What to Pack for a Short-Term Vacation Rental

March 13, 2014 | Alex

Hi from Palm Springs! My parents rented a house here for a week to be near my extended family and escape the brutal NYC winter. I hopped on the band wagon to squeeze in some desert hiking before leaving for the arctic in less than a month. Our rental house here is in a Wexler complex, built in 1960-- very funky and retro to the max. Quintessential Palm Springs.

Now that they're traveling more in their semi-retirement, my parents are big fans of short-term rentals. On longer trips, it's particularly nice to have access to a full kitchen. I love a good hotel room, but any longer than 3 days and I miss fixing my own breakfast. And when traveling as a group, I like to have a living space for family movie nights.

My parents have perfected the art of packing for a vacation rental. My dad is in charge of food items and my mom covers electronics and decor. I asked them to share their "must-bring" list for a vacation rental property. Granted, their list does assume that you're checking baggage. And they do take things to an extreme. (I imagine some people would go ahead and take the risk that they won't have access to decent olive oil while on vacation. Not my dad.)

But, nevertheless, it's a helpful list if you're planning to go away for a week or more. Here are their recommendations for what to pack when renting a vacation home for an extended amount of time:

  1. The Mobile Foodie Survival Kit- $26 | Trudeau Microfiber Salad Bag - $14.95 | Farm Animal Chip Clips - $8/set of 3
  2. Voluspa Candle - $8 | Convertible Silicon Vase - $24.99 (similar to pictured)
  3. ArteOliva Extra Virgin Olive Oil | Travel Balsamic Vinegar | Empire Mayo - $8
  4. Jawbone Mini Jambox $179.99 | Muji Compact Alarm Clock - $16.50 | ChromeCast - $35
  5. Cashmere Duster - $295 | a&R Cashmere Slippers - $99 | Blowpro Perfect Shower Cap - $18*
  6. Stumptown Coffee - $16.50 | Aerolatte Milk Frother - $14.99 | Marimekko Pieni Unikko Apron - $45

*ok, $18 is a lot for a shower cap. then again, it is "the perfect" shower cap...

If you're renting a home from someone who lives there full time (like through Airbnb), you can probably slim down on the kitchen items. Presumably, they'll have basic spices on hand and won't mind if a pinch of cayenne goes missing. But if you're staying on a property that's maintained strictly for rental purposes (which we are), then there are certain kitchen basics that tend to be absent. Chief among these: chip clips, a decent apron, a well-stocked spice rack and a salad spinner. Since a salad spinner is a bit bulky to pack, my Dad turns to microfiber salad drying bags. You can always purchase condiments at a local grocery, but a) in can be a drag to buy a whole bottle of olive oil when you're not likely to make a dent in it during your stay; and b) if you have strong preferences for a favorite brand of, say, mayo, you could be S.O.L. My dad swears by these travel-friendly ArteOliva cartoons of Olive Oil (available at Despana in SoHo). At home, my parents make cappuccinos with a Nespresso Aeroccino (heaven!), but on the road they rely on their trusty aerolatte portable foamer.

My mom's picks may not "essential" strictly speaking, but I cannot tell you how much she added to the ambiance of our rental within the first 20 minutes of arriving. Rental properties have a habit of feeling cold. That was certainly true of ours. Stylish and comfortable? Yes. Would you think for even a second that someone actually lived there? Nope. But once she scattered a few votives around, streamed pandora to her jambox jawbone, and put a bouquet of trader joe's parrot tulips in a portable vase, I could swear I was in their NYC apartment. Different surroundings, definitely, (and uh sorta the point of a vacation), but the same comfy vibe that I love so much about my childhood home. We could even stream House of Cards via ChromeCast! 

The other thing to remember with rentals is that you can't rely on the standard amenities of a hotel, i.e. bathrobe, slippers, shower cap, alarm clock, etc. I don't mind not having a terry robe, but when you're hanging out around the house with family, it's nice to have something cozy to slip over your PJs. (And if your PJs are as "weathered" as mine, it's beneficial to have something presentable to wear to breakfast.) My mom came up with the brilliant idea of packing a duster that could do double duty as a robe or cardigan. While most people in my generation use their phone as alarm clocks, if you're really trying to disconnect, an alarm clock's not a bad idea. I like this light and quiet alarm clock from Muji.

Did I miss anything? Thanks, Mom and Dad, for this great list! Hope you find it helpful.