Life Unparalleled

Loving Life as a Foreign Service Family – Current Parallel 41° 23' N – Barcelona, Spain

Vacation and Spend no More $$ on Food Than You Would Staying Home!




We love to travel and vacation and eat food! Who doesn’t? Costs can add up quickly though and food can be one of the most expensive costs traveling with a family. Here you will find some of my best tips to make it affordable and take the stress out of feeding the hungry group and allowing more time for fun!

Rule # 1 Always book a hotel with a kitchen!

  • Hotels with kitchens are worth their weight in gold!

I raid my cupboards, fridge and freezer and take as much of our food with us from home as possible.I pack it all in a small plastic milk crate like this one. milk crateYou can get them from Walmart or many other places. At home I keep all of our bulk cereal purchases in them on a high shelf to keep the children away from them. This keeps well in the car. It won’t easily get tipped over or smashed. It is easy to carry into and from the car. I usually pack two. One with canned goods or things to make dinners that just stays in the hotel, and another full of lunch and snack things that goes with us in the car.

I also pack a collapsible cooler like this one. I use frozen bottles of water and frozen juice boxes as ice. I use Nalgene bottles to be reusable you can just refill and refreeze at the hotel. large-collapsible-cooler-bag-2






Below you will find a list of foods with the meals they will make. This feeds my family of 6 for a week. You are welcome 🙂

The above foods will get you: 7 dinners labled D

3 Lunches labled L plus PB and J for the other days.

6 Breakfasts labled B- or if you want to be super easy use some of them for Dinner(Pancakes etc.) and just serve cold cereal , bagels and Go Gurt and, granola bars with an apple. My kids are hungry after an hour if we don’t do more protein so we don’t do a ton of cold cereal

Snacks are labled S

Much of the lunches-L and breakfasts-B can also be served for dinner so you could stretch it even more especially if your hotel serves breakfasts.

Precooked and frozen things: you can also just buy them frozen if you don’t want to make them from scratch

Breakfast burritos-B or L or D

Regular burritos-D

Cooked and seasoned ground beef for taco’s-D

Cooked and seasoned ground beef for spaghetti-D

Diced and cooked seasoned chicken breast to add to a purchased Cesar salad package-D serve with french bread

Frozen Go Gurt Yogurt-S or B- These with a bagel can be eaten in the car for breakfast.

Frozen precooked muffins-B or S

Frozen juice boxes both to drink and use as ice-S

From the fridge:

Soft cheese like Mini Baybell and peperroni for homemeade lunchables-L

String cheese-S

Shredded cheddar cheese for taco’s and egg sandwiches and quesadillas-D

Mayonaise- for BLT’s-D or L

and tuna fish sandwiches-D or L

and fried egg sandwiches-D or L. I just take some from my Costco family sized jar and put it into a small ziplock bag.

Precooked bacon for BLT’s-D or L

Tortillas-they travel well but try not to smoosh them for quesadillas and Nutella roll ups-L

From the cupboard:

Tuna fish-D or L

Peanut butter and jelly-L

Nutella- for tortilla roll up or in oatmeal or on bread-L

Just add water pancake mix-B or L or D

Box of special cereal-B

Dry spaghetti-D

Crackers for mini lunchables-L

Boxed taco shells-D- I usually get the nacho cheese flavored ones. This is not something I would normally ever get and it helps make up for the lack of toppings like sour cream and guac that we won’t be having and makes it seem vacation special.

Instant oatmeal packets-B

Canned veggies and fruit- I usually bring canned green beans and fruit like peaches and pears

Snacks like dried fruit and nuts, pretzels, individual packages of cookies and chips, granola bars, large bags of candy that is individually wrapped- we like Tootsie Rolls, Starbursts etc., packages of graham crackers, jerky

Bring sandwich sized zip lock bags

Purchased from the store on arrival:

Milk-B- for cereal and drinking

Butter- for French bread and to use on bagels and sandwiches. I usually get the kind that is mixed with oil to be spreadable out of the fridge and because it comes in a plastic container

Eggs- for egg sandwiches or breakfast-D or B

Bread- sliced (I sometimes get white bread because my kids think it is an amazing treat!) and French bread to be served with spaghetti and the Cesar salad


Fresh fruit-S-apples and  cutie oranges and grapes travel best

Fresh veggies-prepackaged salad mix with dressing included, lettuce and tomatoes for BLT’s and taco’s, These vegetables travel well for packed lunches: baby carrots, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, small English cucumbers

If traveling into California  from another state do not pack any fresh fruit that won’t be eaten in the first hour or two of travel. You will just have to toss it when you enter the state. This list is set up to travel into California. If you are not you can bring fresh fruit and vegetables from home.

Rule #2 Pack travel snacks so you don’t buy from convenience stores

  • Prepack travel snacks. First portion them out into individual snack sized bags. Then place different bags into a gallon ziplock with each child’s name written on the front. You can decide to give it to them at the beginning of the drive or pass out one per hour or every 100 miles while driving. My kids like the freedom to choose what to have and when.
  • Everyone brings their own refillable water bottle. Only fill these half full while driving though otherwise you will be stopping for pee breaks every 30 minutes.
  • If you can tolerate the mess(give each child a paper cup to put seeds into) give them each a bag of unshelled pumpkin seeds. This is perfect to hand out when you just need them to be quiet for a while.
  • Bring gum!

Rule #3 Find a hotel that serves breakfast

  • This is a no brainer it will save so much. If it is a full breakfast fill the kids up and eggs and meat and waffles and have them skip the cold cereal and doughnuts so that they are full longer.
  • If it is a continental breakfast plan to make breakfast but take the hotels food to use as snacks later such as fruit, granola bars, yogurt etc.
  • Some hotels like Homewood Suites and others even serve breakfast and dinner on week days and just breakfasts on the weekends.

Rule #4 Plan ahead what meals you will eat out

  • Look at your planned trip and figure out when you will be super tired for example on the way home from an amusement park, not have a place to stop and eat,when food is not allowed to be brought in, be stuck driving, or may want to experience a restaurant unique to the area such as seafood while staying near the beach. When you plan ahead there will be no surprises.
  • Cheap tips for sit down restaurants:
    • IHOP has free kids meals after 4 pm, Applebees and other chains have certain days of the week where they offer free or reduced kids meals. Rather than ordering kids meals have the kids split an adult meal it is usually cheaper. Don’t buy soft drinks just order water. Order just enough food taking home leftovers isn’t really a great option here.
  • Cheap tips for fast food restaurants:
    • Mexican food is always always the best deal followed by hamburger places. Chicken like KFC, BBQ or Chinese is always the most expensive. Del Taco can feed my family of 6 for $15. Rather than letting the kids order a kids meal tell them they have $2 or $3 to spend from the dollar menu. I have one child who would always rather have two hamburgers than one plus a fry for example. Order a cheap hamburger but then ask for toppings on the side. You can ask for things like onion, lettuce etc.

Enjoy! The money you save by following these tips could even be enough to plan another little vacation.

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