Four-Star Guest Room

They flew, they drove, they arrived.
Are you ready?

It's never difficult to entice visitors to the beach for a few days. Beautiful sunsets and great seafood are hard to resist. So is relaxation. Ensure rested friends and pleasant memories with a well-appointed guest room.

Provide a good mattress. This will be the one place your guests spend hours, and a comfortable bed keeps them refreshed and happy. Top a firm mattress with an eggcrate pad or, for more luxury, a down feather bed.

Outfit the bed with fine linens. Not only do sheets with a thread count of 250 or higher feel better, but also they'll wear longer with repeated washings. Buy 100 percent cotton for more comfort--it breathes and won't pill (which feels like sand or cracker crumbs). Don't forget an extra blanket for chilly nights.

Consider who usually comes to visit: If it's mostly couples, one large bed would make sense. If it's singles or kids, twin beds offer more flexibility.

Freshen the room by opening windows and closets for a few hours. Fluff pillows and duvets by placing them in the dryer with a fabric softener sheet on air dry (no heat).

Bedside tables should hold reading lamps and current magazines, but leave space for whatever the guest wants to keep there. As another thoughtful gesture, include a few local postcards (with proper postage affixed) and a good pen.

Add something personal. On a dresser or bedside table, include such memorable touches as flowers and photos of you and your guest.

Offer an easy-to-operate clock. A combination CD player/clock radio is nice. Tune it to a public channel or whatever station plays your guest's favorites. Just be sure all alarms are off.

Install a ceiling fan. Rooms can get stuffy, and guests may be hesitant or unable to adjust the air conditioner.

Purchase a few night-lights that automatically come on in a dark room. Place them in baths, halls, and the kitchen in case someone gets the midnight munchies.

Make space. Keep the closet empty or at least tidy with a few feet available for hanging clothes. Include hangers with clips for skirts or pants. If the closet is seldom used, add cedar blocks or dehumidifying crystals to avoid musty odors. The closet is a good place to store a spare ironing board and small steam iron. After guests leave, empty the iron of any water.

Provide a clean, unisex bathrobe for guests who want to avoid the pajama-party look in the kitchen at breakfast.

Stock the bath with a basket of new toiletries that guests might have forgotten to pack--toothbrush and toothpaste, razor and shaving cream, shampoo, lotion, sunscreen, pain relievers.

Don't forget the little ones. Have colorful towels and beach blankets on hand to protect carpets from spills. Purchase age-appropriate books to help kids wind down from an exciting day.

Pack a visitor's bag in case your guests spend time sightseeing on their own. Include a local map (with great restaurants and interstate exits highlighted), car snacks, and a disposable camera.

Fill a mini-refrigerator with bottled water, sodas, wine, beer. Place a small coffeemaker on top for those who just can't move without that first cup of joe. (Be sure it has an auto-off feature.) Include hot chocolate or decaf tea.

Set up a TV and VCR. Keep a variety of movies nearby for rainy days or quiet time.

Spend the night. This is a must-do: Sleep in your guest bed to see if the mattress and pillows are truly comfortable. Test the bath, too, to make sure the plumbing is as ready as you are.

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