We recently got back from our annual vacation to Maine. We have vacationed in various rented condos for the last 25 years! Along the way, I’ve learned a trick or two about packing for the vacation (see my post here), but more importantly, what to bring. My experience is with a vacation rental, but this list would be great for camping also.
We don’t cook every meal, but it is nice to have the kitchen to make breakfast, sandwiches, and occasional dinner. We also prepare snacks and dips for “happy hour”.
Over the years, we’ve stayed in nine different condos, and not one of them has been stocked the same. The kitchens themselves vary from being more like a kitchenette to having full-size appliances. The owners will not give you an inventory of what they have in the kitchen, they usually just describe it as “fully equipped.” In my experience, that means that there will be plates, bowls, glasses, and flatware. You can’t be guarantied that you’ll have any other equipment, although I’ve never had a rental that didn’t have some pots, a fry pan, and some utensils.
The list isn’t just about the kitchen, but other items that I have found useful year after year. To that end, here are my top ten things to bring to a vacation rental:
- A Sharp Knife. You would be surprised how dull the knives are in a rental kitchen. No one wants a trip to the ER because you were struggling to get the pit out of an avocado with a dull knife. I don’t bring my best knifes – I have a low-end Henckels (that I bought at Marshalls) that get packed.
- The Garlic Press. Are you going to make omelettes? Bruschetta? Guacamole? There isn’t much of my cooking that doesn’t have garlic in it, and the garlic press makes it easier. I have never had one in any of the rental kitchens.
- Whisk. You would think that a whisk would be a standard issue utensil. I did, until I rented a place without one. Try to mix pancake batter without it – sure you can do it, but, ugh, messy and hard to incorporate all the flour, etc.
- A Sharpie. Most of the places I have rented have not had anything to write with or on. The Sharpie comes in handy so many ways – labeling the sandwich bags with the name of whose sandwich it is. Labeling beach toys so that you don’t lose your 14th shovel. Marking your belongings to not be confused with rental items. Trust me, you’ll be glad you have one.
- Tools. Ok, so now you may be thinking this is ridiculous – tools? I’m not talking about the whole tool box, but you’d be surprised at how many times we needed a screw driver or a measuring tape. If you have one of those “all in one” tools (like a Leatherman), just throw that in the suitcase. Add in a tape measure and scissors if the all in one tool doesn’t have them, and a roll of electrical tape. Just think: cutting off tags, replacing batteries, fixing a squeaky table (yes, we did this once).
- Leftover containers. This one might depend on how much you use the kitchen, but we make several full meals during our vacation, and we will use up leftovers for lunch, so you need a container into which you transfer the food. I just picked up a variety pack of the food storage containers, and I keep them with the vacation stuff to bring year to year. Rental kitchens rarely have food storage containers.
- Camp Mix. If you do any cooking, you will want some seasoning. I’ve been in rental kitchens that don’t even leave you salt and pepper. I don’t want to pack my whole spice rack, and I don’t want to buy spices just for vacation, so I pack Too Tall Tom’s Original Camp Mix. Tom’s mix of seasonings will be great in eggs, seasoning steak, or on potatoes. (If you want a sweet mix, we love Tom’s Honey-Cinnamon – perfect to sprinkle on pancakes, french toast, or sweet potatoes.)
- Flat Griddle. Every rental kitchen I’ve been in has had a fry pan of some sort and size – usually two. But, after a couple of years trying to make pancakes or French toast on them, I decided that I would be packing my square, flat griddle to use. It comes in handy when toasting rolls or making grilled cheese too, so totally worth bringing it.
- Brita Pitcher (or other water filtration of choice). We use a Brita at home, and we’ve found that the water on vacation is chlorinated, so we started bringing the Brita early on. It’s great to have cold water in the fridge, and we use it to make our coffee too.
- Extension cords and/or power strips. These days with so many electronic devices, there never seems to be enough outlets – at least not in convenient places, so I always throw in a power strip and an extension cord or anoutlet extender. Of course, if you are camping, you are not going to need this, but you may wantto invest in this: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Schumacher-Electric-410-Watt-Power-Inverter/50256417
Some honorable mentions:
- Wine Stuff. Hey, don’t judge! The majority of the rental kitchens did have a wine opener in the utensil drawer, but there were some that didn’t. Luckily I travel with a wine opener permanently in my suitcase, but it’s the travel one, so not the easiest/best. These days I pack a good wine opener, a wine stopper (Yes, sometimes we don’t finish the bottle. The second bottle 🙂 and some wine charms (nice to have when there are multiple drinkers).
- Chromecast (or Fire stick) – this is a luxury item, still – good to have if you want to watch a movie or even your cable (so much can be streamed on your phone) on the larger TV in the rental.
- Travel Clothesline. Rentals (and campsites) never have enough hooks or hanging spaces. You have wet bathing suits, towels, and other wet clothes (if you are camping and it rains).
- Coffee Filters. Yes, coffee filters – sure you can pick these up at the grocery store, but you may need the basket type or the cone style. When I replaced my reusable filter, I put the old one in the vacation bin – they still work fine, and that way I have a filter ready to go regardless of which kind is needed by the coffee maker at the rental.
Make sure if you pack any of this stuff to add it to your list – then check your list when you are packing up to leave. You don’t want to leave behind your favorite garlic press.
What are your “must haves” on a rental/camping vacation? What things do you bring because you know they won’t be available at the facility?