Meal Planning on Your Next Vacation

Meal Planning on Your Next Vacation

Everyone should be able to relax on a vacation, including the family cook. No-one wants to spend all afternoon chopping and prepping a meal when they could be at the beach or hiking up a mountain trail. At the same time, eating out every day is a surefire way to max out your vacation budget and stretch your waistline, so most families have to do some cooking on vacation. The trick is to make food that’s tasty, quick, and versatile enough to do double-duty as tomorrow’s leftovers.

Don’t Leave Meals to Chance: Plan Ahead

Plan for vacation meals well in advance. If you want to eat-in, your lodgings will need to include a kitchen—ask the management what types of kitchen utensils will be available. If, for instance, you know the kitchen includes a blender, breakfast smoothies become a cheap and easy meal (as do frozen margaritas, but that’s a subject for a different article).

Think about where you’re heading and the time of year. What local produce will be available? Will you be able to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables? Will you have difficulty finding certain ingredients? Once you know the answers to these questions, brainstorm out a set of meals in advance. Have the whole family make suggestions, and divvy up the cooking responsibilities (as we said, you’re all on vacation, so sharing the cooking is only fair).

As a rule, avoid meals with exotic or hard-to-find ingredients, focusing instead on hearty, healthy meals. Try to choose meals where leftovers can be repurposed into meals the next day—for instance, BBQ chicken can be shredded and used in sandwiches or wraps for a picnic.

Plan a meal for every day, but be flexible—you’re on vacation so you’ll probably want to have some meals out. Here’s some suggestions for quick, flexible meal ideas:


  • Cereal
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Instant waffles
  • Local fruit
  • Pancakes
  • Scrambled egg wraps.

Lunch Ideas

  • “Nacho tacos” (small packages of nacho chips with a little salsa and shredded cheese added)
  • Canned soup
  • Fresh bread and a roast chicken from a deli
  • Leftovers
  • Salads
  • Sandwiches

Dinner Ideas

  • BBQ chicken, meat, or seafood
  • Fried rice dishes
  • Hamburgers
  • Hotdogs
  • One pot casseroles
  • Pastas and easy sauces
  • Stir fries.

If your vacation rental has a barbeque, use it as much as you can, and make enough food for leftovers the next day. Slow cookers offer quick “fix and forget” recipes. Few vacation rentals offer one, but you can often pick up a cheap used slow cooker at a local thrift store or garage sale.

Don’t discount camping and emergency food for vacations. Freeze-dried meal pouches are easy to transport, cook up in a matter of minutes, and make enough to satisfy the hunger of a family that’s been playing hard all day.


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