What to Bring (and What to Leave at Home) for Your Vacation Rental

We love staying in hotels when vacationing. With room service, daily housekeeping, and various cool amenities, you get to feel spoiled and luxurious. We have also discovered, when traveling with family or a group of friends, that a vacation rental can be hugely advantageous and fantastic. There’s so much more room to spread out and carve out some privacy, there’s a kitchen and dining room so you don’t have to eat out for every meal, and there’s a washer and dryer so you can pack less clothing. If you’ve got a rental with some cool features, such as a hot tub, swimming pool, game room, or a beach/lake nearby, then it’s even better. Here’s our guide on what to pack and what to leave at home when heading out to your fabulous vacation rental.

The Absolutes

  • Chargers – I have a specific tech bag for keeping chargers and plug adapters. (The only time you might want to “forget” any is if you’re trying to keep kiddos off screens while you’re on vaca.) If you’re going to be out most days and using your smartphone for photos, music, and as a GPS, definitely bring a power bank, too.
  • Medications – Definitely bring prescription meds, but also pack travel sizes of basics like Tylenol/Advil, anti-itch cream, aloe vera gel, etc., plus a first aid kit. I keep these in a gallon-size ziplock, always ready to pop into my suitcase. It’s an extra hassle to go buy one of these items, and it will cost more if you buy it at a convenience store.
  • Toiletries – Most vacation rentals have hand soap in the bathrooms and kitchen, but don’t provide things like soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Now’s a great time to bring all those little toiletries you’ve collected from hotel stays!
  • Reusable water bottles – Go green and cut down on disposable plastic bottles. Bring these in the car or on the plane, and you’ll have it with you all the rest of your trip.
  • Passwords – Logins to streaming services you want access to (store it on your smartphone, and not on a piece of paper you might lose or leave behind). While rentals usually have televisions, they may not have anything beyond cable or satellite TV. Make sure to log out before you leave.
  • A couple rolls of toilet paper – To tide you over a couple days, just in case. We once got to our amazing AirB&B in Los Angeles a few years ago, to find there was a single roll of toilet paper in the entire house (for five people for 8 days)! 
  • Plastic bags – These become weirdly useful when you’re on a trip. Bring a plastic shopping bag and pop in several more, plus a few ziplock bags in various sizes. You never know when you’ll need one, and whatever you don’t use, just bring back.

If You Plan to Cook a Lot

  • Travel spice containers – The spices in the rental kitchen are likely to be limited and/or expired, so I like to bring a basic set. Spices aren’t cheap, and why buy more of what you’ve already got at home?
  • Good kitchen knives – Nothing worse than a dull kitchen knife when you’re trying to slice food. I like these because they’re compact, bright, and come with blade guards for safe, easy packing.
  • Specialty gadgets – Basic things like a corkscrew or a whisk should be provided, but things like a fish spatula, cooking chopsticks, or a pizza cutter likely will not.

If You’re Taking the Kids

  • Safety gates and locks – If you have a little one that likes to explore and get into things, it might not be a bad idea to bring a few items. At the very least bring a roll of masking tape to cover sockets.
  • Pack & Play – Unless the property manager confirms there is one in the rental, bring your own. If they have one, then bring the specially-sized sheets.
  • Travel high chair – The rental may have one, but if not, go for something light and foldable.
  • White noise machine – These were so helpful for our kiddos to be able to sleep well in other places.
  • Special lovies or blankies – Definitely can’t go anywhere without these!
  • Nightlight – Super helpful for kids who need to get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
  • Diapers and wipes – Bring enough to last you the whole trip, plus some extras, just in case!
  • Toiletries and medications – Things like baby nail clippers, baby or kid shampoo and conditioner, baby acetaminophen, teething gel, etc. 
  • Small toys and books that pack easily and don’t take too much room.

If You’ve Got Lots of Room in the Car

  • Fun extras!
    • Board or card games
    • Bluetooth speaker
    • Outdoor fun like frisbees, a bocce or badminton set, or s’mores sticks.
  • These items are usually provided at vacation rentals, but double-check with the property manager. If anything, it is a reminder for them to check those provisions in the house before your arrival. If they seem unsure of these items being in the house, then definitely bring your own.
    • A small bottle of dish soap, a few kitchen towels, and dishwasher detergent pods. A new sponge (because the ick factor on using someone else’s used sponge is pretty high).
    • More toilet paper, a roll of paper towels, and a couple boxes of tissues (depending on how many of you will be in the rental).
    • Laundry detergent pods.
  • Pillows – If anyone in your group is particular about their pillow, and it’s a long drive to the rental, a pillow is great for both the car ride and the vacation house. 
  • Kitchen stuff – If you’ve got the room, go for it and bring your Nespresso machine, Crockpot, rice cooker, cocktail shaker, or cast iron skillet. Just make sure it’s something you will really use.

What to Leave at Home

  • Linens – Most vacation rentals these days provide sheets and towels for the guests, which are washed/dried between renters. If you’ve got very specific needs (e.g., washcloths, kitchen towels, etc.), verify with the property manager whether those items are provided. I would also bring your own linens if you have sensitivity/allergies to strong detergents or bleach.
  • Hair dryer – I’ve yet to see a rental that did not provide one. However, if you’ve got more specific things like a flatiron, definitely bring that.
  • Cleaning supplies – If you’re paying a cleaning fee (and 99.9% sure you will be), then there’s no need to clean while you’re on vacation! A tub of disinfecting wipes should be all you need for some quick clean-ups.
  • Extra clothes – Having a washer/dryer is a huge plus when on a trip. Use these so you can lighten your load.
  • Work – You’re on vacation…use this time to decompress, enjoy your people and your surroundings, be present, and have fun!


We hope this list helps you bring (or not bring) everything you’ll need for a wonderful trip! 


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