3 Reasons to Pack Cloth Napkins in Your Vacation Kit

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

I’ve been sharing some of my favorite tools to carry along to a vacation rental or cabin, from the essential to the frivolous. Here’s one more, which falls somewhere in between, and has some fun side benefits when traveling with a big crowd: Cloth napkins!

Here are three reasons why I think these deserve a spot in your vacation kit.

Vacation houses, in my experience, almost never have napkins or other table linens. If you’re lucky there’s a roll of paper towels or maybe some flimsy serviettes. Here are three reasons to bring your own cloth napkins along.

  1. No paper, no waste. First, the obvious reason: using cloth napkins, as I do at home, means less paper waste. We use our cloth napkins for several days and wash them when they get really dirty. Why change this on vacation, especially if you’re spending time out in nature?
  2. A more civilized (and luxurious) table experience. If it’s just two of you, eating vacation meals with cloth napkins feels so much more romantic and luxurious. I generally travel with my husband, and on a quiet getaway, it’s way more luxurious to sit down to a table set with real cloth napkins. It makes the table (and the evening) feel more special and also more like home.
  3. A fun vacation memento for a big group. If there’s a crowd, though, napkins can mark each person’s place and make a great vacation memento. If you’re with a bigger crowd, like another family or a whole pack of friends, consider bringing a stack of cheap kitchen floursack towels in different colors to function as each person’s oversized napkin for the weekend. Fold and drape it across the chair when you’re done eating so everyone can remember their place at the table (and find their napkin!). When vacation is over, everyone takes their napkin home as a little souvenir of a fun weekend.

I also find that vacation meals often call for something more substantial than tiny flimsy squares of paper — a nice grilled steak or a slice of homemade pizza isn’t as fun with a little paper napkin (although if you’re cooking ribs better pull out that roll of paper towels after all).

And what’s easier to fold into the corner of a suitcase than a cloth napkin or two? I sometimes use them to wrap a knife for travel, or tuck them into my camera case for extra padding.