Family Vacation Meal Planning


When traveling, we use a simple family vacation meal plan to cut the costs of eating out, limit junk/ fast food, and feel healthier on the trip. Some people use a capsule wardrobe when traveling to create minimalistic but cohesive wardrobe. We use a capsule family vacation meal planning system when we travel!

The intention of the capsule is the same for both. A short grocery list comes together in several combinations to make breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Going out for treats and trying favorite local places when we travel is such a big part of any vacation. These special meals should be enjoyed! It is nice to have some staples to create easy and reliable breakfast, lunch, and snack options at our home away from home.

We recently went skiing and stayed in a condo with a kitchen. For this trip, we ate breakfast at our condo and then had lunch/ snack foods to have when were were done skiing for the day. There was a lot of hot chocolate and cookies involved but it was nice to have to get out for breakfast every morning.

Family Vacation Meal Planning Groceries

Goals of the Family Vacation Meal Plan

  • Save money! Family Vacations are expensive- food in tourist areas is usually marked up significantly.
  • Prepare food your kids will eat
  • Have more quality time together
  • Feel better eating healthy meals
  • To provide breakfast, lunch, and snack options for your vacation so you don’t have to eat out at every meal

Where to stay for meal planning success

We have found it much easier to stay in a VRBO or a hotel with suites that offer a small kitchen. Staying somewhere that offers the ability to prepare and store food makes trips much more enjoyable. It also makes creating a vacation meal plan much easier. It may be a little more expensive to stay somewhere like this but think of all the money you can save by not eating every meal out!

Most VRBOs will list kitchen appliances available and property managers are usually happy to answer inquiries about specifics about pots/ pants or cooking utensils upon request. Hotels with suites also usually offer information about the kitchenettes under amenities for the rooms.

The Grocery List

When making the grocery list for a family vacation meal plan try to streamline the menu options to get the most meals out of the ingredients you have. Especially if you cannot travel back home with the food you buy, I try to buy items that we can use in several different ways. If there is something that we would like to have for a single meal bring it from home if possible. I do this by bringing a ziplock bag with brown sugar to use on oatmeal.

If you are driving to your destination and have any extra space in your car – do your grocery shopping at home! In your home store, you will be faster and it will likely be less expensive than in a tourist area. You can also guarantee to have some of your favorite brands to take on your vacation. If you are flying or it’s not practical or grocery shop at home consider a delivery service at your destination. This will be a little more expensive but will save time and energy. Checking in and getting settled is always a little chaotic and it’s so nice to have groceries delivered at those times. You also avoid the rows of chips and treats that are even more tempting during vacation!

Here is the grocery list for our most recent ski trip:

  • oatmeal
  • brown sugar ( if it’s just for oatmeal bring a few tablespoons in a baggie from home)
  • eggs
  • milk
  • butter
  • apples
  • oranges (cuties)
  • sliced Cheese
  • sliced turkey or ham
  • jam
  • peanut butter
  • loaf of your preferred bread
  • baby carrots or mini cucumbers
  • humus or tzatziki tip
  • popcorn
Groceries for out family vacation.

Family Meals on the Plan

I use the grocery list to put together a quick plan of all the meals I can throw together from the items on the list. I stick to buying and preparing food for breakfast and lunch. We plan to go out to dinners or get takeout in the evening.

BreakfastLunch Snacks
Oatmeal Turkey / Ham SandwichApple and peanut butter
Scrambled eggs and toast Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich or Grilled Cheese Sandwich Popcorn
Egg and Cheese breakfast sandwich Sides of apple, orange, popcorn, carrots or cucumbers and hummus or tzatziki dip Orange
Carrots or cucumbers and hummus or tzatziki dip

Our family was very happy with these meal options at home. Since each family has their preferences here are some other options that might be a better fit for your family:

Other Breakfast options: cereal and milk, yogurt and granola, frozen waffles with peanut butter and banana.

Other Lunch options: If you can find or bring a good chick salad – yum! DIY Charcuterie with crackers, cheese, and salami. You could also get a container of precut romaine leaves if you are watching carbs and want just a lettuce wrap sandwich.

Snacks: This one is always easy – there’s not much to hate on the snack aisle. Bring on the crackers, Chex mix, or chips. If your family is on a trip that requires a little outdoor adventuring (or a lot of walking) one of these sports snacks for kids might be a great option. I usually throw in a little chocolate for good measure!

Use a Template to stay organized:

I have created a free grocery list and meal plan template for you to take on your next vacation. Use this to brainstorm and then organize meals and snacks for your family or group. Many times we stay with another family or my in-laws when we are on vacation. Especially when grocery shopping and meal planning for a large group or multi-family vacation, it’s nice to have a centralized grocery list. Writing in quantities that will be needed for a large group will save a lot of time and guesswork at the grocery store.

Make it work for your family and your vacation

After having children, we had the rude awakening that vacations would never be the same as they were before kids. With children along, vacations are infinitely better in so many ways! Seeing the world through their eyes and experiencing so many firsts with them is just the best. It also means no more leisurely brunches after sleeping in or meandering down city blocks until we see something that looks interesting for dinner.

This change in our family pushed me down the path of finding a system that worked for our family and made travel easier with children. Having reliable meal options at our vacation rental allowed us more flexibility and took the pressure off eating every meal out. As shown in the video above, we could enjoy a healthy, filling breakfast before ski school. We could enjoy more time at an activity activity before coming back for naps if we didn’t have to scramble to find a place to eat lunch. I also have found as I’ve gotten older that overindulging is quickly losing its appeal. I feel better and enjoy our trips more if there is a little more moderation.

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