All the Essentials
Basket of Basics
Offer a neat grouping of rolled towels, new toothbrushes, travel-size toiletries (including toothpaste and saline solution), and just-in-case meds, so guests instantly feel cared for.
It's off-putting for visitors to find the guest-room closet and dresser bursting with your overflow clothing. Leave at least two free drawers (set ajar so it's clear that they're for guests' use), ample hanging space, and a half-dozen hangers to stow belongings.
Keep a room deodorizer on hand to combat mustiness or cover up a bad smell (quick). Or consider a natural-oil diffuser with a subtle scent, like lavender or eucalyptus.
A plush covering (on a wood floor or on top of a carpet) softens the space and makes the room cozy. Choose a durable, stain-resistant material, like wool.
If you have a ceiling fan to keep the space from getting stuffy, great. If not, get an electric table fan. Before guests arrive, make sure it works and clean the blades.
Carafe of Water and a Glass
Keep the vessel freshly filled to prevent guests from having to hunt, opening and closing cupboards, when middle-of-the-night thirst strikes.
Without one, guests are less comfortable coming and going as they please. Leave the key on a tray on the nightstand, along with a note detailing any tricky locks or alarms.
Covered Waste Can
It's inevitable that guests will accumulate trash. A covered can lets them toss litter without having to look at it. Instead of a version with a lift-off lid, choose a step can—it's easier and more sanitary.
Their suitcases have been dragged through a plane or a train or stuffed in a car trunk. Do you really want them opened on top of the duvet? A rack is more hygienic and convenient.
Extra Toilet Paper (and a Plunger) in an Obvious Place in the Bathroom
Because no visitor wants to ask!
They're the best way to make a space welcoming. Just put mildly scented grocery-store blooms in a vase that's out of the way and not tippable, in case guests are getting ready in a hurry.
Print it on card stock, have it laminated at an office-supply shop, and place it on the nightstand so that guests can find it at a glance. (Get the downloadable template.)
Two to three current issues of newsy or general lifestyle magazines or a small stack of books (short stories, poetry, essays) are a nice touch for lounging.
Leave a pair or two next to the bed so visitors don't have to walk around in socks (or, brrr, barefoot). A unisex option that's great for any guest: Luxury plush slippers, $32, rh.com.
Leave one on the nightstand so guests can power up if they forgot theirs at home (or just don't feel like digging around in the suitcase for it). The V10 universal cell-phone charger ($60, chargeall.com) works with iPhones, Android devices, iPads, and Kindles.
You can explain the clicker how-to, but it's much easier to provide printed steps. Include a list of crowd-pleasing channels (CNN, E!, ESPN) for quick reference.
It's so much nicer to have a dirty-clothes-stashing spot other than a suitcase, especially for guests staying more than a few days.
A space-saving alternative to the iron and board for smoothing blouses and button-downs (like the Shark Press and Refresh steamer; $80, Walmart).
Any night-light en route to the bathroom is appreciated, but a motion-sensor version lets you keep the house nice and dark when it's not needed. It's low-cost and a cinch to install, too. (RS pick: Stanley electrical motion-sensor LED night-light, $8, wayfair.com/RSlight.)
Light-blocking drapes are a godsend for late risers. Find low-cost versions at overstock.com.