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Create a space where holiday guests can relax

Even if you don't have a big budget or even a spare bedroom, a few simple touches can help make your guests feel at home for the holidays.

The top concern should be the bed. After all, that's where guests will be spending most of their time while in the guest room. If you have a spare bed, you're all set - just remember to wash and iron the sheets.

If you don't have an extra bed, or even an extra room, it's worthwhile to buy one of the new generation of air beds, suggests bed and breakfast professional Sandy Soule. You may remember thin mattresses that deflate in one day, but the newest beds, such as Insta-Bed or Aerobed, are the same size and height of a standard queen, they inflate in less than four minutes with a built-in pump, and they can even incline and recline.

Before guests arrive, ask if they prefer firm or fluffy pillows. Leave a few extra quilts and pillows in the room for nighttime and a throw blanket for reading or napping.

A small bedside table is a necessity. If you don't have one, just set up a TV tray table next to the bed. Be sure to leave an alarm clock, preferably a clock radio, on the table. Other nice touches are a reading lamp or candle.

It's also considerate to make the room as comfortable as possible, Soule said. Clear out a bit of closet space - if you don't have a separate guest room, free up some of the linen or coat closet - so guests can unpack their suitcases. The less they're living out of a suitcase, the more at home they'll feel, she said.

But it's the small touches that will make all the difference, experts say.

Make the effort to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers, and arrange them in a vase in the room. Pick up some of the latest magazines or books, tailored to your guest's taste, and leave them in the guest space.

Pottery Barn recommends framing a photo of your guest to help make them feel at home, or filling a stocking with special candy and other treats.

Make up a quick welcome basket and leave it in the bathroom. Lindsay Kociela, spokeswoman for Crest and Pantene, suggested stocking up on basics ahead of time and arranging them in a pretty basket or tin bucket. Try to include a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, nail files, cotton balls, nail polish remover, body lotion and a selection of pain relievers, to help battle that inevitable holiday stress.

Another easy touch is to pick up some travel-size bottles of fancy shampoos, conditioners, bath gels and soaps to leave in the bathroom.

"In the end, you want to make the guest feel welcomed while avoiding some of the stress involved with holiday hosting," Soule said. "It doesn't take a lot to make the people you care about feel appreciated, just a few thoughtful gestures and a good night's sleep."