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How to Eat Well on Vacation

The following post is from Jessica of GoodCheapEats and LifeasMOM:

source: Jessica Fisher

Our family loves to vacation together.  Despite the fact that our oldest just turned fifteen, we don’t have too many years’ experience with family vacations. In our early parenting years, we either had new babies, too much debt, or both.

Since we started living debt free, we’ve had the money to make vacations at least a yearly tradition. I love it! We’re having so much fun figuring it all out!

As a foodie family, eating well plays a huge part in our rest and relaxation.

Over the last few years we’ve developed a few traditions that involve good eats and these special trips away from home.

1. The Vending Machine Allowance

We are not a family to spend money frivolously. We do not ride the toy horse outside the grocery store. We do not waste money in gumball machines. And on a regular day we would not even think about eating from a vending machine.

However, vacation is a different story.

Last fall when we went to Mammoth Lakes, my husband instituted the vending machine allowance. The kids were thrilled. Since we don’t stock candy or gum at home, this is definitely a special treat, relegated only to vacation time.

On our recent hotel staycation, the vending machines dispensed ice cream! How fun is that?

While vending machine fare is certainly not the healthiest, we are no where near making it part of our regular diet. We don’t vacation that often! But, it does give the kids something fun to look forward to.

source: Jessica Fisher

2. Try-Something-New Day

Whether we’re staycationing at a local hotel or driving many miles from home, the idea of a vacation stirs the adventurous spirit in us, making us willing to try a new restaurant.

Sometimes these restaurants go down in history as The Worst Things We Ever Ate. But, more times than not, the food is great and we find a new favorite to revisit the next time we’re in town.
Some of our great discoveries include ZPizza in Mammoth Lakes, CA; Me-n-Ed’s in Seaside, CA; and Elevation Burger in Carlsbad, CA.

source: Jessica Fisher

3. Fun Convenience Foods

Since we do a lot of cooking from scratch at home, I look at fun and healthy convenience foods as a great break from the norm.

This is where a Trader Joe’s in your vacation destination comes in very handy! That’s our go-to place for “fun food” that’s also free of gmo’s, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, msg, and trans fats. We grab things like crackers, presliced cheeses, hummus, chips, carrots, and fun drinks.

Everyone in the family gets to have a voice in the shopping when we’re on vacation.

On a recent trip, we let the kids each choose their own cold cereal for breakfast. Add a gallon of milk and we’ve got a breakfast for champions.

source: Jessica Fisher

4. Old Favorites

Vacations are usually full of lots of “new”, so we find it helpful (and tasty) to visit some of our old favorites. Often these are chain restaurants  or fast food, like In-N-Out, that we know well from home or even someplace as pedestrian as Costco’s food court.

In cases when we return to vacation spots we’ve been previously, we revisit those restaurants we’ve discovered on adventure meals.

Either way we have an idea of what to expect as well as something familiar to fill our bellies.

source: Jessica Fisher

5. Freezer Meals from Home

We’ve learned that with a family the size of ours, it’s better to rent a condo or apartment with a full kitchen. These are often available at hotels and resorts. Since we’d have to rent two rooms anyway, it’s not more money, but we have the added convenience of a kitchen.

I bring freezer meals from home to help us offset the cost of eating out as well as to make it easier to feed the kids on our timetable and not when a restaurant can seat us. In so doing, we also enjoy the comforts of home (literally) when we’re on the road.

Plus, we save a lot of coin in doing so.

Eating well on vacation is an integral part of our family’s R&R. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. It just needs to be fun, tasty, and low on the workload.

How do you eat well on vacation?

A foodie at heart, Jessica Fisher has learned to reconcile a tight budget with her love for great food. As a busy mom of six voracious eaters, she regularly shares healthy, delicious and budget-friendly recipes at GoodCheapEats. She also writes at her parenting blog, LifeasMOM.