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Your Essential Airbnb Packing List for a Stress-Free Stay

Women on the Road
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The right Airbnb packing list can make or break your stay. Even if a hostess tries to anticipate your every need, there's always going to be something missing. (This isn't just about Airbnb rentals, by the way - any holiday rental qualifies!) 

At least that's been my experience from dozens of stays, even the perfect ones.

You don't have to bring everything you own to stay at an Airbnb - you'll probably find most things you need on site

We also have to add something else to the mix: COVID-19. How an Airbnb cleans and disinfects its property is also an issue.

the perfect airbnb packing list

Staying at an Airbnb means you have access to a lot more than you would in a hotel room — there's a kitchen, a bedroom, sometimes a separate living room and dining room and often, even more. So packing the right items can make a major difference to your stay, because you'll be staying in a place that feels more like a home than a transient hotel.

The thing is — you're never 100% sure of what you'll find at your destination.

While an Airbnb listing may tell you it's got the basics covered, you won't know whether that includes your favorite tea or must-have cinnamon flakes until you actually arrive... so yes, there are things you should pack. 

It's a question of knowing exactly what!

(Never used an Airbnb? Click here to find out how it works!)

Your airbnb packing basics

Most Airbnb tips will start with this: The first thing you need is all the information pertaining to your rental — phone number, entrance code, address, email of hostess, and directions. This may be obvious but sometimes the obvious is what we forget most easily, so it's good to repeat it here to make sure these things actually get into your bag when you're packing.

Another absolute basic I'd pack is the Airbnb emergency number, other important numbers and copies of my important papers. This is a prerequisite for any trip but if you're staying alone in a foreign apartment, it's even more important.

And finally, in these COVID days, I'd make sure I have my own cleaning products. While most Airbnbs will provide these, I'd feel better with a few packets of disinfectant wipes of my own. Just in case.

the first airbnb packing essentials to put on your list

Some things may not be absolutely necessary but will probably make you feel safer wherever you are. 

First and foremost, as mentioned above, sanitizing wipes and plenty of disinfectant gel.

A different but important kind of safety feature is a carbon monoxide detector. You don't necessarily have to have one of these but if your rental has a fireplace, a garage or burns fuel for heating (as my house does), then you'll want to make sure you don't leave it at home.

Carbon monoxide is also known as the 'silent killer', because it is a gas with no smell or color. When fuel doesn't burn completely, it can emit carbon monoxide, which causes all sorts of symptoms and can result in death. Pretty grim, but easy to avoid with a detector.

Also note that while Airbnb does recommend its hosts install a detector, these aren't compulsory and detectors aren't common in many parts of the world. (Just make sure you disconnect the batteries and carry them separately when you fly!)

Another small safety feature that provides ample peace of mind is simple and inexpensive: a doorstop wedge.  Just like the housekeeping staff has a key to your hotel room, the apartment's owner will have a key too. A midnight visit is unlikely to happen, but just in case, why not wedge a doorstop under the doorjamb (or use a travel alarm) so no one can open it from the outside and get in, key or not?

You could get even more sophisticated and pack a motion detecting alarm or portable travel alarm. Just wedge it in the door, loop the strap around the handle and set. Child's play.

what to bring to an airbnb kitchen

One of the greatest advantages of staying in an Airbnb is access to a kitchen. This gives you freedom to come and go — and eat — whenever you please and without running into anyone. In addition to unexpected encounters, a kitchen also cuts down your travel costs significantly by providing you with an option to expensive restaurants.

Given the price of meals in Venice, I was happy to have access to a kitchen for some of those meals. When I did go to a restaurant, I felt it was more of a treat than if I'd eaten in one every single meal. And with what I saved by eating in, I could really splurge when it came time to going out.

One easy win is breakfast: now there's a meal you shouldn't have to eat out, right? Surely you can fill your fridge with the makings of breakfast? 

At home, breakfast may be a cheap meal but that's not the case everywhere. In addition, breakfast as you know it may not be the norm where you're traveling.

If you're an eggs and bacon person, you'll have a hard time finding this breakfast around Europe (and when you do, the price will match the rarity). Conversely if you want muesli or yoghourt, you won't find those too easily in a restaurant either (unless you're in Switzerland, for example) or you'll have to go to a hotel restaurant where they serve breakfast.

If you have your own kitchen, a quick trip to the supermarket will melt away all your breakfast blues!

So here are some things to take to an airbnb for use in the kitchen — just understand that if you're traveling light or for a long time, you'll want to buy these at destination rather than lugging them across continents.

Either way, here's what you should consider packing or buying for your Airbnb pantry.

  • Your favorite beverage. That could be a bag of your best tea or special cocoa drink and if you're used to drinking something at home, chances are you'll want to keep drinking it away from home. I've been known to bring a small espresso machine and my own blend if I'm traveling somewhere coffee might be an issue... it's a tiny and comforting touchstone that reminds me of home.
  • Your special spices. If you're a cumin or curry addict, you can be almost certain they won't be in your cupboard — so bring small packets of your best seasonings with you. Or perhaps you don't like using spices that are already opened, another good reason to bring along your personal spices. 
  • Specialist foods. Do you munch protein bars? Special handmade candies? Marmite or vegemite? Most Airbnbs will carry the basic staples like oil, salt, sugar and whatever previous guests left behind. But if you're yearning for that special something, you'd better bring it with you. And if you don't want to use staples others have already opened, then all the more reason for bringing your own.
  • Your food. That's right — your groceries, your pasta, your fruit, your things to eat. I'm not suggesting you bring these with you but you'll definitely have to buy them once you arrive (unless you just want that kitchen to gather dust). Here's your chance to visit local markets or supermarkets and pick up some of that luscious cheese or amazing bread or local fruit. While your hostess might leave a few munchies for your enjoyment and as a hospitable gesture, your food will be on you. 
  • Your favorite utensil. I'm silly about this — I have a favorite fork. And for years, when traveling in Africa, I had an ugly green mug I called Kermit — wouldn't go anywhere without my Kermit! If you need a specific utensil to cook a specific dish, bring that along. (Remember to be careful if you're traveling carryon only — you'll have to leave your set of kitchen knives at home...)
CLICK HERE for a printable version of this list!

airbnb essentials for your bathroom

Often, hosts work hard to provide their guests with amenities. In my Nairobi Airbnb, I could have stayed packed because so many delightful products were provided. But that's not the norm, and you should come prepared.

Here's what to take to an airbnb for the bathroom:

  • Toiletries and beauty products. This is especially true if you use specific brands (and most of us do have our favorites). Remember the small bottle rules if you're traveling carryon, and don't neglect solids, like those sold by Lush.
  • A washcloth or glove. If you like to wash with one of these, then by all means bring it along. A washcloth may be provided, but not always. The standard seems to be one large towel and one small towel per person, and a floor mat.
  • A beach towel — if you're going to the beach. Do Airbnb provide towels? Usually they provide bathroom towels (check the amenities) so consider bringing something larger if you plan to be heading out to the shore the moment you hit the ground.
  • A shower cap. While most hotels will provide a nice, new plastic shower cap, your Airbnb probably won't. And even if it did, you wouldn't want to use it, would you?
  • Slippers or indoor footwear. While most Airbnbs, especially these days, get a thorough clean before each guest (we certainly pay a hefty enough cleaning fee!), I'm still not keen to walk around someone else's floor barefoot. Bringing my own slippers provides that little extra bit of familiarity to help me feel at home.

(With the COVID-19 epidemic, Airbnb has established an enhanced cleaning protocol for its hosts. It's not a compulsory scheme but if I were traveling during the epidemic, I'd make sure I only used those hosts who signed up to the enhanced cleaning.)

more airbnb tips: other things to bring to an airbnb

The following are items I have needed at one time or another or wish I'd had in my packing list for airbnb and either systematically pack or wish I had. 

  • A flashlight. You should carry one of these whenever you travel anyway but all the more when you're in an Airbnb. This is an unfamiliar home and should there be any kind of emergency, a fire for example, you'll be awfully happy to have this with you. Power may also go out in a storm and you'll be glad you can find your way around your flat.
  • A first aid kit. Here's an extensive checklist but you won't need all of these items for a modest apartment stay. Just make sure you have a few basics — bandaids, disinfectant, cream for insect bites and sunburn...
  • An umbrella. This is one of those silly things you have plenty of at home but sometimes forget to bring on a trip because you can usually pick one up from your hotel. But an Airbnb is not a hotel and may not necessarily provide an umbrella. If it rains, you won't even be able to make it to the umbrella shop without getting wet, so bring your own.
  • Laundry soap, bars or pods. The beauty of Airbnbs is that they often have a washing machine, which is means you can pack less, especially if you're on a long trip. What your property may not have is washing soap, though you could drop the hostess and email and simply ask. Still, this is a small thing and easy to slip into your suitcase.
  • A night light. One of these may be useful if you hate the dark and don't want to use the blue light from your phone (which is unhealthy at night!).
  • Your personal pillow case. You may be used to sleeping on a specific type of material and anything else will keep you up all night. I'm used to using a silk pillow case and it's a lot easier to pack than an entire pillow.
  • A universal adapter. Not having one when you need it can ruin your day. If you're traveling from one continent to another, there's a good chance your electronics won't work without an adapter. You'll need it to charge up your phone, your laptop, your electric toothbrush and even to use your night light.
  • An extension cord. If you have more than two electronic devices to plug in or charge, then having an extension cord is the low-cost alternative to buying several adapters.
  • Your exercise gear. This may mean a yoga mat or resistance bands or whatever you use to exercise at home. Many Airbnb properties have gyms, so check that first.
  • A mini-Bluetooth speaker. If you have the run of the apartment, you'll be going from room to room and you won't necessarily want to take your phone each time you take a step. Use a small loudspeaker to stay connected to your favorite music. But do the rest of us a favor and keep the sound to an acceptable level!
  • Mementoes from home. I have a little set of photos and a statuette that I usually travel with; just setting them up on my night table gives me comfort. You might have something special you like to take along too...
Too many things to remember? CLICK HERE for a printable version of this list!

what you do not need to pack for your airbnb stay

There is a list of what you need when you're staying at an Airbnb — and a list of what you do not need. That's because most Airbnbs provide some basic amenities, which they have to list on the site, so do check.

Sometimes you'll find there's a lot more than you'd expected.

  • Bath and hand towels. As I mentioned above, these are part of the basics provided by all Airbnbs so no, leave yours at home. (Check the amenities section to be 100% sure because as I write this, there's undoubtedly an Airbnb, somewhere, that doesn't provide towels...) If you're really keen to bring your own, try a favorite beach towel or travel towel.
  • Kitchen gear and utensils. While it's a good idea to bring any special foods you'd really miss or specialist accessories you might need, what you don't have to lug around are the usual kitchen gear — dishes, cutlery, pots and pans. Any Airbnb establishment with a kitchen should have a complete set and if they don't, make sure you mention it in the review.

Updated 12 July 2020

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