Travel can be expensive. Everyone tries to find cheaper flights, the best hotel rates, or discounts on tickets. When planning family vacations on a budget, I think one of the expenses that is often overlooked is spending on food. Feeding a family of four everyday when traveling can get very expensive very quickly.
Think about it. Breakfast for a family of 4 at even a cheap restaurant will cost around $20-$25. Lunch is a little bit more costing on average between $25 and $40. Then the heavy hitter, dinner, can cost $50 – $100 for a family of four. Keeping in mind that I consider these to be conservative estimates, you will be spending around $150 per day. That means over $1000 just to feed your family during a week long trip. Yikes! I am sure your grocery bill is cheaper than that for a week. Since all of our vacations are family vacations on a budget, we have mastered the art of saving money on food while on vacation.
Family vacations on a budget tips for saving money on food
Take food with you or plan on visiting a grocery store soon after you arrive at your destination. If we have room in the car I prefer to pack all the food for our trip rather than going to the grocery store but sometimes you just don’t have the space. We usually pack a cooler full of food and a plastic bin full of food. It is actually cheaper to bring the food from home because you can prepare meals ahead of time using staples in your pantry.
Plan meals carefully. You want to have leftovers that can be turned into something new for the next meal. For instance, tonight’s chili becomes the main ingredient for tomorrow night’s nachos.
Hotel Breakfast Ideas
If you can stay at a hotel with a complimentary continental breakfast go for it! You can save money and everyone can have their own choices for breakfast. If this isn’t possible, bring along simple easy items for breakfast. Fresh fruit, muffins, yogurt, and granola bars are all good ideas. I try to avoid cereal and milk, it can be messy and milk takes up a lot of space in the cooler and mini fridge.
- fresh fruit
- fruit cups
- applesauce cups
- granola bars
- cereal bars
Hotel Lunch Ideas
For us, lunch is handled differently depending on the type of vacation. For a week at the beach I will pack our lunch everyday to take down to the beach. I pack lunch meat sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, drinks, and snacks. Frozen items such as Uncrustables and frozen GoGurt keep items in the cooler cold at the beach and are thawed when it is time to eat lunch.
For a week of skiing, we eat sandwiches for lunch if we are not going to be on the slopes. When we are on the slopes all day we budget to have a hot lunch at the ski lodge. This is a time for everyone to warm up and rest since we ski hard all morning and all afternoon. However during the days we are not skiing we eat lunch in the hotel room or pack it along on the day’s adventures.
Hotel Dinner Ideas
Since dinner is usually the most expensive meal, we try to eat in the hotel room as much as possible. This again depends on the type of vacation. For skiing this is easily done. Every one is tired and as parents we do not want to take exhausted children into a restaurant anyway. This is why I never go on vacation without my slow cooker! I make ahead chili and freeze it. I put it in the slow cooker in the morning and when we get back from a long day of skiing a hot meal is waiting.
- shredded cheese
- sour cream for toppings
- use leftover chilli,
- shredded cheese
- sour cream pack
- Sloppy joes
- hamburger buns
- Baked beans
- Hot dogs
- hot dog buns
Make the chili in the crock pot for the first night. For the second night, use the leftover chilli to make nachos. For a 3rd dinner you can have sloppy joes. I brown the ground beef and add the sauce at home. Freeze it in a gallon size freezer bag then dump it in the crock pot. For another dinner we will have backed beans and hot dogs. I put the backed beans in the bottom of the crock pot and then put frozen hot dogs on top of foil on top of the beans. I do not take a whole roll of foil with me, just one sheet folded up.
Part of any great vacation is experiencing the local cuisine and having time off from cooking and cleaning so we do enjoy a few meals at restaurants. However, since we take family vacations on a budget we have more money to spend on fun if we can save some money instead of spending it on food.