Channel what you love about a great hotel, says interior designer Young Huh, with basics that include an iron, spare hangers, and an alarm clock. Bonus points for bottled water, a box of chocolates or mints, and a note with your Wi-Fi password. To prevent guests from stumbling over suitcases, Joanna Goddard of Cupofjo.com suggests keeping a luggage rack in the guest room. And in your guest bath, “always, always set out extra toilet paper and a plunger, because there’s nothing more awkward than having to ask,” she says. An extra-thoughtful touch: Keep a stockpile of just-in-case medications (ibuprofen, indigestion pills) and bandages, plus a sewing kit for garment emergencies.
To buy: Real Simple slimline suit hangers in Dove, $30 for 50; bedbathandbeyond.com. Sleep mask, $45; slipsilkpillowcase.com. Gold earbuds, $25; happyplugs.com. Oval bread basket in antique brown, $35; aerostudios.com. Fabric Fresh, $16; thelaundress.com. HoMedics personal ultrasonic humidifier, $20; bedbathandbeyond.com. F1 Air Supplies earplugs, $8 for 8; flight001.com. Wool and cashmere throw in smoky teal, $128; garnethill.com.
A self-service buffet keeps you from playing short-order cook. For breakfast, make and freeze waffles a day or two before guests arrive; in the morning, heat in a 200-degree oven and serve with fresh berries, chocolate chips, pomegranate seeds, whipped cream, and syrup. “Kids can have fun making an edible art project,” says Catherine McCord of Weelicious.com. Or try a yogurt station with toppings like hempseed, nuts, honey, and chopped fruit. Finish with a coffee and tea area stocked with mugs, spoons, a milk frother, and sweeteners. Come lunchtime, a sandwich bar is a crowd-pleaser. And for off-hours nibbling, a basket in the pantry or fridge labeled “Eat me” takes the guesswork out of what’s fair game to munch on during the day.
To buy: Brew Cafetiere coffee press, $210; tomdixon.net. Shell Bisque salad plates, $18 each; canvashomestore.com.
Ensure a comfortable, convivial meal for all with a few strategic table-setting hacks. For a tablecloth that will cover a folding table or one with added leaves, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs of Food52 suggest buying plain linen fabric that’s 10 inches longer than each side of the surface. Wash and dry it to create intentional frays along the cut edges. As you set the table, don’t sweat it if you don’t have enough matching china, says Huh. Either mix and match two sets evenly (the salad plate from one set with the dinner plate from another) or disperse many mismatched pieces throughout the table, sticking with a consistent color palette to keep it looking uniform. Lay out serving dishes the night before, each labeled with a sticky note with the menu item you plan to serve in it. Hesser and Stubbs divide each dish into two serving platters or bowls so everyone at the table can have easy access.
No playroom? No problem. Keep both kids and adults amused by creating a designated fun zone. Stock a basket with games (like Uno, Scrabble, and Jenga) and a few decks of cards for those in-between times when there’s no scheduled activity, says entertaining expert Pamela Salzman. McCord likes to set up an arts and crafts station with wooden picture frames, stickers, and an instant camera for taking snaps to put into the decorated frames. Designate a puzzle corner—with a card table, a 1,000-piece jigsaw, and good lighting—so anyone can jump in at any time. And set out plenty of floor pillows and a basket of fuzzy blankets to make movie watching more fun (try Elf, Gremlins, or The Nightmare Before Christmas). For a festive all-ages nightcap, serve hot chocolate with peppermint stirrers.
To buy: Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, $59; urbanoutfitters.com. Classic Operation Skill Game, $19; amazon.com. What We See in the Stars, $12; amazon.com.