Whether you are lucky enough to have a spare room dedicated to guests or you have squeezed a sofa bed in a home office, you can be a gracious host.
First, of course, clean the room from top to bottom. Make sure the blinds still work. Remove all the clutter you’ve stashed in there — especially sensitive documents such as bank statements or tax papers. No need tempting anyone to check the balance on your Visa bill. Make sure the closet has at least a foot of hanging space and provide some nice wooden hangers. (You can get an eight-pack for $5 at Ikea.) Provide a reading lamp by the bed if you can. Installing hooks on the wall for clothing is also a nice touch for beach or weekend houses. Toss a cozy throw on the back of a chair, stack some magazines or books and make a little welcome basket of fancy soaps, a toothbrush, bottled water and maybe a bit of chocolate. Ask your guests how they like their coffee. A fresh flower, even a single bloom in a bud vase, shows you want them to feel special.
Speaking from experience as a guest and a host, I’ve compiled a list of common mistakes you can easily avoid. Don’t forget, if your friends have a nice experience, hopefully they’ll return the favor someday.
1: Never sleeping in your guest room: Have an adventure and sleep in your guest room tonight. Experience the joy (or sadness) of snoozing in this forgotten room. You might discover the mattress sinks to the floor or the skimpy curtains don’t close and let the morning sunlight directly in your eyes. Or you might decide that a white noise machine is a great amenity to keep guests from hearing your kids or neighbors through the walls.
2: Using sheets from your college days: The guest room is no place for castoff sheets. The same goes for rough, scraggly towels. Give guests your nicest ones or splurge on a new set. If you want to spoil your guests, iron the pillowcases. Too Martha Stewart for you? OK, then don’t.
3: Not setting out a luggage rack or bench: An open suitcase on the floor makes for a jumble of clothing and a messy room. A bench can serve as extra seating as well as a stand for a couple of suitcases. A foldable luggage rack, such as those they provide in hotels, is a terrific investment and can create a handy surface for luggage. Stash it in a closet after they are gone. It’s also handy to have when you are packing for a trip.
4: Ignoring grungy mattress pads: First of all, I hope you have a mattress pad. Yes, even if you are using a sofa bed. This pad keeps your mattress looking fresh. We all probably don’t wash them as much as we should. (Guilty as charged.) Remember, some guests may inspect the mattress pad for evidence of bed bugs. Others may thoughtfully remove sheets before checking out, catching a glimpse of your mattress pad. If yours is nasty, consider an upgrade.
5: Not providing tech support: Everyone travels with multiple cellphones, laptops and other devices. Leave a note in your guest room listing your WiFi code, and point out where the electrical outlets are. It’s a bad scene when guests come in late and have to hunt for places to plug in their chargers for the night. If you have a TV in the room, provide a sheet of instructions on using the remotes and cable, as a thoughtful friend did for us on our recent trip to the Hudson Valley.
6: Neglecting to provide a wastebasket: Everyone creates trash. And why should your guests have to trek to the bathroom just to toss out a crumpled tissue? (Speaking of which, a box of tissues in a guest room is also a lovely convenience.) Nice little wastebaskets are available for under $10.