17 Essentials for a Vacation Rental Kitchen

Renting your vacation home is a great way to help you budget for a second home. Whether you’re using a property management firm or doing it all yourself, you’ll want your renters to enjoy themselves so they’ll come back year after year, and you can enjoy the steady income.

When your renters arrive after the long drive from home, the first place they’ll likely explore is the kitchen. And they won’t want to find it lacking. Beyond the obvious basics, like a fridge, stove, and microwave, these 17 essentials will make any vacation kitchen welcoming and easy to use.

  1. Flatware that’s heavy enough to withstand a little pressure. Have you ever tried to scoop ice cream with a flimsy stainless steel spoon, bending it in the process? On vacation, people want their ice cream hassle free. Spending a little more now will save you money later when lower quality pieces will be bent and need replacing. The Extra Mile: Matching serving pieces for family style meals.
  2. A standard set of heavy duty pots and pans. Make sure your handles aren’t loose, and that there are enough sizes to meet everyone’s cooking needs. A standard 10 piece set should do it. Stay away from non-stick coatings, as they’re easily damaged by renters who might not reach for the proper utensils to protect them. The Extra Mile: A grill pan and an enormous pot for crab boils, chili night, or a huge batch of pasta.
  3. One set of glass casserole dishes, varying sizes, including one for pies and quiches. The Extra Mile: A very well seasoned cast iron Dutch oven, for serious stews and roasts.
  4. Two sets of dishes and cups, glass and plastic. In some vacation locales, outdoor meals are part of the fun, and you want your guests to enjoy them without breaking your dishes. The Extra Mile: Plenty of serving dishes for family style meals.
  5. A toaster oven. This will save you money because your guests won’t use the stove just to make toast or heat up waffles. The Extra Mile: A fancy toaster oven that also works like a convection oven. Just make sure to leave instructions prominently displayed.
  6. A blender! Because who doesn’t like a delicious frozen drink on vacation? The Extra Mile: An inexpensive food processor, because some people don’t feel at home without one.
  7. Plenty of food storage containers for leftovers. Don’t spend too much, just make sure the lids fit well. Lids will get lost and people will take full containers home by accident, so you’ll probably have to replace them every year. Consider a handful of semi-disposable containers, which will be cheaper to replace. The Extra Mile: Large, plastic freezer bags, which may prevent people from accidentally pilfering your storage containers to take home leftovers.
  8. A coffee maker. This is a no-brainer, but you certainly don’t want to forget it. The Extra Mile: An extra pot, in case one breaks. (If you use a property management firm, they’ll usually replace them, so no need for an extra.) A French press is also a nice extra, in case your guests prefer more than one kind of coffee in the morning.
  9. Assorted cutting boards. At least one large board for large cuts of meat and melons, as well as several smaller ones, for citrus fruits, a single tomato or onion, herbs, and cheese. They're great for serving cheese, too. Having plenty of cutting boards will protect your counters and your investment. The Extra Mile: An enormous wooden board, with a well at the edge, for slicing large cuts of meat.
  10. A decent set of knives. Dull knives lead to injuries, and who wants to spend a day of vacation in the emergency room? The Extra Mile: A block or magnetic strip to keep them all organized.
  11. A Swing-A-Way can opener. They’re cheap, available in most grocery stores, and very durable. This is simply the best can opener out there. The Extra Mile: A spare.
  12. Measuring cups and spoons. A set of measuring spoons and dry measure cups, as well as one or two sizes of glass, liquid measuring cups with pour spouts. The Extra Mile: A large mixing bowl with measurements.
  13. A set of mixing bowls. Because pancakes and muffins are delicious on vacation. The Extra Mile: Get high-quality stainless steel, because they’ll last forever.
  14. A baking set. A couple different sizes of cookie sheets with raised edges, a muffin tin or two, and at least two each round and square cake pans. The Extra Mile: A couple of nonstick baking mats and a bundt pan, because you never know when the urge to make a bundt cake will strike.
  15. An assortment of utensils. You’ll need several metal and rubber spatulas, a handful of wooden, stainless steel, and rubber spoons, a whisk or two, turning forks, several stirring spoons, a soup ladle, a pasta scoop, cheese grater, zester, vegetable peeler, and anything you constantly reach for in the kitchen. The Extra Mile: A hand mixer for those times when a whisk won't cut it.
  16. A corkscrew and a bottle opener. For goodness’ sake, don’t leave me hanging. I’m on vacation and I need this bottle of wine opened. The Extra Mile: Bar tools, like stir sticks, a shaker, and shot glasses with measures.
  17. Locale appropriate extras. If you own a condo at a ski resort, consider a fondue pot or raclette grill. At the beach, guests might enjoy an ice cream maker and seafood tools like oyster knives, shrimp deveiners, and lobster crackers. The Extra Mile: Uh. Hire a personal chef to cook for them?

At least once a year, stay at your place like a renter. Don’t bring anything from home, other than your clothes, and see if you’re comfortable. If you know some tips and tricks to help people enjoy the area, like where to get the freshest seafood, or which store stays open late and sells wine, make a laminated list and leave it on the fridge. Your guests will appreciate the extra attention and enjoy a hassle-free vacation. If you’re lucky, they’ll return year after year, and recommend your place to friends.