I grew up in Texas — a place where Southern hospitality thrives. And I learned the subtle arts of making a guest feel at home both from my own mother and from my friends’ parents who were always so gracious and welcoming when I visited. Honestly, sometimes it seemed like a bit of a competition: who could be the best host or hostess? But if you are going to go all out, go all out in welcoming people to your home!
But hospitality isn’t just a Southern art. I have experienced gracious, gentle hospitality all over the world — Italy, South Korea, Japan, Norway — and, of course, in the homes of my family and friends over the years as well.
We haven’t always had a guest room, but we have always worked to make our guests feel at home regardless. And no matter how modest our living conditions have been or how small our budget is, these are a few of the essentials for a gracious guest room.
A Word about Beds: if you have room for two twin beds in your guest room, do twin beds. Not everyone can, and that is totally understandable, but twin beds accommodate different configurations of people who might not normally share a bed. There is simply more flexibility with twin beds than with a queen. So if you have a choice, opt for twin beds.
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As you consider your own guest room, I’ve created two checklists which will be helpful. The Guest Room Essentials Checklist is a quick hospitality check for your guest room or any space where you may host guests. Take a few minutes and go through the list making sure you have all of the essentials on hand — and assess what you may need to procure in the future to make your guest’s experience even more awesome.
The second checklist is The Hosting Essentials Checklist. This handy list helps you in the days before guests arrive. It includes basic tips and tasks which are the same whether your mother-in-law or the Queen of England is coming to visit.
Both checklists are available for free to download. Just subscribe to my newsletter, and you’ll receive a link for the full suite of Guest Room downloads.
Guest Room Essentials
No matter where your guests are to sleep, make sure their sheets and pillowcases are clean and fresh.
A nice pile of clean towels sets any guest at ease. Be sure to set out a hand towel and washcloth as well.
Sleeping in an unfamiliar room can be disorienting in the dark. Make sure there is a good lamp by the bed.
One of those oft-forgotten details in a guest room! But your guests will appreciate having a good mirror.
A Trash Can
When a guest room is rarely used, sometimes a trash can can be overlooked, but it is so helpful for company.
Every guest will need to charge a phone or a camera or plug in a computer. Make sure there are several outlets or power strips easily accessible for your guests.
Trays or Bowls
When traveling those little details from home make all the difference. Having a small tray or bowl out for your guest’s earrings, wallet, or jewelry makes all the difference.
Another little detail that makes a big difference! Make sure there is a fresh box of tissues for travelers use.
When living out of a suitcase, it is so helpful to have a proper place to stow it. We made a bench for suitcases from hairpin legs and a piece of butcher block countertop — simple, easy, and sturdy for suitcases and bags.
Offer your guests a way to keep their room tidy. Perhaps a drawer or two for unpacking. A spot in a closet to stow a bag. We put the beds in our guest room on taller-than-average legs so suitcases or other items can slide right under the beds allowing for more floorspace.
Pillows are important, and those twenty year-old cast-offs from your mother’s house just aren’t comfortable. Invest in two good pillows for guests. My favorites are relatively inexpensive and come in pairs. Click the photo above to see them at Amazon.com.
Plants & Flowers
You may not keep plants in your guest room all the time, but move a few in when someone comes to visit. Plants imbue every room with a sense of joy and life. Or just pick up some cut flowers and place a small vase on the dresser or table. Your guests will feel so special!
When traveling keeping in touch with home or work can be stressful. Post the name of your network and your wifi password in the guest room so your guests can hop online as needed. If you are worried about security, set up a network specifically for your guests with a separate password.
If you have a security system, be sure to do the same.
While most people have access to Google Maps on their phones, they may not know the best Chinese take-out or delivery services nearby. Collect a few of your favorite menus and tuck them away in case your guests are on their own for a meal during their visit. Alternately, create a Google Map of favorite local spots and provide your guests with the link.
Did you know your local tourist bureau will send you copies of their tourist packets for free? Colorado Tourism, for example, sent me a booklet, map, and a few smaller publications. And when guests take them, I just have to email for another copy. This is a great and free way to help guests choose what to do when they visit.
When I travel for any length of time, I invariably need to do laundry. This is so helpful — particularly for those traveling with children. Make sure your guests know where the laundry is and when they are welcome to use it. Provide some simple instructions posted either in their room or in the laundry area. And make sure you have supplies for them to use.
Toiletries Train Case
Toiletries & Essentials
Since our Guest Room has a travel vibe, I picked up this amazing vintage train case. I then filled it with toiletries for my guests in case they forget anything on their journey. It is stocked with tooth brushes, toothpaste, packets of tissues, soap, shampoo, conditioner, mints, and even slippers. Most of these items have been collected on my own travels, and I always tucked them away in a cupboard, but now they are out in the room, and my guests will be able to take full advantage of them. The best part: I can tuck everything in and close the case so nothing gets dusty between visitors.
Books of Local Interest
We have a collection of books about Colorado and local places of interest which we keep in the guest room. I have labeled each book with a sticker indicating that travelers are welcome to borrow the books while they are here.
Little Free Library
We have also stocked our guest room with books guests can take with them. These are books we have read and don’t need in our library anymore. I created a sticker for these books, too, indicating that they can be taken home and don’t need to be returned. Set them free and journey on!
We often have children visit, so I have also stocked a small library of children’s books for story time.
Additionally, I have also saved a small collection of toys for babies and toddlers which Bambino and I pull out when young children are coming to visit. Traveling parents appreciate not having to bring everything with them, and they are more likely to visit if you make their trip easier!
Guest Book & Writing Supplies
I love a good guest book, and I created this one for our guest room. I purchased a blank book at the Denver Art Museum’s Mid Century design exhibit. Then I added lettering using my Cricut. Super easy! And I can’t wait for my guests to fill up all of those blank pages.
Every good hotel has some stationery and a pen. We do, too! I tucked some Colorado postcards, a few blank cards with envelopes, stamps, and a few pens for our guests as needed.
Essentials in the Bathroom
Feminine Products & Toilet Paper
If your guests are using a separate bathroom, make sure it is well-stocked with toilet paper and feminine products (an assortment of tampons and a few pads). If you don’t currently have someone menstruating in your home, stop and pick up a small package of pads and a variety box of tampons. Tuck them in a spot relatively easy to find so if a guest has an emergency they won’t feel embarrassed.
Make sure your guests have access to a hairdryer. I keep my travel hairdryer in the guest bathroom for anyone to use as needed.
You never know how many towels someone may need. Make sure your guests know where to find extra towels.
Traveling with a bathrobe is really inconvenient, but your guests may be more comfortable having access to one for mornings, evenings, and trips to the shower. Invest in a large, inexpensive bathrobe for your guests use. It will last for years and will make people more comfortable.
This post is part of a larger series: the DIY Guest Room Refresh. I hope you’ll pop over to see the entire guest room and everything we did to make it cozy and comfortable for our guests.