10 Things to Pack That Make Cooking on Vacation Easier

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Knife: Microstock Man/Shutterstock; Corkscrew: mike taylor/Shutterstock; Salt: Antonio Danna/Shutterstock)

Some people see vacation as an escape from cooking, but I often find that time in the kitchen is much more relaxing when I’m on a trip. Unfortunately, most rental kitchens aren’t stocked with the right tools and ingredients to make vacation cooking what it should be: simple, flexible and above all, pleasurable. But you can ensure your own happiness by packing these ten items on your next trip.

  • 1 Knife: Most rental homes have flimsy, dull knives that make cooking feel like a dangerous chore. Bring your own sharp chef’s knife and then you won’t have to make your family stop at the local kitchen supply store for a decent knife on Day Two of your trip because you just can’t stand it anymore. (Yes, I speak from experience.)
  • 2 Olive oil: A good olive oil makes it easy to turn the fresh, local ingredients you find into memorable meals, but it’s not worth buying a big, expensive bottle if you’ll only be using it for a week. Instead, pack a small bottle of whatever you like to use at home.
  • 3 Salt & spice blends: Along with olive oil, your favorite salt and spices can make a big difference when cooking simple vacation meals. Pack a container of the salt you use at home, along with small bags of the spices or spice blends you use most.
  • 4 Corkscrew: Yes, there is a good chance your rental home has a corkscrew, but what if it doesn’t? You’ll be toasting your packing skills instead of staring sadly at an unopened wine bottle if you remember to bring a corkscrew.
  • 5 Food storage bags: Zip-top bags are not only a smart way to bring home food souvenirs, they do double duty as an essential way to pack up leftovers if your rental doesn’t have any food storage containers. They are also nice to have on hand for packing food for picnics, hikes or trips to the beach.
  • 6 Coffee: Depending on how particular about your coffee, you might pack your favorite brand of instant coffee, or bring a bag of good beans ground for whatever brewing method your rental provides, or go all-in with whole beans, a little grinder and a small french press.
  • 7 Hard cheese, anchovies or other flavor boosters: Packing ingredients like Parmesan, anchovies, capers, or harissa paste means you’ll be able to add tons of flavor to your meals without a lot of fuss, which is exactly how vacation cooking should be. What do you typically add to your quick weeknight dinners for flavor without a lot of work? …Bring that.
  • 8 Tongs: There are many cooking tools you can hack with other common kitchen supplies, but it’s tough to get by without tongs. Bring a cheap metal pair and you won’t even feel bad about leaving them behind for future vacationers.
  • 9 Baking supplies: If you have plans to whip up pancakes in the morning or cobblers or pies with the local summer fruit, pack a little kit with common ingredients like baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract and cinnamon. You won’t waste money buying a big container of an item when you only need a teaspoon of it.
  • 10 Grilling essentials: If your rental house has a grill, pack any tools you need that might not be available, such as an accurate meat thermometer.
What tools and ingredients do you pack to make vacation cooking easier?

(Images: Knife: Microstock Man/Shutterstock; Corkscrew: mike taylor/Shutterstock; Salt: Antonio Danna/Shutterstock)