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Ultimate Guide to Packing for the Vacation Kitchen

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Cooking while on vacation can be tough to plan for. You never know quite what the rental kitchen is going to be equipped with and it can be difficult to figure out what things you should bring with you and what you should buy when you get there. Well, don’t worry. We’ve got your Ultimate Guide to Packing for the Vacation Kitchen.

Ultimate Guide to Packing for the Vacation Kitchen

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There are those who are fortunate enough in life to enjoy every vacation at some ritzy resort where each meal is a culinary masterpiece and a cabana boy brings you your cocktails with a little umbrella in them, but most people vacation somewhere that is a little more affordable and relaxed. Maybe it’s a timeshare, or a beach house or some cute little cabin in the mountains. It’s got a few bedrooms and a cozy little kitchen. Days are full of swimming and exploring while meal times should be easy and relaxed. But what do you pack for a family vacation? How do you make sure that you make it to your vacation rental with enough provisions to last the week without breaking the bank? How do you feed the whole family without subsisting on Hot Dogs and Bologna sandwiches alone? Well, that’s what this post is all about! This is Ultimate Guide to Packing for the Vacation Kitchen.

Guide to Vacation Cooking

So first, we should tell you about our annual vacation to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Every year our family and Blaine’s parents, and maybe a few nieces and nephews, all pile into a 2 bedroom condo on Lake Hamilton. It’s a time share that has been in Blaine’s family for generations and it has become the relaxing, family vacation to the lake that we all look forward to every year. It’s easy, the kids love it and we grown-ups catch up on our Summer reading and cocktail drinking. We all share the duties of feeding everyone else so that one person isn’t doing all of the meal making for the week. But while the condo kitchen comes with the bare necessities of vacation cooking, we have learned over the years that it really is necessary to pack a few things so that we aren’t too limited in what we can whip up for dinner or otherwise. The selection of cooking utensils available to us in the condo’s kitchen is usually a collection of dull knives and warped pans that are all but useless. So, to begin with, here is the list of cooking implements that we always take with us:

You obviously can’t make everything in the world with that set of tools, but you can put together most things with this set.

The next list of things that we pack is our essentials of basic seasoning and condiments. Our kitchen comes with nothing but salt and pepper, so in order to avoid having to buy all of the basic seasoning when we get there we make sure to take those things with us. Here’s our list of Basic Seasonings, Condiments, and Miscellaneous needs to pack:

  • Sugar (usually a couple cups in a pint jar), Kosher salt (in a small jar) and Pepper grinder
  • Steak Seasoning, Seasoned Salt, Italian Seasoning, Homemade Baking Mix
  • 1 small bottle Olive oil, 1 can cooking spray, 1 bottle red wine vinegar
  • Coffee, creamers, coffee filters
  • Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, relish
  • Aluminum Foil, plastic ziptop bags, paper towels, plastic wrap

After we have all of that together, we like to make a loose plan of what it is we are going to cook while we are there. We aren’t too rigid about this. We enjoy being able to hit up the local meat market there in Hot Springs (Weldon’s it’s called and its amazing!), so we leave some room for improvisation, but there are a few things that always make their way into the list. We always make biscuits and pancakes while we are there, so we whip up a big batch of our Homemade Baking Mix to take with us to make that meal easier. We almost always make burgers, so we make sure to pack some of our homemade steak/burger seasoning. I have a thing about pasta salad and I let myself splurge on it all week, so I make up a batch of either Creamy Rotini Salad or Spring Pasta Salad to take with us.

The Best Bloody Mary Mix Ever

Every day starts with either a Bloody Mary (Blaine makes THE BEST Bloody Mary Mix) or a Mimosa and there is usually a Margarita in there somewhere. Blaine makes killer cocktail mixers so they can often be found in a big mason jar in the cooler as well. After that the plan is a little looser. I’ve packed my Corn and Avocado Salad a few times and this year we are thinking we might take something sweet like Chocolate Zucchini Bread or maybe some Berry Scones. We also pack a couple dozen eggs, because we have chickens and we are usually swimming in eggs by the time vacation rolls around. We usually try to have some kind of marinade for chicken or pork whipped up, too.

When it comes time to pack everything up for the 6 hour car ride to the condo, we make sure to have plenty of ice in the cooler, and then throw everything else in a laundry basket to put in the car (you can’t imagine how handy that basket is when we get to the condo). And then, suitcases and fishing poles and we are off!

Once we are there and unpacked, we get together with my in-laws and firm up the eating plan for the week. We compare coolers and make our list for the grocery store. One trip to the grocery to stock up on bread, lunchmeat, Pringles and popsicles and we are mostly set for the week. Inevitably someone forgets something and we make another trip to the store later in the week, but for the most part we are full vacation mode and it is glorious.

We truly hope that your vacation is full of fun and relaxation and with this Ultimate Guide
to Packing for the Vacation Kitchen it is sure to be delicious!

Don’t forget your free downloadable checklist so that you don’t forget anything this vacation! (click the picture to download)

Ultimate Guide to Packing for the Vacation Kitchen


Looking for more ideas to pack in your vacation cooler? Here’s a handy roundup of some delish vacation eats!

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Jodie is a wife, mom, writer and lover of chickens and gardens. She runs her family's winery by day and cooks and writes by night.

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