8 Must-Haves for Overnight Holiday Guests

You don't need a guest suite to host in style.

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Something that tends to go hand-in-hand with the start of the holiday season is the arrival of out-of-town guests. As we all get ready to host friends and family, it's time to run through the items that you’ll need to make sure that your guests have a stress-free stay at your house.

Spare Key

Photo by: Mark and Graham

Mark and Graham

A spare key to your house is, of course, a must. Put the key on a chic, tassel keychain and don’t forget to pass along any necessary alarm codes. If there are any special instructions (the door jiggles or the back gate doesn't work), don’t forget to pass those along, as well.

Luxe Toiletries

Photo by: Malin + Goetz

Malin + Goetz

Make your guests feel like they’ve checked into a boutique hotel with miniature toiletries to use during their stay. This selection from Malin + Goetz has items with fresh, gender-neutral scents.

Malin + Goetz, $30 

Comfy Air Mattress

Photo by: Amazon.com


If you don’t have a spare guest bedroom, a comfy air mattress should be a priority. This SoundAsleep air mattress has more than 10,000 reviews on Amazon.com, and most of them are gushing with praise. The mattress blows up to mirror the full-size of a standard mattress, includes a pump and a storage bag.

Amazon.com, $120

Household Instructions

If your guests will be spending some time on their own, it’s always helpful to give them a rundown of all of the special instructions they’ll need during their stay. These might include: tips about the electricity or water pressure in their bedroom/bath, notes about your pets, special instructions regarding appliances and anything else that will help make their stay a little easier. Write them down in a pretty notebook, and leave it on the dresser or bedside table in their bedroom.

Amazon.com, $15

Cozy Robe

Photo by: Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn

Make your guest feel like they're staying in a luxe hotel with this plush robe. Choose a larger size so it will work no matter who is staying. If you tend to have guests often, you might even want to keep two robes on hand.


Photo by: Bloomingdale's


Another lovely addition to a guest bedroom is a beautiful, seasonal candle. When picking out a candle, try to choose a neutral, lighter scent, as everyone responds differently to scents. Then, include a pretty set of matches nearby.


Snack Food Gift Basket

Snack Food Gift Basket

Help friends avoid any last-minute entertaining fiascoes with a thoughtful dry goods dessert basket. Gather an assortment of finger food-style desserts, then present them in clear bags and glass containers. Should extra guests show up to holiday gatherings, the recipient will have more than enough dessert options to end the night in good spirits.

Try to find out the sorts of things that your guests enjoy eating and create a little snack basket for them before their arrival. You can leave this in their bedroom or keep the items in your kitchen so your guests can easily grab what they need. If you’re unsure what they like to eat, try some simple granola bars, fruit or nut packs.

Fresh Sheets

Photo by: Parachute


Even if your guests will be sleeping on an air mattress, you’ll want to have some fresh sheets on hand for them. These 100-percent cotton sheets come in a variety of colors, sizes and patterns.

Parachute, $149

Hosting 101: 20 Ways to Welcome Weekend Guests

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Know Your Limits

The first rule of thumb, says entertaining expert Dana Christine, is to know the limits of your home and don't invite more guests than you or the house can accommodate. 

Photo By: monkeybusinessimages

Make Accommodations for Both Kids and Furkids

If children are on the guest list, determine if you'll need to line up a babysitter if adult-only outings are on the schedule. If pets will be visiting as well, set up pet-friendly areas to ensure your furry guests are comfortable as well. 

Photo By: Dennis Guyitt

Designate Kid Space

If your home is an ode to artful arrangements and small children are on the way, this is a good time to put away your most precious objects. A basket of dollar-store toys and books will occupy them while the adults catch up. 

Offer Refreshments on Arrival

So guests don't feel like they have to forage for food and drinks the minute they arrive, be sure to supply them with snacks and beverages on a tray.

Create a Retreat

"To help rejuvenate their spirits, give the guest room a 'bed-and-breakfast' feel," says interior designer Kevin Simon. Dress the bed with fresh linens and blankets and use baskets to hold towels and toiletries. For the ultimate guest experience, provide robes and slippers.

Provide Designated Storage Space

Equip the guest room with a bench or luggage rack for their suitcase and for guests staying more than one or two days, clear out a few dresser drawers or space in the closet so they can completely unpack.

Make Guests Feel at Home

Stock the guest room with a basket filled with magazines and books and gather postcards so guests can have a take-home memento.

Ready the Bathrooms

And don't forget to spruce up the bathroom, says event planner Damon Pease. "Simple indulgences like fresh flowers, luxury lotion and candles make guests feel welcome."

Happy Hour, Anytime

A stocked bar will be much appreciated by guests who like to end a busy day of sightseeing, shopping or sports with a cocktail. But, don't feel obligated to purchase every imaginable combination of booze and mixers; just stick to the basics. For liquors and liqueurs, you'll need: gin, dark or light rum, whiskey, scotch or bourbon, vodka, vermouth and cointreau. For mixers: a variety of fruit juices, tonic water, club soda, ginger ale, lemon-lime soda and diet and regular cola will ensure your guests can act as their own mixologists. 

Photo By: Courtesy of The New Traditionalist

Or, Offer Up a Different Type of Bar

Especially during cooler weather, guests will enjoy whipping up their favorite hot cup of coffee, espresso or cocoa. Stock a variety of flavored add-ins, like syrups, creamers and spices, to create coffee-shop favorites anytime. 

From: Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines

Photo By: Sarah Wilson/ Getty Images © 2013, HGTV/ Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Set Up an Outdoor Gathering Area

Pull a few outdoor chairs together around a low table or firepit to create an alfresco gathering spot for relaxing with your guests while enjoying a morning cup of coffee or evening cocktail. 

Simplify Entertaining With Pre-Visit Meal Prep

To minimize your time in the kitchen once company arrives, prep ingredients in advance so easy meals and appetizers can be thrown together quickly.

Make Breakfast Grab-and-Go

For breakfast, organizing expert Pam Hix relies on doughnuts, bagels, pastries and a variety pack of single-serving cereal boxes for an easy morning spread that stays fresh for late-sleeping guests.

Serve Light Lunches Buffet Style

Especially on days when your plans include a big dinner out, simplify lunch duties by laying out an assortment of breads, cheeses and deli meats along with fresh fruit, veggies and a shareable dessert. A light, but filling, meal like this will hit the spot while cutting down your time in the kitchen. 

Keep Guests Satisfied Until Dinner

For midday munchies, offer a crudité and fruit platter and a couple of warm chip-and-dip combos to keep everyone satisfied until dinner. Also, be sure to have an ample supply of bottled water on hand so guests can quench their thirst on the go.

Make Guests Feel Comfortable in the Kitchen

So you're not waiting on your guests hand and foot, "make a list of where items are in the kitchen," says organizing expert Pam Hix and let them help themselves. Point out where plates and glasses are as well as what food you have in the fridge.

Photo By: Andy Vinson of Loch & Key Productions

Designate a Rendez-Vous Spot

If you're hosting a large group whose plans have them headed in different directions, set a time each night to meet up at home for a quick cocktail or appetizer before dinner. This ensures that everyone will get a chance to socialize with the bigger group, no matter how hectic their schedules. 

Plan Group Activities

Plan an activity that guests of all ages can enjoy, like game night. In seasonable weather, take the party outside for lawn games like croquet, badminton or bocce. On rainy or cold nights, break out the playing cards, classic board games or even a big puzzle. Provide easy-to-munch snacks that can be passed around. 

Photo By: ajkkafe

Act as a Local Tour Guide

To keep everyone on track "write the day's events and weather forecasts on a chalkboard," says Kevin Simon. If guests will be spending time on their own, make sure they have a spare house key so they can come and go as they please. Also, supply them with a travel packet of brochures and a city map and "be sure to place a big X on the map to point out where your home is," offers Pam Hix.

Set Realistic Dates

Most importantly, entertaining expert Dana Christine says to establish arrival and departure dates and avoid inviting friends and family for an open-ended stay. "If you can't handle guests for more than a week, don't be shy about setting limits. This puts everyone on the same page and avoids surprises."

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