Whether you’re having family over for the holidays or helping friends with a budget-friendly vacation, hosting loved ones in your home can be a rewarding experience when you do it right. Although nobody needs guest-specific linens or accessories to create a welcoming home, spending a little in the right places can make a world of difference to your travel-worn, temporary cohabitants.
A grown-up air mattress
The term “air mattress” conjures visions of thin, crinkly, leaky bladders that wake sleepers through discomfort long before the alarm goes off. The SoundAsleep Dream Series is Wirecutter’s pick for the best air mattress because it’s guaranteed not to do that for at least the term of its one-year warranty. When a Wirecutter editor’s mattress developed a leak around the pump after 15 months of use, SoundAsleep agreed to repair the mattress for free.
Additionally, the SoundAsleep mostly lives up to its name by being pretty nice to sleep on. It doesn’t fold like a taco, thanks to internal “air coils” that provide structure similar to the springs of a traditional mattress. And at almost 20 inches thick, it’s far easier to get in and out of, especially for older guests.
That said, if you have space for a permanent guest bed, a real mattress will always offer a better night’s sleep. The Zinus Green Tea Memory Foam Mattress is a longtime budget pick in Wirecutter’s guide to the best foam mattresses because it typically costs less than $300 for a queen yet has construction similar to that of much pricier options from Casper and the like. Zinus also makes a solid bed frame that typically sells for about $100.
Bedding and bath linens
If you don’t already have spare bedding that guests can use, it’s worth investing in some for yourself at the very least — especially considering that most cleaning experts recommend washing sheets weekly. But if you want an additional set just for guests, Wirecutter’s writers and editors have always managed to find more-than-serviceable budget-friendly options for all our bedding recommendations.
You can fully dress a queen-size bed for under $150 by combining Target’s Threshold sheets with a two-pack of Premier’s down-alternative pillows and the Utopia Bedding down-alternative comforter. It’s a combination fit for a king — or a queen, or even a full or twin, though not a California king or twin XL (you’ll have to read the full reviews for picks that fit those sizes).
Bath linens are even more affordable. The Bed Bath & Beyond Dri-Soft Plus bath towels, Wirecutter’s budget pick from our guide to bath towels, cost just $7 a pop and come in more than a dozen shades. They’re a bit thinner than your typical towel, but some people may prefer this closer, less fluffy texture, as many of Wirecutter’s panelists did. They also offer the bonus of being easier to hang and store.
Lighting (and darkness)
If you use your guest room for other purposes most of the time, it may lack a few creature comforts that make a bedroom more pleasant. The versatile, $50 Ranarp task lamp from Ikea is Wirecutter’s top choice in our guide to floor lamps; it moves around and adjusts easily, so it can add light wherever your guests need it.
If the problem is too much light, blackout shades or curtains are an affordable way to keep the morning sun out. Wirecutter has tested both (we preferred the cellular shades from Select Blinds and insulated curtains from Sebastian), and depending on the number and size of your windows, you can make your room darker and more restful for less than $100.
Agreeing on what constitutes livable temperatures can be a source of great tension in any household. Throwing new people into the mix can only exacerbate things. So it’s better to give guests some semblance of control over their preferred climate.
A space heater with a fan built in, such as the Vornado VH200 (a coming top pick in Wirecutter’s space heater review) can quickly bring most rooms to temperature. For smaller spaces, however, a personal heater is a more economical choice. Wirecutter’s editors have been recommending the Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater for this purpose in some form or another since they first covered the topic five years ago.
Vornado’s room fans have also been longstanding Wirecutter recommendations for cooling spaces. But a more compact desk fan can also get the job done in a smaller space. The Holmes Lil’ Blizzard isn’t much to look at, but for less than $25, it manages to move air as effectively as many room fans. And it’s easy to stow away when you don’t need it.
Between electronic boarding passes, digital itineraries, and mapping apps, traveling without a phone today would be akin to flying without luggage — doable, sure, but only for the truly dedicated. Unfortunately, one forgotten charger or cable can derail the whole operation. Having extras on hand can be a godsend for forgetful overnight guests. And keeping those extras readily accessible can help keep you from extracting your personal charger from under your nightstand for the benefit of dinner or party guests.
A single multiport USB charger with accompanying Lightning, USB-C, and Micro-USB cables can simultaneously charge four or more devices at high speed. If you really want to impress visitors, spring for the extra-long versions.
A version of this article is on Wirecutter.com.