Vacation Rental 101: Kitchen and Pantry

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
October 10, 2016

Last week in the Vacation Rental 101 series, we talked about how to create living and dining spaces that your guests will enjoy using. This week, we’re moving into the heart of the home: your kitchen.

Your living and dining areas provide comfort and warmth, but a great kitchen is what makes staying in a vacation rental superior to a hotel room. It’s also a good place for owners to establish a relationship with their renters, as the kitchen provides infinite opportunities to give guests that warm feeling that they’re being well looked-after.

Your guests’ opinion of your rental will often depend on whether the kitchen was a great convenience or a major disappointment – and their lasting impressions will have a major effect on their reviews. The surest way to earn a positive review is by providing a clean, organized, and well-stocked kitchen.

Here’s how to make sure using your vacation rental kitchen is always a 5-star experience.

Storage & Space

One of the biggest complaints we see about vacation rental kitchens is the lack of storage and prep space. This is partially because some kitchens are rather small and it’s difficult for owners to provide cabinets or countertops where there simply isn’t room to install either.

Open shelving modern kitchen storageThankfully, there are a few easy workarounds to this common problem. To provide more storage in areas where space is tight, simply put in some wall shelving. Shelves are inexpensive and easy to install, and they have the advantage of putting kitchen supplies right in front of your guests’ eyes, making it easy for them to find exactly what they need.

This kitchen remodel by The Brauns (picture to the left) is an excellent example of how to fit a little extra shelving in a small space – and, actually, for kitchen layout in general.

As for countertop space, we recommend looking into a butcher-block island on wheels, like this one from Ikea. It can live up against the wall when it isn’t in use, but it’s easy to roll right into the middle of the room whenever it’s needed.

A final note on storage space: make sure your cabinets are well maintained. Shelves that don’t close properly or are hung crooked give guests a poor impression of your rental, and tightening or replacing your hinges is an easy fix. Once they’re hung correctly, a lick of paint, some new knobs, and inexpensive shelf lining paper will do wonders to keep them looking attractive.


Most homes come with a refrigerator, oven and stove already installed, so we’ll assume you have these in place. Be sure they’re all easy to use and that they still work properly – we’ve seen plenty of rental experiences ruined because an outdated oven runs hot and ruins someone’s family meal.Microwave

We’d highly recommend including a microwave oven in your rental. It’s so essential that it’s even provided in many hotel rooms now, and your guests will expect to be able to use it for a quick re-heat or to make some microwave popcorn. Make sure it’s an up-to-date model and that it cooks food evenly – again, nothing dampens a guest’s experience faster than having a meal ruined.

A coffee maker is also an extremely common amenity in most hotel rooms, and your guests will expect you to have one. Include the correct size coffee filters and instructions for use (many guests are only familiar with their own coffee maker). Some homeowners invest in a K-cup machine such as a Keurig, which requires less maintenance and is easier for renters to use.

Optional, but nice to have appliances include: a toaster oven, electric kettle, and a blender. None of them are strictly essential, but guests do appreciate them immensely, and they’re well worth providing if you have the space to store them.


A common mistake in vacation rentals is not providing enough dinnerware to serve all the guests your property can sleep.

Ideally, you should have twice the number of plates, bowls, and water glasses to accommodate your rental’s maximum capacity (e.g. If your property sleeps 5, you should have at least 10 plates). It makes it much easier on guests if they can serve a complete meal even if a few dishes are already loaded in the dishwasher.

Matching set of orange plates, bowls, and mugsWe recommend investing in matching dishware, silverware, and glassware from a common household goods store such as Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, or Cost Plus World Market. You’ll be able to easily replace broken items with matching ones, and your dinnerware will be attractive but inexpensive.

Why matching? Guests associate matching dinnerware with quality, and find it difficult to overlook old, damaged, cracked, or mismatched ones. We once stayed in a vacation rental where almost all the silverware came with surprises – some were smaller than average, some had the cheap covering flaking off, and some spoons bent when used to scoop anything with more density than soup. That’s not the experience you want for your guests!

It’s also a good idea to include wine glasses and coffee cups, though we think it’s safe to provide just enough for your home’s maximum capacity in this case. Stemless wine glasses are harder to break and usually dishwasher friendly. While you should purchase matching wine glasses, few people mind mismatching coffee cups, so feel free to break the matching rule if you already have an assortment of roomy mugs.

Finally, remember the needs of your guests traveling with children if you intend to market your rental to a family crowd. Parents will be incredibly grateful if you provide sippy cups, children’s dinnerware, and a high chair for their little ones.


Pots and pans cookware setYour property should have a good collection of pots and pans for day-to-day cooking.

Good quality cookware will last longer and work better! Vacation rental kitchens see a lot of use and inexpensive pans will quickly need to be replaced. Your guests are also much more likely to love cooking in your kitchen with quality pots and pans.

We have a complete checklist in our Ultimate Vacation Rental Success Guide, but at a bare minimum we suggest including:

  • Small skillet (8 inch Omelette size)
  • Large skillet (12 in+)
  • Small sauce pan with lid (1.5 quart)
  • Larger sauce pan with lid (3 quart)
  • Larger pot (e.g. stock pot size ~ 12qt)
  • Baking sheet/Cookie sheet (2)
  • Cake pan (round or square) (2)
  • Muffin Pan
  • Loaf pan
  • Casserole dishes (2)
  • Large serving bowls and plates for family-style meals

Once again, keep in mind your property’s maximum capacity when stocking your kitchen. If your home can accommodate 10 people or more, you’ll want to be sure you have a set of pots and pans sized to cook for such a large party. If your property is sized for 4 or less, you may want to forego the larger pots and pans and take the number of cookie sheets and casserole dishes down to just 1.


Any  kitchen is incomplete without an array of utensils. You can easily buy a bulk set of the basics, or if you already have a good collection, take into account the ones listed below to fill in any gaps in your supplies.

We have a complete list of utensils for a vacation rental in our Ultimate Vacation Rental Success Guide, but at a minimum, provide:

  • Set of utensils for cooking, including spatula, tongs, whisk, and spoonsTongs
  • Spatula
  • Slotted/Un-slotted spoon set
  • Long handled ladle
  • Whisk
  • Kitchen shears
  • Grilling tools (if you have a barbecue)
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Large microwaveable measuring cup
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Can opener
  • Corkscrew with bottle opener
  • Box grater
  • Mixing bowls

Dishwashing Options

If you can fit a dishwasher into your vacation rental, do so! Not only do guests prefer a dishwasher, it’ll save you tons of time and effort when preparing your house for the next group of guests.

Dish drying rack with clean plates, mugs, and utensilsRegardless of whether you can provide a dishwasher, be sure to provide a dish drying rack and a large number of kitchen towels. Not all your cooking materials can be washed in the dishwasher, so you’ll want to be sure your guests are readily able to do a little scrubbing after their meal.

If space is a factor, you might check out one of these roll-up dish drainer racks to save space!

Last but not least, provide a way to stop up the drain on the kitchen sink to allow your guests to soak a few dishes before washing. This is the easiest way to ensure you don’t have to re-wash all your cookware when cleaning the house for the next guest – your guests may not be able to clean pans or casserole dishes thoroughly if they can’t fill up the sink with water.

Cleaning & Maintenance Supplies

Speaking of washing up, you’ll want to be sure your guests are able to do so! Guests won’t think to bring their own cleaning supplies, and they’ll consider it a major inconvenience to have to purchase cleaning items themselves – but if you supply items for them, they’ll be glad to leave your home spick and span.

Kitchen cleaning supplies

  • Sponges (we recommend providing a new sponge for each renter) hygiene cleaners housework
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Dishwasher detergent (if you have a dishwasher)
  • Trash bags
  • All-purpose cleaner

Store your cleaning items either on a high shelf or in cabinets with child locks. Families will be grateful you considered the safety of children who might stray into toxic cleaners.

If you’d like to win bonus points with your guests, it may well be worth providing a few extras that will provide much-appreciated convenience. These are items your guests are likely to forget to purchase at the grocery store because they’re accustomed to having them available in their own homes, and they’ll be grateful you’ve saved them a second trip.

  • Ziplock bags
  • Paper towels
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap

When you are selecting a trash can for your kitchen area, it is important to make a smart selection that will last for a long time and be convenient for your guest. Vacation renters often fill up the trash receptacles quickly, so choose a bin large enough to handle a typical day of trash production for the number of people that your vacation rental sleeps.

If you like to do your part for the environment, then be sure to provide your renters with a recycling bin where they can put their used recyclables, and let them know about any local rules for sorting. (Some areas, for example, need glass sorted separately from other recyclable material.) Keep your recycling bin near the trash can if you want guests to use it!

Pantry Items

Wooden spice rack for kitchenWhile it isn’t necessary to stock your pantry with every needed item, it is a huge convenience to your guest if you provide some basic cooking staples. It’s easy for guests to forget basic items like cooking oil or salt at the grocery store because they’re so accustomed to these pantry staples being available in their homes.

They’re also expensive for guests to purchase for a single trip – they’ll likely only use a few tablespoons of that bottle of olive oil and have to leave the rest behind – but inexpensive for you as an owner to provide for all your guests. For $150, you can stock your pantry with basic staples that will serve a long string of grateful guests.

We’d recommend including a basic selection of spices for your guests. If your property is made for a large number of guests, try buying bulk spices from Costco – they’ll last much longer and are quite inexpensive. The following will cover you for most guests’ basic cooking needs:

  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Chili Powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Garlic Powder

Providing a few baking staples will ensure that your guests never have to run back to the store for a spoonful of sugar or a cup of flour in the middle of cooking dinner.

  • Flour
  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder

Cooking oil is easy to forget, and it’s almost impossible to cook a basic meal without it. We recommend providing a few options for your guests to save them when they forget that a rental doesn’t have everything they usually stock at home:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • Vinegar
  • Butter (store in the freezer)

Essential condiments including ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and sweet relish

If you feel like going for bonus points, you can provide coffee (again, stored in the freezer to keep it fresh) and a few boxes of tea bags.

We’ve also seen many owners provide a shelf for stable items that other guests have left behind, such as rice and pasta. Many guests will simply leave behind items that they couldn’t finish during their stay, and future guests will be happy to put them to good use. It’s a nice way to offer a little something extra at no expense to yourself.

In Plain Sight

It can be difficult to navigate an unfamiliar kitchen, and there are some items that guests really want to be able to find right away. Imagine walking into your vacation rental with hungry kids and a few cans of Spaghetti-Os – and being unable to find the can opener! That’s no fun for your renter, so consider leaving a few highly-necessary items in plain sight on their arrival.

  • Cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Coffee maker and kettle
  • Wine opener
  • Can opener
  • Kitchen towels and oven mitts
  • Cutting board
  • Kitchen knives (in a butcher block)

Cookings oils in glass jarsA good rule of thumb for your entire kitchen is to put yourself in the guest’s shoes. Imagine what would be difficult to find in this kitchen space and try to de-mystify it for your renters. We’ve seen owners provide a little guide to their kitchen (towels in the bottom left drawer, utensils in the drawer to the right of the stove) to great effect.

The kitchen is one of those areas of the home where it’s well worth investing in the right materials the first time, and putting some extra thought into convenience. If your guests have a great experience with using your kitchen, they’ll have a hugely favorable impression of you as a host – and that impression will assuredly be reflected in their reviews.

Build Your Business Right

Before guests start cooking gourmet meals in your property’s kitchen, they need to find it and book. With our proven strategies, we make daily management tasks easier — no matter what stage of ownership you’re in.

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