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10 Important Items That Can Make Any Vacation Rental Feel Like Home

SmarterTravel

The glories of vacation rentals are many. Even the smallest rentals tend to be a palace compared to a typical hotel room, and you get all sorts of vacation-simplifying extras like a kitchen, grill, or even a washer and dryer. But … for all their abundance, vacation rentals are often missing some of the most important aspects of home. Happily, most are easy to pack. Here are our top 10 items we throw in the car to transform any vacation rental into a true home away from home.

The glories of vacation rentals are many. Even the smallest rentals tend to be a palace compared to a typical hotel room, and you get all sorts of vacation-simplifying extras like a kitchen, grill, or even a washer and dryer. But … for all their abundance, vacation rentals are often missing some of the most important aspects of home. Happily, most are easy to pack. Here are our top 10 items we throw in the car to transform any vacation rental into a true home away from home.

Knives

Vacation rentals are not known for the high quality of their kitchen knives. These tend to be the owners’ second-rate cast-offs (or cheap newer knives), which grow duller with each passing guest. At many rentals, you might have similar luck cutting tomatoes with a butter knife as you would with one supposedly meant for the job.

The solution is simple: Bring your own. Create your own travel set with just two knives: a chef’s knife and a paring knife. Victorinox makes inexpensive versions, and both of its chef’s and paring knives are longtime Cook’s Illustrated favorites, regularly beating out more expensive competitors. Just remember: You can’t pack knives in your carry-on; if you’re flying, they must go in your checked bag.

Victorinox Chef knife
Amazon

Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife

Victorinox 4-Inch Swiss Classic Paring Knife
Amazon

Victorinox Classic Paring Knife

A Great Pillow

We’ve all been there. After an amazing vacation day, you settle into bed looking forward to a great night’s sleep only to discover the vacation rental pillow feels like a burlap sack stuffed with tennis balls. If you’re driving to your rental rather than flying, sacrifice some car space to bring a pillow you truly love. If you’re not keen on the idea of dragging your clean pillow along on vacation, get a special pillow just to bring on trips. When you’re not using it, store it with your suitcases rather than in the linen closet to prevent any cross-contamination. Well-reviewed and affordable options include Five Star’s Down Alternative Pillow and the MLVOC, a four-in-one travel pillow.

Mastertex Down Alternative Bed Pillow
Amazon

Mastertex Down Alternative Bed Pillow 

Tongs

In any kitchen, tongs get the job done. They’re masters of both the grill and the pan, and they make serving nearly anything—from pancakes and pasta to salad—a breeze. They’re also lightweight and portable, so they’re a perfect vacation companion. Bring some tongs and it won’t matter that the rental kitchen’s lone spatula has a melted corner and smells weird. OXO Good Grips 12-Inch tongs lock when you don’t need them so they’ll pack small and save space in your bag.

OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Stainless-Steel Locking Tongs
Amazon

OXO Good Grips Tongs

Cast Iron Pan

Perfect browning, even cooking, and no sticking—it’s the skillet trifecta that has made cast iron a favorite for generations. Vacation rental kitchens are notorious for warped aluminum pans just waiting to ruin the most foolproof vacation meals. Bring your own pan and you’ll up your culinary game in an instant. Lodge’s 12-inch pre-seasoned skillet has long been a kitchen and camping favorite, and is at home in any vacation rental kitchen.

Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
Amazon

Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet 

Note that if you’re not a cast-iron loyalist (or recent convert), a vacation rental probably isn’t the best time to familiarize yourself with this cooking powerhouse. Instead, try it out in advance (and bring along a scrubber so you can clean it without soap).

Spice Kit

Even if your rental kitchen is stocked with spices, there’s no telling how many years they’ve been moldering in that dusty cabinet. Bring along a small kit with all your favorite flavors to ensure that every meal is a great one. Try a grab-and-go option like Coghlan’s Multi-Spice Pack, which comes pre-loaded with salt, pepper, cayenne, curry, paprika, and garlic salt. Or customize your own kit with ready-to-fill shakers like this six-piece kit from Wealers. Serious about salt? Then pack a salt sampler set, which includes sixteen salts including pink Himalayan sea salt, Hawaiian Onyx sea salt, and Cyprus flake salt, each in its own small tin.

Coghlan's 9961 Multi-Spice
Amazon

Coghlan’s 9961 Multi-Spice

Roku

The infinite variety of streaming video is yours wherever you go with the Roku Streaming Stick. With access to your Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and other accounts, Roku makes it easy to stream your favorites to the HDTV in your vacation rental. It’s small, easy to use, and will save you from settling for the vacation rental’s dusty VHS set of Northern Exposure.

Roku Streaming Stick

Coffee

Kindly vacation rental owners sometimes leave enough coffee to help you make it through that first morning, but from there on out it’s going to be up to you. So come prepared. Coffee drinkers are united by an unequivocal need for morning caffeine, but everyone has a slightly different approach to that perfect cup. If you prefer freshly ground beans, bring along a manual grinder like this one from Ice Coal, which comes with a travel pouch; pair it with the Brewologist Pour Over Coffee Cone, which requires no paper filter. And K-Cup junkies can pack this single-serve Keurig machine.

Manual Coffee Grinder
Amazon

Manual Coffee Grinder

The Brewologist Pour Over Coffee Filter
Amazon

The Brewologist Pour Over Coffee Filter 

Clothesline

Even if you’re in a rental with a dryer, it’s still a good idea to bring along a clothesline for towels or bathing suits, items that need to be hand washed, or anything that needs a quick airing out. Travel clotheslines adapt well to a variety of environments, from bathrooms to balconies. Coghlan’s adjustable bungee clothesline is a clever option that packs small, strings up nearly anywhere, and eliminates the need for clothespins, since all you need to do to hang an item is tuck a corner of it into the twisted bungee cord line.

Coghlan's Bungee Clothesline
Amazon

Coghlan’s Bungee Clothesline

Temporary Hooks

Imagine: A place to hang your robe when you get into the shower, your towel when you head to the hot tub, or your coat when you come in from the snow. At home, you’ve got a hook for every need, but most vacation rentals are woefully short on convenient hanging spots. Enter: damage-free temporary hooks. Pack a set or two and you can create a hook in an instant, and leave no trace when you leave. Command’s Large Plastic Hooks come in sets of three and remove cleanly without surface damage, no tools needed.

Command Utility Hooks
Amazon

Command Utility Hooks

Corkscrew

It’s not that your vacation rental is unlikely to have a corkscrew. It’s that the corkscrew you’ll find in the vacation rental kitchen only has a 30 percent chance of being anything other than terrible. Here’s why: A corkscrew that’s good enough to use is good enough to be packed with a picnic lunch or an evening trip to the beach—and is unlikely to make it back. So it’s replaced with another, slightly less good corkscrew, and the process repeats itself until what’s in the rental kitchen is a corkscrew nobody wants to use. Go tried-and-true with a red metal affair, or class things up with the Amazon-favorite, wood-and-steel HiCoup corkscrew.

Professional Waiter’s Corkscrew by HiCoup
Amazon

Professional Waiter’s Corkscrew by HiCoup 

More from SmarterTravel:

Christine Sarkis is constantly honing her vacation rental bring-along list. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

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