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Expert Advice

Vacation Rental Packing Checklist: Kitchen Edition

Level up your packing checklist with these creative kitchen-inspired additions for homecooked favorites on the go

Christopher G.
Picture of a classic suitcase with an vintage camera on top.

In 1791, Mozart wrote his opera “Die Zauberflöte” – The Magic Flute. This month, I give you my blog “Die Magischer Koffer” – The Magic(al) Suitcase! It’s exactly the same except without music … and in English.

Here’s your vacation rental packing checklist: kitchen edition.

I’ve recently noticed vacation-recipe blog posts, and while this discussion isn’t about cooking the food per se, it is about a related vacation dilemma: what about all the other ingredients you need when you cook?

For many, the words “cooking” and “on vacation” are antithetical, but I’ve always enjoyed the flexibility – and dining out gets expensive. However, with food preparation comes the need for the supporting pantry items we take for granted – because they’re already there – when cooking at home.

It’s not that they aren’t available on vacation, but even the bulk of the smallest sizes makes schlepping them home impractical – and so you end up buying those smallest sizes at the highest unit costs (especially in resort destinations where prices are higher anyway) – and then you have to leave all of it behind.

Even several years into this, I still limit myself to one, checked carry-on because who really wants to find out the hard way exactly how much oregano sets off the security guy’s over-zealous German Shepherd?

Here are some of the more common items and methods I’ve perfected over the years:

  • Salt and pepper are easy: buy a camping shaker with salt on one side and pepper on the other. The same concept can address your sugar needs, but use the finer baker’s sugar so it doesn’t clog in a re-purposed salt shaker. My wife sweetens her tea with half sugar/half agave nectar, so we also travel with a re-purposed eye-dropper bottle of that, too.
  • Having a broad array of spices perplexed me for a while until I found a set of metal, screw-top tins on Amazon. Each holds a dry ounce. The metal makes them durable. The screw-tops make them tight and secure.

Timeshare properties do a good job of providing a few days’ worth of coffee, but tea tends to be rarer so we pack a good variety of teas. I prefer espresso, so I pack an AreoPress. I also pack a supply of coffee filters. Here again, the timeshare typically provides you with a few days’ worth.

  • Over the last few trips, having bought the very smallest (plastic, screw-top) bottles of oil and vinegar, I’ve kept them to re-fill on each new trip.
  • The small lemon- and lime-shaped citrus extract containers also are compact and reusable – great to have on-hand especially if you like to grill fish on vacation.
  • We like to bake muffins for breakfast, but it’s rare to find muffin tins even in well-stocked condos. I added a flexible silicone “tin” a couple years ago. Adding a small supply of paper muffin cups gives you additional flexibility. For general baking I also pack a half dozen or so individual sheets of tin foil, and an oven roaster bag or two.
  • Perishables (mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, etc.) are trickier – but not impossible. If traveling by car I bring small containers in a cooler, but there’s a solution even if you fly – and proof, yet again, that there’s not much you can’t find on the internet.

Lastly, don’t forget small/compact incidentals like tooth picks, matches (especially the “strike-anywhere” kind), etc.

To round everything out, I also pack an extra sponge, a handi-wipe (one wipe = an entire roll of paper towels), and a magic eraser.

Over the years, especially vacationing with fellow time-sharers, our magic suitcase has become both a running joke and a welcome companion. We now pretty much have all the basics, and more of the less-common things than you might expect.

Quite a few of the “Hey, do we have any [whatever]?” questions are followed by my two-word reply:  “Magic Suitcase!!” Even still, I rarely come home from a trip where I haven’t gotten yet another idea for an addition to the collection.

Keep in mind, too, that while all of these ideas are useful anyway, they are especially so if you’re traveling abroad where you may not be as likely to find the things you’re used to at home.

Christopher G.

Elite Plus Member since 2009, Christopher’s home resort is Valdoro Mountain Lodge in Breckenridge, Colorado. Christopher always packs a solar lantern and charger in his carry-on, both of which have come in handy in a pinch on the road. Christopher enjoys immersing himself in nature and discovering new ways to experience life. His favorite travel pastimes include spending time outdoors, like hiking and grilling by the pool. He also enjoys participating in social tastings, and trying local food and wine. Christopher’s favorite travel app is Waze, which he uses to spend more time enjoying his vacation and less time navigating traffic.

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