Tokens of appreciation for party and vacation hosts are a package deal with holiday travel and festivities. Gifts for hosts are part of the annual shopping tab, which is expected to hit $447.1 billion during the upcoming holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. But travelers and partygoers don't have to pay a fortune to win favor with hosts. Sharon Harvey-Rosenberg, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers
Go green: Do-it-yourself plant and floral arrangements deliver beauty and convenience in eco-friendly packages. Secondhand outlets — thrift stores and yard sales — sell elegant but frugal vases and containers for plants and flowers. This shopping strategy enables you to recycle vessels and provide a low-maintenance gift for your host. Browse through garden shops, big-box discount stores, florists, street vendors or supermarkets for flowers and plants. Of if you have a green thumb, create an arrangement from your garden, with plants, herbs and flowers. Attach low-maintenance care instructions.
Log on: Out-of-town guests should travel with a toolkit of entertainment options to avoid overtaxing hosts with demands. Check out events calendars posted on websites maintained by visitors' bureaus, museums, libraries, public parks, museums and other civic organizations. Those calendars typically include a range of no-cost and low-cost activities.
Clean: Household help is valuable, and cleaning services charge $75 to $200 per hour, according to costhelper.com. Give your host the gift of time by volunteering for household chores, such as washing dishes, preparing meals and grocery shopping. Party guests can offer to serve drinks, set the table or clean up.
Watch the clock: Even the best houseguests can overstay their welcome. Keep the welcome mat fresh by respecting your host's professional commitments, personal boundaries and rituals. Watch the clock and the calendar, thereby providing your host with pockets of solitude and relaxation. At dinner parties, respect the host's time borders by sending the RSVP, arriving and leaving the party in a timely fashion.
Offer thanks: Gratitude can take many forms. Photographs, gift certificates and tickets make great parting gifts. Frame a favorite party or vacation photo. Picture frames can be found at thrift stores, consignment shops and the clearance section of discount stores. And don't forget basic thank-you notes.