
7. The coffee is in the top cabinet in the corner. The mugs are in the top cabinet next to the coffee. This is almost always true. Another one of those inexplicable mysteries of life. If you wake up before your host, feel free to help yourself to their coffee. Just make sure to wash your mug when you're done.
8. When you leave, strip the bed. Put the sheets and duvet cover in a pile, fold up the blanket, and place the pillow neatly on top. This can save your host a lot of time and effort, especially if they're having over multiple guests.
With this kind of attitude, you'll enjoy your stay and be invited back time and time again. Soon enough, you'll have your pick of host families, so that you can stay where you're most comfortable instead of at whoever bothers to invite you over.