Snack and meal tips for traveling
My family recently returned from a vacation to Northern California and Southern Oregon. This vacation was different for us because we flew and typically we load up the minivan and drive. Driving gives you more choice and control over the types of foods that your family eats on vacation. I do want to make it clear that I do not control everything my family eats. I give choices. However, I do like packing my own food on vacation because then I can make sure fruits and vegetables are available. If you leave all of the meals to restaurants and fast food joints sometimes the selection is poor or prices are higher than what you want to pay. Plus, I nostalgically remember the packed lunches and meals my family would have on vacation growing up, even though at the time I thought, “Why didn’t we stop at McDonald’s?”
This time I found the food situation a little more challenging. One reason was because we were flying and I did not have a consistent way to keep foods cold because not all the places we were staying had refrigerators and we could not take our large cooler that keeps things cold for up to 5 days. A second reason was some of the places we were staying were rather remote and did not have large grocery stores close by, but small markets, therefore, planning ahead or placing an on-line order was not a possibility. Now that the trip is over I realize that I probably stressed about it a little too much and wanted to pass along some of the things I have learned and recommendations I have if you and your family are dealing with similar challenges on your vacation.
- If the flight to your destination is over a meal time pack a small soft-sided cooler with sandwiches, fruits, and vegetables. This is allowed through security as long as it meets TSA guidelines. Here is a link to review what food items can be brought on a plane https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/food.
- Have some shelf stable items that you can make a meal out of for those times that you cannot keep things cold. Some of the shelf stable foods that I took on this vacation were shelf stable hummus packets (picture below) and crackers, vacuum packed tuna pouches, nuts, fruits that did not require refrigeration (nectarines and apples worked well), peanut butter packs, and jerky (My oldest son requested this and he keeps saying that his goal is to hike that Appalachian Trail someday so I thought he should start tasting some of the foods that he would need to eat).
- Keep the meals simple. We spent 3 nights at a beach house in the Redwood Forest that had a full kitchen. We only bought for 2 nights of cooking at first and then planned the third night dinner around what we had left.
- Call ahead if staying in remote areas. I called the property managers of the places we were staying to find out what towns had larger grocery stores near the property so we could plan whether to stop on the way and get groceries or wait until we arrived. I am so glad we did this. One of the cabins we stayed advertised on their website that they had a restaurant on site that was open in the evening. We had planned to eat our dinner there so we could spend more time hiking. When I called the day we were arriving I found out the restaurant was closing after lunch and would not be open for dinner. They were able to inform me of grocery stores in the area because we did have a small kitchen in that cabin and could make our own meal.
- Have an open mind. When driving through smaller towns they will not have as large of a selection of certain foods like organic produce and meats, but you may still find local produce and goods that are tasty and possibly a little different.
After reading all this someone might say, “Wouldn’t it be easier to eat out?” Notice I mention that I remember the picnics I had with my family on vacation, but do not recall any restaurants we went to. That was one of the ways my parents modeled healthy eating habits and financial habits for vacationing. Also, this can allow you a little more flexibility as to where you eat some meals. This year one of our lunch spots was sitting on a bench along the coastal trail at Redwood National Park while our kids watched for signs of whales in the distance. I do not believe a restaurant would have provided us the same experience.
Views of snack and lunch spots we have had on previous vacations:
Despite any challenges procuring food this trip might have presented the beautiful places we saw were totally worth it. They were all breathtaking places worth experiencing.
Is your family taking a vacation this summer? If so, what tips do you have for how you handle the food situation?