8 Vacation Essentials to Cook Your Best Meal at Any Rental

Summer is upon us, and that means it’s time to talk vacation essentials! You may be heading to a relaxing beachside villa, a secluded lake house, or a rustic cabin with breathtaking mountain views. You’ve been dreaming about this vacation ever since you booked it back in March and thinking about that beach-side cocktail has gotten you through many a meeting that should have been an email. Let’s face it, though, sometimes that rustic cabin’s host did a less-than-stellar job at preparing the kitchen for your stay. Here’s what we recommend to bring to make a meal as satisfying as sending that out-of-office email feels.

1 or 2 favorite knives

Knives that spend their days in a short-term rental are not destined for greatness. They don’t have the same feel as your knives from home, and the last time they were sharpened, you were booking your vacations through a travel agency. Do yourself a favor and bring at least one sharp knife with you. If you bring just one, make it a chef’s knife. It can handle any task from cutting the fruit you found at the farmers market to slicing the cured salami you just had to have from the local provisions shop. If you know you’ll be doing a little more cooking, add a paring knife for more precision. When packing your knives, wrap them separately in a dish towel and secure the towel with masking or painter’s tape. Now you have a bonus item; a dish towel that’s good for any cleanup situation.


Somehow this seems to be one of the things that is always lacking in a “fully stocked kitchen.” Planning to indulge in some of your favorite wines while on vacation? Pack a corkscrew or wine key like Pulltap’s Professional Waiter’s Corkscrew. Trust me, this will save you immense heartache and the unnecessary act of purchasing one you don’t need. Once you’ve finally arrived at your destination, unpacked, and figured out where the towels are, won’t it be nice to settle in with your favorite bottle of Vino Verde without the drama?


The number of short-term rentals stocked with a jigger are proportional to the number of times I’ve travelled and not needed a drink by the time I park my suitcase in a bedroom. That’s to say, few. If your vacation dreams include an Aperol spritz by the pool or a Negroni while you watch the sunset, pack a jigger, and keep your mixologist game strong. I prefer the Oxo steel double jigger, which is small and easy to pack. Need help finding a recipe for a perfect vacation cocktail? Peruse some of the ideas we’ve dreamed up here at TABLE Magazine before your trip.

Coffee brewing equipment

If, like many Americans, your morning ritual includes sitting down with the perfect cup, consider packing your favorite brewing apparatus. I commend those brave enough to pack a Chemex (my own mother goes few places without hers). But for a safer option, I recommend the Aeropress. This lightweight, plastic, easy cleanup brew method is perfect for travel. Bring your favorite beans already ground or pick some up from a local coffee shop when you arrive at your destination.

Top 3 spices

If your host cares for your wellbeing at all, there should be salt and pepper already stocked in your rental. But can one survive on salt and pepper alone? If you hope to grill some local fish, prepare a salad from the farmers market, or whip up an easy dinner in, you may want a little more flavor. Pack three of your favorite spices or spice blends and your vacation-self will thank your current-self. Not sure what to take? A steak seasoning like Victoria Taylor’s Cracked Black Pepper Rub is versatile and can be used to flavor eggs in the morning and anything on the grill in the evening. Za’atar is great for sprinkling over sandwiches on the beach or store-bought hummus for a snack. Furikake from Ajishima Foods will liven up any quick rice bowl or fish dish. Pack your spices inside a food storage container to avoid your clothes having a faint waft of za’atar all week.

Food storage containers or reusable bags

Unless you’re a pro at estimating how much people will eat, you will likely have leftovers. One item I have found almost every short-term rental lacks is food storage containers. Bring 2 or 3 so you can enjoy your leftover pasta salad for lunch the next day or repurpose that extra steak into sandwiches.

Sleep mask

I am loath to leave my black-out curtains at home, but sacrifices must be made in the name of relaxation. If precautions have not been made for sun blockage in your rental, chances are you will be waking up at 6am each morning with the sunrise. This sounds perfectly wonderful to some. However, if you’d like the option of sleeping in after an extra vacation cocktail, pack a sleep mask and revel in the fact that you do not need to set an alarm. Brooklinen carries soft silky masks in a variety of designs so you can even match favorite Pjs.

Portable speaker

Your rental may be equipped with the latest sound system or smart tv. Then again it may not. Give yourself the ability to set the mood with your favorite playlist anywhere by packing a portable speaker. I recommend the Bose Soundlink Micro Bluetooth Speaker. Its small and lightweight but gets great volume. It may even come in handy by the beach or sitting down to a picnic after a morning hike.

Story and photography by Kirsten Chervenak

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