EXPAND THE COMFORT ZONE
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
A WARM TOUCH
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.
SLIP ONE ON
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.
OH, I FORGOT ...
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.
WHERE AM I?
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.
AT THE MOVIES
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.
MASKED MAN OR WOMAN
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.
A COZY GLOW
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).
A BED OF THEIR OWN
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.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
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.
Give a makeshift guest room a nostalgic feel with a Crosley Bakelite alarm clock ($20 at Target). This battery-operated model, complete with snooze feature and dimmable backlight, will help guests get through the night without grabbing their phones to check the time.
A SIP BEFORE SLEEP
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.