Technology has made vacations very different than when I was a kid. I’m not talking about an article about what to pack for a cruise, surfing websites for discount airfares or using Yelp to find a restaurant. Yes, those conveniences of the internet have made a huge difference in the preparation for a trip, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to how the internet has opened the door to normal people using their everyday resources to accommodate others. The most visual examples are Lyft and Uber. People with a vehicle and some free time are able to act as freelance taxi drivers to earn some extra money. The other uptick we have seen has been with the availability and interest in vacation homes. People using vacation services to rent out a second home isn’t a new concept, but websites like Airbnb and VRBO have literally changed the landscape for places to stay when you travel.
This past holiday break we headed to Florida for some much-needed, away-from-the-snow rest and relaxation. Scott and my mother-in-law (MIL) coordinated picking out a destination along with a home that would accommodate all of us. As the time grew near, my MIL and I started talking about the things we would need to pack and I was very surprised by her list. Toilet paper? Really? She’s been to several vacation rentals over the past several years so I let her lead the way on what to bring. Here are some thoughts. And yes, toilet paper. Really.
Pack all the stuff you normally would pack to visit a hotel. Duh. I shouldn’t need to say that but I’m going to. Beyond that, here’s a room by room walk through of what to pack for a stay at a vacation rental home:
Toiletries: Naturally, you’ll want to bring toothpaste, sunscreen and those types of things. You should also plan to pack things you take for granted at a hotel including soap for the sink and the shower, shampoo, conditioner and lotion. It’s possible that the rental management team stocks some hotel-esque things like travel-sized toiletries, but don’t count on it. Even if they did then you’ll likely run out before the end of your stay if you’re there with multiple people or more than a few days.
Linens: Most provide bath towels, hand towels and wash cloths. Read the fine print when you book to make sure this is the case!
Paper products: Toilet paper. There’s often a package of toilet paper, but not a lot. Our recent visit had around two rolls in each bathroom. For multiple people over an extended stay, I have to admit that I’m glad my mother-in-law knew that’s something we would run out of.
Linens: Most provide bedding. Once again, check the fine print.
Alarm clock: If you need to rise by a certain time, make plans to use the alarm on your phone or pack a travel one. Don’t count on all the rooms having clocks.
Passwords for TV: What living space doesn’t offer a television? Most do, but don’t bank on access to anything beyond over-the-airwaves. Pack your passwords to streaming services, but make sure you remember to log out when you’re ready to leave.
Detergent: It’s a home. There will most likely be a washer and dryer. There might be a sample pack of detergent but don’t put money on it. Even if you think you have packed enough clothing to get you through the trip, you need to read your contract to find what you have to wash upon departure. Some require you to wash the bed linens or towels. The one we stayed at for the holidays asked for linens to be centrally located, but we didn’t have to wash them. We did, however, have to wash, dry, fold and put away any beach towels we used.
Pots and pans: You may find that you take your own home for granted when it comes to having a variety of pots and pans at your fingertips. Some will have only the basics, like one saucepan and one large frying pan. Others may have a variety of sizes. If you’re planning to cook a lot of meals in the home during your stay, try to plan accordingly for limited cookware options. As an example, if you plan to prepare two dishes that require the same type of pan (IE saucepan) then you may want to have tinfoil or other storage containers that can hold one while you wash to reuse the pans.
Serving dishes: You shouldn’t have a problem finding a couple, but don’t count on a lot. Expect to serve potato chips out of the bag as opposed to dumping them into a large bowl.
Utensils: You’ll likely find enough spoons and forks to serve the number of people the space sleeps, but it’s a good bet that you’ll need to wash dishes before the next meal. There will also probably be a few spatulas, spoons and utensils for serving. If you want to make sure you have enough to not need to worry about immediately washing dishes, pack some disposable silverware.
Specialty cooking tools: By all means, don’t make plans for meals that require special tools. It’s a vacation rental so you would be safe in assuming there’s a corkscrew and handheld can opener and maybe even a blender. Anything beyond that is a wildcard.
Storage: Whether you are wanting to reseal a bag of chips, want to recover the dessert you opened or have leftover pizza to throw in the fridge, expect to not find what you need. Bring a roll of plastic wrap and/or aluminum foil, a box of large Ziploc bags and some chip clips. Oh yeah, storage bags come in extra handy for getting souvenirs home, too!
Spices: Salt and pepper are common, but beyond that it’s unlikely you’ll find any types of spices or herbs. If you cook with seasonings, allocate some of your favorites into reusable travel shakers and bring them along.
Dish towels: Yes, there will be one or two dish towels, but unless you plan on doing laundry (see prior discussion) then you’ll want to pack some extra dish towels. Paper towels are another option as a backup, so maybe pack some extra rolls.
Dish soap: Depending on the size of your group and whether you’ll be in the kitchen a lot or not, a small bottle of dish soap is also a good idea. There’s often a trial size bottle, but don’t expect more than that. As for dishwasher detergent, pack some dishwasher capsules just in case the kitchen has a dishwasher. We often end up filling the top rack with glasses and mugs every day. It’s unlikely there will be that many pods for loads in the dishwasher.
Food: Make two lists (perishable and nonperishable) for whatever you’ll want to eat and drink while at your VRBO or Airbnb. Depending on the duration of your drive, you put in boxes and coolers and bring with. Check a map to find the nearest store or mass merchandiser to pick up perishable foods. You’ll often find coffee filters or a sampling of K-Cups, but if you cannot function without your daily dose of java, confirm what type of coffee pot the site will have so you can stock up on the right type of coffee.
Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) and Airbnb have often been misunderstood as an alternative to booking a hotel. To some extent, that’s true, but there are so many things people don’t realize until they arrive and find the place lacking a lot of expected amenities. As long as you go into the contract with the knowledge that it isn’t like having all the comforts of home then you’ll be fine. Otherwise, it may start your much-needed, much-anticipated vacation off on the wrong foot.
What on this list of missing items alarms you the most?