I had a great conversation with a lady a few years back that was amazed when I mentioned packing our own food for a hotel. We were talking about spring break plans and I told her about a nice price I found on a place we had been wanting to go. I then mentioned that we were packing most of our own food for the trip. We got into a discussion about the types of things I prepare and how we keep it healthy.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that travel plans require eating out. I want to let you know that is not a requirement! The amount of eating out you do is a direct result of your desire and effort.
We take several small vacations a year. Part of what makes it more affordable is packing our own food. We will spend some money on snacks and a meal or two out over the course of vacation. Here are ten tips that will help you plan, pack and save.
Here are Ten Tips for Making Meals in a Hotel
1 – Know your amenities. Call the hotel if your online reservation isn’t clear. Know if you have a mini fridge, microwave and coffee pot (or more depending on the hotel). This will help you better plan your packing.
2 – Know what’s included. If your hotel has a free breakfast, you can skip taking all that with you. Take advantage of the included goodies. Find out if they serve coffee all day as many do and avoid a Starbucks run by grabbing a cup before you go out.
3 – Prep before you go. This is one of the few places where I make a meal plan. I pre-prep as much as possible and put together freezer meals/bags of what we want to eat. Most everything can be seasoned ahead to avoid having to pack seasonings that take up space.
4 – Freeze what you can. Avoid taking up space in your cooler with ice by freezing as much of the food as possible for travel.
5 - Boxed or canned are your friends. You don’t have to worry about keeping things cold when you travel and many of these items are easy to prepare or warm in a microwave.
6 – Grocery shop when you get there. For some things. Skip things like gallons of milk that take up a lot of cooler space without a large savings return. Chances are you will maximize space and savings even if you end up paying $0.50 more of a gallon.
7 – Don’t forget the plates. And other tableware. We’ve done it both ways – disposable and washable – but it depends on how much room we have in our room. When it’s a small room we take disposables so that we aren’t using up counter space we don’t have.
8 - Travel with appliances. A slow cooker, panini press/counter top grill or electric skillet could be your best savings tool. They fit well on the small counters in a hotel room and are easy to use. (PS – Don’t forget the dish soap!)
9 – Keep it simple. Elaborate meals are harder to prepare on the go and don’t always travel well. Think soups, sandwiches, easy microwavable things and easy to assemble. Some of our favorites for travel are chili in the slow cooker, nachos (chips, taco meat, cheese and pre-cut veggies), pulled pork BBQ, paninis and breakfast for dinner.
10 – Use it. Sounds simple enough and if you plan right it’s not hard to do, but it’s very easy to slip into “well, we are out and about and there’s a restaurant right here”. Depending on how long you are on vacation it’s easy to waste even more money by eating out and having to throw out food you brought that went bad because you didn’t eat it.
How do you manage food in a hotel?