Part of the glory of vacation is staying in a whole new place, full of new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and experiences. However, sometimes a vacation home can feel a bit too new and unknown: what was that noise, where's that weird smell coming from, and where is everything - I can't find anything?!? Here are 10 ways to make your summer home-away-from-home feel homey.
Pack A Pillow
I don't think of myself as a Princess-and-the-Pea (although as we've discussed, my mom might disagree), but most of the pillows I encounter in the wild drive me crazy. They're either flat or styrofoam-y or too dense or too poofy or just impossible to sleep upon. Bring your own and enjoy the added comfort on your drive/flight and on every night of your vacation.
And A (Multi-Purpose) Blanket
I have a Turkish towel that I take with me everywhere. It has served as a shawl, sarong, picnic blanket, bed blanket, sarong, mosquito net, sun shield, pillow, umbrella, and even a towel. I wouldn't call it a security blanket, but it does make me feel like no matter where I am, I'll be warm, dry, and comfortable.
Bring Essential Ingredients
Part of the fun of vacation is trying new things- especially new foods- but no matter what local delicacies you'll be indulging in, you'll need a few basics. I'm not suggesting you pack your whole kitchen, but bringing a few key ingredients will help immensely- and save you from having to search for/overpay at a local store (if there even is one). I would be tempted to pack salt, olive oil, some sort of spice (chili flakes and/or sambal oelek), possibly soy sauce, and definitely wine.
And A Knife, Too
Every random kitchen I've ever cooked in has had the dullest possible knives! How are you supposed to chop up the summer's bounty with a knife that's duller than a piece of cardboard?! If it's at all possible, bring along one of your own and save yourself a lot of frustration in the kitchen.
No matter how lovely and clean all the people who stayed in the rental before you were, you probably don't want to live with their smells. Throw the windows open wide, turn on all the fans, and give the place a good airing-out upon arrival.
Even if all you packed is a suitcase full of bathing suits, caftans, and Panama hats, you don't want your caftans to be wrinkled or your hats rumpled. Unpack everything right away so you can grab the appropriate bikini- breakfast, business, midnight, etc- at a moment's notice.
Set Up Camp
What's the prime spot? What location on the patio has the perfect blend of breeze, sun, shade, and view? Where is all the action going to be happening? Don't be afraid to move all the furniture into optimal configurations for maximum relaxation. You can just move it back right before you leave, crying all the while.
Create A Command Center
Commandeer a spot that will hold your sunscreen, bug spray, straw hat, sunglasses, multi-purpose cloth (see above), book, phone, and glass. You'll always know were to find your essentials, and won't waste precious vacation time searching a house full of unknown hiding spots.
Indulge In Flowers
Whether they're from a farmers' market, U-Pick field, or plucked from the garden (with the owner's permission), flowers can make any B&B or Airbnb feel homey. Perhaps you'll even be inspired to treat yourself to flowers more often once you return home.
Dine By Candlelight
Not only will candles help with the stranger-smell situation addressed above, they'll provide cozy light for game nights, flattering light for romantic dinners, and reassuring light for after-dark-in-a-strange-place. A variety of unscented, scented, and/or citronella candles shouldn't take up too much room in your luggage- just stick them in a ziplock bag to contain their scent.
Do you make attempts to cozy-up your vacation rentals, or do you bask in the new and unknown?