Having friends or relatives come stay for the holidays with no dedicated guest room can be an awkward experience. With creativity and a few savvy purchases, you can turn an office, child's bedroom, or family room into a makeshift guest space. It might not be the Four Seasons, but at least the effort will put your guests at ease and extend a warm welcome.
Related: 10 Christmas Gifts Under $20 for Travelers
You may like to keep your house at a reasonable temperature during the night, but what if guests prefer it more like a sauna? Prevent them from freezing and encourage a cozy night's sleep by stocking up on a couple of lightweight blankets or throws. Sears has a wide selection for well under $20, including a Cannon fleece throw $10 or less.
Who hasn't forgotten to pack slippers? Guests can keep their feet warm (and dry coming out of the shower) with a pair at the ready. A scuff/open-back design allows greater flexibility for guests with different size feet. Kmart offers ladies' Joe Boxer print scuff slippers (two pair for less than $10) while men's options include the Basic Editions Heffner 3 slipper ($5).
When you can't fall asleep, it's fun to skim through a little mindless entertainment. Pick up a few fashion, entertainment, or sports magazines (most are $5 or less) to help guests unwind and drift off to sleep.
Guests may not feel comfortable raiding your refrigerator in the middle of the night, so make snacking guilt-free. Set up a small tray with single-size servings of popcorn, miniature candy bars, nuts, and some fresh fruit. If your town has a local favorite, such as a premium chocolate shop's signature creation, then add that to the mix.
Create a luxury-hotel feel with a cosmetic bag or shower bucket filled with travel-size personal products: a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap -- you know they probably forgot one of those items. And be sure to provide towels. Walmart's Essential True Colors collection starts at $2.
Guests may have a little time to wander on their own. Leave them a local travel guide and encourage them to let you know if something strikes their fancy. It's a small purchase ("Frommer's EasyGuide to Chicago," for example, is less than $9 on Amazon) that can become a family resource after the visit.
If your guest space lacks a TV, pick up a well-priced portable DVD player -- a 7-inch Sylvania model is selling for about $49 on Amazon -- and stop by the library to check out a handful of movies. Get a holiday favorite, a comedy, a drama, an action movie, and a foreign film to hedge your bets. The entertainment unit can be used by the family long after the holidays have passed.
Strange surroundings can unsettle anyone. With a sleep mask, a guest can block out any light and perhaps have an easier time adjusting to a different time zone. A basic black mask from Bed Bath & Beyond ($6) is a thrifty, unisex choice that promises to create "soft darkness, allowing the mind to relax and rest." Zzzzzz.
Create a cozy welcome and make a guest space feel like a retreat with a selection of votive candles ($2 each from Yankee Candle). Choose traditional (Fresh Cut Roses or Lavender), seasonal (Candy Cane Lane or Balsam & Cedar), or seasonal with a twist (Christmas at the Beach or Alpine Martini).
If you don't have enough beds or your couch doesn't pull out, consider a folding ottoman bed ($130 from Christmas Tree Shops). The works-with-any-decor cube folds out into a single bed. While it's nothing fancy, it is certainly a step above tossing someone a sleeping bag or air mattress and wishing them well.
If guests need to walk far to the restroom or their sleeping area isn't near a lamp, a night light and/or flashlight can save some nighttime bumbling in strange surroundings. Try a low-cost option such as an Eveready LED economy flashlight ($3 at Home Depot) or LimeLite electroluminescent night light ($3 at Lowe's). Or splurge on a seasonal touch, such as a St. Nicholas Square night light (on sale for $12.50 at Kohl's).
If you have the space to accommodate more than one guest and those people are not a couple, invest in a folding screen to create an instant sense of privacy. Ore International's paper straw-weave four-panel screen (less than $60 on Jet) adds a contemporary touch and folds flat for easy storage during the day.
Sometimes the simplest things are the most thoughtful. If guests need a glass of water but are far from the kitchen -- or don't want to disturb the rest of the household -- they'll certainly appreciate having a bedside pitcher and glass. The Luigi Bormioli Michelangelo Masterpiece two-piece bedside water set ($20 at Bed Bath & Beyond) artfully combines form and function.