Staying at a vacation rental means experiencing your destination like a local—but what if your rental property is woefully under-stocked to meet your basic needs?
Vacation Rental Essentials: What to Pack
While the best Airbnbs and vacation homes take care of the at-home essentials for you (towels, trash bags, detergent), some items aren’t guaranteed to be there. Avoid the hassle of missing something you need by bringing these packable accessories and gadgets to your rental property.
Folding Hair Dryer
Those items that the hotel usually stocks aren’t guaranteed at your rental. How often do you depend on the in-room hair dryer? If ever, bring along your own travel-sized version, like Conair’s Travel Smart Folding Hair Dryer. For curly-hair needs, consider a collapsible diffuser or mini curling-iron straightener, too.
Price and Where to Buy: Conair Travel Smart Hair Dryer from $20 on Amazon.
Passing time or entertaining at your vacation rental can be pretty dull without some entertainment. Pack a portable speaker that you can use both in the house and outside, like the waterproof Aquatune 5712. It’s durable enough to bring to the beach or pool—it can survive up to 30 minutes submerged in water, not that I recommend putting that claim to the test.
Price and Where to Buy: Aquatune 5712 from $40 on Amazon.
Your Favorite Toiletries
No one likes to discover mid-shower that there’s no shampoo, conditioner, or soap, especially after a long day at the beach or pool. Even if your vacation rental does stock these items, they’re often of the cheap, harsh variety.
Pack your favorite travel-sized soaps or bring along some from home in reusable bottles—I can’t leave for a trip without sulfate-free shampoo that my frizzy hair demands and that no hotel or vacation rental would provide. Consider ordering from a toiletry-pack site like Pack Simply to create your own custom toiletry kit.
Price and Where to Buy: Toiletries and refill bottles start for under $2 on Pack Simply’s website, and include free add-ons, like hair elastics and cotton balls and swabs.
Sleeping in a new place is always strange the first night, but it’s even harder to catch some shuteye if the ceiling fan or air conditioner that normally lulls you to sleep is no longer there. Know your sleep needs and bring along some packable items that can hack the adjustment for you—a Sound + Sleep Mini sound machine could help prevent a night of tossing and turning in your vacation rental if you prefer some white noise in your bedroom. Or, bring along a decent pillow or an eye mask, depending on your needs.
Price and Where to Buy: Sound + Sleep Mini from $68 on Amazon.
Hopefully your host remembers to provide some towels—but in case you need extras or something goes awry, it’s a good idea to bring along a travel towel or two. Matador’s NanoDry Shower Towels come in large and small sizes that fold densely into a tiny travel case. Perfect for camping or beach back-up, NanoDry towels can fit into small accessory storage pockets or clip directly onto backpacks and beach bags.
Price and Where to Buy: NanoDry Shower Towels from $35 on Matador’s website.
Multi-Port Charging Hub
Stop searching for electric outlets behind furniture and in unfamiliar corners of the vacation rental. Bring along a charging hub or two to create charging stations and ensure you won’t leave behind any cords when you depart. ChargeHub allows you to power-up seven devices at once, and it has handy USB ports that mean you can leave pesky wall attachments and converters at home. SmarterTravel’s Ashley Rossi says it allows her to pack fewer outlet accessories and cords.
Price and Where to Buy: ChargeHub stations from $40 on Amazon.
Many people choose vacation rentals for the option to cook meals rather than eat out. There’s likely kitchen basics like knives in the kitchen, but it’s just as likely that they’ll be dull from frequent use. Toss a knife-sharpener in your car glove compartment or travel bag—portable versions like KitchenIQ’s Edge Grip Stage Knife Sharpener will make for much speedier (and more enjoyable) cooking prep.
Price and Where to Buy: KitchenIQ Sharpener from $6 on Amazon.
Sandwich bags are helpful for packing and organizing luggage, but also super helpful for your vacation rental needs, like saving food and packing beach snacks. Plus, they take up basically no space in your travel bag. Bring along a handful of plastic sealable bags from your kitchen for good measure.
A Reading Light or Lanterns
You never know when you’ll need an extra light, whether for your bedside table or in case of an emergency that cuts the power in the vacation rental, where you probably won’t be able to find flashlights. Bring a portable battery-powered light like Black Diamond Moji Lanterns, ideal for nighttime adventures or simply as a back-up light. The Moji Lantern lasts up to 70 hours on its lowest light setting (or 13 hours on its brightest) and requires just three AAA batteries.
Price and Where to Buy: From $26 on Amazon.
Travel Picnic Kit
There’s nothing worse than realizing you don’t have the bottle opener or corkscrew you need to enjoy the fruits of your vacation-ready beer and wine cooler. Consider a picnic kit to cover both your outdoor eating/drinking needs and to fill any blanks you might encounter in the vacation rental kitchen. A simple picnic kit like Bright Outdoors’ Picnic Set for Two will typically include a bottle opener, corkscrew, and cutting board, plus some spare flatware and plates in a packable sleeve.
Price and Where to Buy: From $20 on Amazon.
I’ve often taken advantage of hotel-provided umbrellas when there’s unexpected rain, but I don’t expect a vacation rental to cover my inclement-weather needs. An ultra-packable umbrella should have a permanent place in your travel bag, like Hoke’s Ultra Mini and Light Umbrella, which can also double as sun protection thanks to its UV-resistance.
Price and Where to Buy: From $21 on Amazon.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Wrinkle-Resistant Summer Travel Dresses Perfect for Packing
- The Best Packable Rain Gear for Travelers
- 11 Travel Tools You Won’t Regret Splurging On
Associate Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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