Vacation, all we ever wanted…but you know what we don't want? To spend a boatload of money on meals while we're traveling! Check out these ideas for easy vacation meals!
We don't know who needs to hear this, but you don't have to spend $15 on overcooked burgers the next time you take a vacation. In fact, you can serve up some tasty meals in your hotel room or Airbnb with very little prep! Intrigued?
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Keep reading, because today we're sharing all our favorite easy vacation meals, plus tips and tricks that will help you travel on a budget. Find out what tools to bring, how to pack up all that food, and more. Here we go, frugal foodies!
WANT TO MAKE EASY VACATION MEALS ON THE GO? PACK THESE TOOLS!
The trickiest part about cooking in a kitchen that isn't yours is finding all the gear! And every vacation property and hotel room is SO different. Always call ahead to verify how well-stocked the kitchen is (websites can be deceiving), and if you can, we suggest bringing these trusty items:
- Instant Pot – No stove is needed if you bring your Instant Pot, and we've got tons of easy Instant Pot recipes to try on our Shelf Cooking blog!
- Slow Cooker – Plug in that crockpot while you go exploring! When you come back from a long day of fun, dinner will be waiting. Check out these easy slow cooker dinner ideas for inspiration.
- Cutting Board – We've been to one too many rental properties that didn't have a cutting board handy, so now we bring our own!
- Blender – You never know when you might want a smoothie or shake! If you've got a portable blender, bring it.
- Serving Utensils – You'd be surprised how many vacation properties don't have good serving utensils. We try to bring a good spatula and a serving spoon or two.
- Olive Oil/Cooking Spray – Trust us. The last thing you want to do after a day of hiking or sightseeing is run to the store for a little cooking oil. Just bring some from home!
- Can Opener – Just in case they don't have one where you're staying, make sure to bring a can opener from home.
- Foil – Whether you're grilling out or warming up leftovers in the oven, you'll want to have some foil around!
- Salt & Pepper – Enough said, right? Not every rental property comes equipped with seasonings, so make sure you at least have the basics.
- Disposable Plates/Cups/Cutlery – In case you don't have dishes, bring some disposable ones from home. It cuts cleanup time, too.
Alright, now that you've got the basic tools you'll need to keep cooking on the go, let's make some meals, eh?! Keep reading for ideas that will work for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Pro Tip: If you're staying in a vacation home, set your search filters to find a home with a grill before you book! There are SO many quick, easy, and affordable meals you can prep on the grill with minimal cleanup. Grab some of our best grill ideas on the Shelf Cooking blog!
EASY VACATION MEALS FOR BREAKFAST
Breakfast is the meal of champs, and it's even more important on a busy travel day! Here are some make-ahead breakfasts to bring along on your next trip:
- Freezer Waffles – Frozen waffles travel well and they're super easy to make before you leave! Toss a few bags of these make-ahead waffles in your cooler. Don't forget the butter and syrup!
- Egg Muffin Cups – Here's another great breakfast item to toss in the cooler. You can make these egg muffin cups about a hundred different ways, so use up that fresh produce before you leave for your next trip.
- Bagels & Toppings – Bring some peanut butter, jelly, cream cheese, and avocado, and let everyone build their own bagel for way less than that bakery would charge.
- Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches – Skip the drive-through window! You can make a massive batch of freezer breakfast sandwiches in no time, and all you'll need to warm them is a microwave.
- Smoothies – Remember how we said to bring a blender? Here's why! You can bring freezer smoothie bags on your trip for quick and easy 1-minute breakfasts.
- Overnight Oats – These will last for days in the fridge! Make a big batch of overnight oats the night you arrive, and you'll have breakfast ready for the whole vacation.
- Banana Bread – Fruit + carbs + breakfast in our book! Make a loaf or two of banana bread before your trip. It's a great breakfast item to have around! Serve with yogurt and you're all set.
Now you've got more than half a dozen breakfast ideas, and none of them require a trip through the fast-food drive-through line! Ready to talk about lunch?
QUICK & EASY LUNCH OPTIONS
If you really want to keep things cheap and simple, buy a few loaves of bread, some chips, peanut butter and jelly, and call it good! #NoJudgmentZone But, if you like variety, try one of these super easy vacation lunches:
- DIY Lunchables – Stop buying the overpriced meat and cheese boxes at the store! You can make a healthier version at home for a heck of a lot less! Check out this post on our Shelf Cooking blog to learn how to make DIY Lunchables.
- Soup – Bring soup from the freezer if you have it, or stock up on those BOGO cans on your next grocery run.
- Mason Jar Salads – Mason jar salads are the ultimate lunch for on the go!
- Cold Cut Kabobs – Bring some skewers and spear them with cheese, meat, fruit, and veggies. The kids will love how fun these are, and you'll love how quick and cheap they are to prep!
- Stuffed Avocados – Slice an avocado in half and fill it with tuna, veggies, cheese, or whatever you've got on hand. Canned chicken works as a filler, too.
- Subs – Set up a sub sandwich bar with all your favorite fixings! You can take the sandwiches with you or prep them at your hotel room/rental.
Pro Tip: Going to a theme/amusement park? Call ahead to see if you can take food in or leave the park to have a picnic and then re-enter.
EASY VACATION DINNER IDEAS
Dinner is often the budget-buster on vacation, so skip the pricey buffets, spare yourself the headache of the long waits, and feast on one of these easy meals instead:
- Pasta – You could buy some boxed frozen lasagna, but it's way, WAY cheaper to make it yourself! Any old pasta bake will do. Bring a few from your freezer and pop it in the oven for a quick meal with easy cleanup.
- Taco Bar – Bring a bag or two of frozen, cooked shredded chicken and ground beef. It will thaw beautifully, and you can reheat it in the microwave if you don't have a full kitchen.
- French Bread Pizza – It's so easy to make your own French bread pizza and waaayyy cheaper than grabbing pizzas from the pizza joint! Use whatever toppings your family loves and chow down while saving some major dough.
- Chili – Here's a meal idea that's crockpot gold! Let the chili cook while you're out having fun. Microwave a few baked potatoes to serve on the side, or grab some dinner rolls.
- Quesadillas – Repurpose the leftovers from taco bar night and whip up a batch of quesadillas. Open a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa to complete your meal!
- BBQ Sandwiches – Toss some pork or chicken in the slow cooker, top it with barbecue sauce, then shred that meat and throw it on a bun! Easy peasy and you can never go wrong with BBQ chicken or pulled pork sandwiches.
- Spaghetti and Meatballs – Bring a batch of our freezer meatballs and some of your favorite sauce. Serve it all on a bed of noodles, or make meatball subs if you have leftover bread!
Pro Tip: No stovetop? You can boil pasta in a microwave! Place one cup in a large microwave-safe bowl, then cover the pasta with water. Place a plate on top of the bowl and microwave for four minutes. Stir, then continue to microwave in 30-second intervals as needed. Drain, serve, and enjoy!
LOOKING FOR MORE VACATION FOOD IDEAS?
Before you go, we have two more posts for ya! If you're heading out on a road trip, check out these road trip food ideas. We can help you get packed and prepped, too! This post has ideas galore taking a family road trip with kids.
What are your best vacation meal ideas? Please share your favorite tips and tricks in the comments!
Want to check out more of travel tips?
- We've got packing tips, GALORE! Learn how we pack for a trip with kids.
- Traveling by plane? These tips will make flying with kids less stressful.
- Before you book your next trip, read up on travel refund policies.
Bon voyage and bon appetit!
Growing up we always bought the staples we used every day at our local supermarkets so that we could get the best price as opposed to holiday town prices.
To make meal preparation easy we always took zip-lock bags of uncooked rice in the amounts that we would eat each night, this would be paired with easy packet currys or stir-frys etc. . That way we only had to take a small amount of rice instead of a big, heavy bag! (We ate rice every day.)