Top 7 Things to Pack for Your Next Airbnb Stay
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For family travelers like me, the rise of homesharing sites like Airbnb and VRBO have been a fantastic development for comfort on vacation. There's no arguing that redeeming points for a free hotel stay can be a great value, but that isn't always an option in smaller towns, and a week-long trip with my wife and daughter in a standard hotel room with two double beds doesn't exactly define "relaxing vacation" in my book. Snagging a spacious apartment or home in a great location at rates that are often lower than nearby hotels is a winning value proposition for many travelers.
That being said, not all Airbnbs are created equally, and while you may find some of the creature comforts you've become accustomed to at home, chances are quite good that your rental won't have everything you need. Today I'll go through the top seven things that I always pack when my trip includes an Airbnb.
1. Carbon Monoxide Detector
Forgive me in advance for starting on a negative note. I am far from a nervous traveler, but you can be sure that I paid close attention to last year's story about two American travelers dying from carbon monoxide poisoning at their Airbnb in Mexico. I immediately went to my local Home Depot and picked up a small, relatively inexpensive detector that has since accompanied me and my family to multiple Airbnbs. The little chirp when we insert the batteries upon arrival gives me peace of mind.
Speaking of batteries, however, be sure that you remove them from the unit before packing, and carry those batteries in your carry-on luggage. Airlines don't allow spare lithium batteries in checked baggage, and you don't want your bag to get flagged.
2. Coffee, Tea and Condiments
Many travelers enjoy the morning jolt from a cup of coffee or tea, and my wife and I are no exception. We've found that many Airbnbs will stock these items for guests, however, there's no guarantee. There may not even be a coffeemaker in the apartment. In addition, sugar (or sugar substitute) may not be provided. My wife happens to be an English breakfast tea drinker with milk and Splenda, stevia or another low-calorie sweetener. I can count on one hand the number of times we've had both her tea and sweetener at an Airbnb.
(Spoiler alert: It's zero.)
And of course, if you head to a local grocery store after arriving at your Airbnb, tea bags come in a massive box, as do packets of sweetener. As a result, whenever we stay in an Airbnb, we'll pack two small containers with instant coffee, black tea bags and sweetener packets needed for the duration of the trip to ensure that everyone has their caffeine fix in the morning without having to carry excess supplies around.
3. Shower Puffs/Washcloths
From a cleanliness standpoint, it drives me crazy when an Airbnb doesn't provide washcloths for bathing purposes. Maybe I'm just used to the creature comforts of home, but I just don't feel clean when I use a bar of soap. After our first experience with Airbnb taught us that not all apartments provide these essential linens, we've started packing shower puffs whenever we've booked an Airbnb.
You could (of course) bring a traditional washcloth, but I've found that these won't dry as quickly, which could present a problem if you're changing cities during a trip and you need to cram a soaking wet washcloth into your luggage. Shower puffs, on the other hand, are lightweight and dry fairly quickly when hung out.
Another essential item we always pack again roots back to the comfort of our home environment. When my family goes to bed, we always have some type of light on, not because we're scared of the dark but to light the way around at night. I've found that Airbnbs won't always have a lighting configuration to support that. I don't want to have to splash the overhead, fluorescent light from the bathroom in my wife's face if I need to get up in the middle of the night, and a new apartment is strange enough for my daughter even without it being completely dark.
Of course, this is a bit more challenging when you're traveling out of the US, which is why the next one is a must...
5. International Adapter
This is probably obvious, but most Airbnbs outside the US don't include international plug adapters. With the device-heavy world in which we live, it's critical to stay charged up when on the road. We actually bring two of these when we leave the country, each of which has a plug along with two USB ports to ensure that our iPhones, computers and Kindles stay juiced during our stay. You'd definitely want to get one that can be used across multiple countries rather than one specific to a country or continent, though just be aware that adapters are not the same as converters. Make sure devices that soak up a large amount of electricity (like laptops or hair dryers) are dual voltage. Otherwise you run the risk of blowing a fuse in your Airbnb or even the entire building.
For more info on the difference between the two, check out this article.
6. Laundry Pods
One of our favorite aspects of staying in an Airbnb is the ability to do laundry from the comfort of our apartment. Sure, it's not much of a hassle to find a laundromat, but that takes time out of your day. We'll typically run a load or two during our trip while our daughter is napping or after she's gone to bed and we're relaxing around the apartment. This allows us to pack lighter and minimizes the amount of laundry we need to do when we get home.
However, we've encountered many Airbnbs with washers that don't provide laundry detergent. Like the coffee/tea/sugar suggestions above, it may not make sense to buy a giant container of detergent if you only need to do a couple of loads. As a result, we'll toss two or three laundry pods in a small, sealed container (in case of leaks) in our luggage to ensure that we can actually utilize the washing machine in our rental.
A final item that always comes with us to Airbnbs is a set of umbrellas. We've stayed in many upscale hotels (including the Park Hyatt Mallorca) that provided in-room umbrellas for guest use, and that's great on a rainy day. However, we've encountered many Airbnbs that don't offer this, so we'll always toss in a few compact travel umbrellas that take up minimal space. Ideally we won't need to use these at all, but it's great to have the peace of mind if storm clouds blow through the trip.
Waived Baggage Fees
While most of these items aren't heavy and don't take up a ton of room, it's important to consider the potential baggage costs that come along with a trip. Most international flights still allow a free checked bag for all passengers, but it's getting harder and harder to find carriers in the US that don't charge a fee.
Fortunately, there are credit cards that allow you to avoid these fees when traveling within the US to your next Airbnb. The first are top cobranded credit cards for the major airlines, including the following:
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card: This card offers you and up to six travel companions on the same reservation a free checked bag on Alaska-operated flights. It's also offering 40,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare; from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) when you make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: This card offers you and up to four travel companions on the same reservation a free checked bag on domestic American flights. It's also currently offering an enhanced welcome bonus of 50,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months of account opening.
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express: This card offers you and up to eight companions on the same reservation a free checked bag on Delta-operated flights. It's also currently offering a welcome bonus of 30,000 bonus miles after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months and a $50 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Terms Apply.
- JetBlue Plus Card: This card offers you and up to three companions a free checked bag when you use the card for your tickets, including taxes and fees on award tickets. It's also currently offering a welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee.
- United Explorer Card: This card offers you and one companion on the same reservation a free checked bag when you use your card to purchase the ticket. It's also currently offering a welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Note that several other American Express cards offer annual credits for airline incidental fees, so any costs associated with checked bags would be wiped off your statement. These cards include The Platinum Card® from American Express (up to $200 per calendar year) and the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (up to $250 per calendar year). Just note that for all of these cards you must designate a specific airline each January, so the credits don't apply for all of the flights you take. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Finally, you can use your miles from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to effectively "erase" any travel purchase. If you charge your checked bag fees to either of these cards, you can redeem your miles for statement credits for these transactions.
Airbnb has been a boon for travelers looking for alternate accommodations, though it hasn't been without controversy. Since my daughter was born, I've enjoyed having extra space that wouldn't normally happen with standard hotel rooms. Unfortunately, these apartments and home rentals don't always have everything we'd like to have, so the above items always come with us on a trip that includes an Airbnb stay. However, we'd love to hear your own list of essentials, so feel free to share those in the comments below.
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Updated on 11/3/21.