Have you ever checked into a vacation rental that bragged about their “fully stocked kitchen” in the listing only to find out that they think “fully stocked” means 2 chipped and flaking sauce pans, a dull grocery store knife, and about 4 tiny mugs? We have and it’s never a fun surprise! Ever since our oldest son was born, we’ve preferred to stay in rental houses instead of hotels. We get so much more space for the same cost (or less!!!) and have access to many more amenities that are helpful when traveling with small kids (in-home laundry, no shared walls or floors, bedrooms with doors for everyone, work space for adults, and more). After several trips of having to ship ourselves items from Amazon or making runs to Target to make up for the failings of the rental home’s offerings, we created a intentional collection of assorted things that make staying in a vacation rental as close to our normal living experience as possible without actually being at home. The Vacation House Box was born!

Let’s break it down a little more granularly.

  1. Power Strips: Electrical outlets are never in convenient places (especially in older homes)
  2. Airport Express and Ethernet cord: This has become less useful over time (it’s old tech from before we got married) but in a family with multiple internet-connected devices, being able to plug in our own router and have Kindles, Chromecasts, computers, phones, and anything else automatically connect to a known network is a BIG timesaver. We’re looking to replace the Airport Express with something else (once we figure out what that is)
  3. Expanding hanging drying rack: I tend to do laundry while traveling or we’re in a place with fewer hooks for drying swim suits than necessary. I found this at the grocery store several years ago (this one is similar) and it makes drying clothing simpler.
  4. Two pop-up laundry hampers: Purchased at the dollar store, these basic hampers help us stay slightly more organized and prevents clothes from getting lost and forgotten under kids’ beds.
  5. Mesh laundry bag: I used to bag up baby socks in the wash so they didn’t disappear but this bag has become useful when washing masks, delicate laundry, or things I don’t want to be separated (like the insoles of my Allbirds)
  6. White vinegar: More than once, I’ve thought while on vacation, “I bet this shower would work much better if I could get the hard water scaling off the nozzle.” Because I’m that weird, vinegar is in the box (also great for basic cleaning!)
  7. Stain pre-treater: Kids and adults alike have found this item useful! I like the Oxyclean gel stick for traveling because it takes up very little space and can sit on the clothes for up to a week before washing.
  8. Laundry soap: We’ve used Charlie’s Soap laundry powder since our oldest was born and still love it. It only takes 1 Tablespoon to wash a full load so all I need to bring along is a small jar and a scoop.
  9. Kids toys: Our kids love playing with extra straws, sticks, rocks, and other treasures they find on vacation but this small stash of toys and activities helps keep them occupied. Currently, the toy bag contains some inexpensive play food (found in the Target dollar section), felt play money, small jars of Play-doh, and laminated Play-doh mats.
  10. Grow in water toys for baths: Remember these from way back? They still exist! My mother-in-law likes to gift these to our kids for holidays so we always stash a pack of them in the Vacation House Box to make bath time extra special.
  11. Travel games: Rainy days happen on vacation too so we keep travel sized games and cards in our box.
  12. Baby-proofing items: Gotta keep the littles safe from themselves, even/especially while traveling
  13. LED nightlights: Helpful to find your way to the bathroom in the dark or make kids comfortable sleeping in a new space
  14. Collapsable fabric cube: Used most often to organize kitchen necessities when there isn’t cabinet space available
  15. Collapsable fabric organizer: This one is more of a tray with 3 sections that allows me to set out kitchen utensils, toddler dishware, and other small kitcheny things
  16. Clean sponge: Gotta keep up with the never-ending dirty dishes, even on vacation!
  17. Dishwasher tablets: So often, rentals provide enough dish soap for one or two days, which isn’t terribly helpful when you’ll be there for one to two weeks. Now we bring our own so we don’t run out.
  18. Dawn dish soap: I love blue Dawn dish soap with all of my heart. Obviously we use it for handwashing dishes but did you know that it’s incredibly good at getting grease stains out of clothing?
  19. Brillo disposable cloths: I picked up this tip from my parents camping kit. These useful cloths are great for cleaning little kids’ faces and hands, wiping up spills, and washing dishes. They’re really large so we cut them in half.
  20. Lysol wipes: Have you ever had to stop at a Walmart in the middle of Indiana because your baby is sick and leaked nastiness out of their diaper into their car seat? I have and vowed right then and there that I wouldn’t travel without minimal cleaning supplies ever again.
  21. First aid kit and baby powder: Bandaids and cleaning wipes are always good to keep around and baby powder is one of the most effective ways to remove sand from skin that I’ve found.
  22. OTC meds of all sorts: Travel packs of Lactaid, headache drugs, and OTC painkillers are clutch
  23. Bug repellant and travel tissues: This one feels rather self-explanatory but the tissues are for noses and the repellant is to stay bite-free.
  24. Toilet paper: I will do many things to save money but using or buying cheap, thin toilet paper is not one of them. Paper products like TP are often one thing we run out of during a longer-term stay so keeping a spare roll in the box allows for a less urgent trip to the store.
  25. Coffee filters: For coffee! But also great for craft projects!
  26. Clothes pins: For pinning! But also great for creating temporary bibs from napkins or games
  27. Kitchen trash bags: For trash! But also great for transporting dirty laundry home.
  28. Zip-topped bags (quart and gallon sized): For leftovers, travel snacks, wet socks, etc
  29. Disposable rain ponchos: Rain ponchos made their way into the box during our annual trips to Disney World. Getting caught in a pop-up Central Florida storm and spending the rest of the day with wet clothes is not fun!
  30. Disposable to-go coffee cups: Also originating from our Disney trips, these cups come in clutch when we’re rolling out the door early in the morning to make it to the theme park but I don’t want the responsibility of taking a real travel cup from the rental (if there is even one there)
  31. Pizza pan and cutting boards: A cheap pizza pan can bake almost anything in addition to pizza (cookies, garlic bread, chicken breasts…). Many rentals we’ve stayed in haven’t had cutting boards at all or the only one there looks like it had never been washed. A 3-pack from the grocery store has made cooking much easier.
  32. Basic cooking seasonings: If I have specific meals in mind, I’ll pack pre-measured spices from home but almost never travel without salt, pepper, oil, and OG Mrs Dash
  33. Parchment: For lining pans!
  34. Aluminum foil: For lining pans! And occasionally wrapping things!
  35. Chef’s knife: My favorite knife at home is a small chef’s knife so I travel with this inexpensive (but nice!) knife from Ikea and a universal knife cover.
  36. Kitchen scissors: For opening packages, cutting food for kids, making paper snowflakes. Kitchen scissors are one of my most-used items in the box.
  37. Silicone scraper and spoon: Our goal was to pack the fewest number of items that were useful in the largest number of scenarios, hence the scraper and stirring spoon. I’d like to find a small silicone spatula that doesn’t melt to add to the box too.
  38. Can opener: Have you ever gotten ready to make dinner and discovered you couldn’t open a can of tomatoes for chili? I have! Now I have a can opener in the box.
  39. Measuring cups and spoons: No longer am I at the mercy of the single 1/3 cup measuring cup and 1 teaspoon I found in a vacation rental kitchen!
  40. Oven mitt: No more towels as oven mitts or trivets for me!
  41. Kid-friendly plates and bowls: Having parented toddlers for 8+ years, we’ve learned that we are more comfortable giving our accident prone toddlers plastic plates and bowls (this collection from Target is my favorite and are recyclable when they reach end-of-life)
  42. Take and Toss Cups/Bowls: Similar to this set, our set of take and toss sippy cups, snack cups, and bowls have tight fitting lids to prevent spills but aren’t so precious that we are concerned about misplacing them while traveling (or tossing them if they get too gross)
  43. Plastic food storage containers: These are mostly used for storing leftovers but have come in handy for car snacks or drive-through lunches on road trips
  44. (Not pictured) Cooking tongs, a frying pan, and dish scrub brush: Tongs are one of the most versatile kitchen utensils out there (and great for pretending to be a lobster!). An oven-safe frying pan can be use for cooking almost everything save the largest roasts and meals (even boiling water for pasta). The scrub brush makes washing really baked on messes much quicker.

That’s it! The contents of the box have changed over time and I’m ready to make some changes again (no more baby proofing necessary! I want a colander!). We don’t use every item on every trip but its so useful to have fully packed crate (like this) ready to go at a moment’s notice. Do you have a travel-ready box? Are there items you bring with you every time you travel?

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