It’s a fact: Cooking on vacation saves you money. Money you could spend on something more memorable than a breakfast sandwich.
Still, the last thing you want to spend your precious vacation time doing is trying to come up with your next meal. Chances are, you’ll opt for a quicker option that will cost you more than you were hoping to spend. Luckily, with a little planning, you can save yourself the hassle—and some cash.
Plus, by planning your meals ahead of time, you’re actually enjoying the benefits of vacationing even before heading out the door.
So how do you do it? Well, you’re in luck!
Here’s our no-stress guide to vacation meal planning:
Step 1: Review your vacation itinerary.
Remember, you’re going on vacation. You deserve a few fancy meals out, especially if that’s an important part of your vacation experience. So take a look at your schedule. Are you celebrating any special events? Is there a brunch spot everyone says you just have to try? Schedule those meals as “vacation activities” and fill in the rest. If you know you’ll be spending all day at an amusement park, you’ll probably have to buy lunch, but that still leaves breakfast and dinner open. Going to the beach? You can easily pack a lunch that day! Spending the day skiing on the mountain? Pack sandwiches and snacks for everyone as on-mountain dining is pricey. This will help account for how many meals you need to plan for versus what you already anticipate buying.
Step 2: Schedule your meals.
The easiest way to stay organized is to schedule your meals so you aren’t making any game-time decisions—you’ll already know what’s on the menu. Write it out for each day: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Include your activity meals so you know where the holes are and then start filling them in!
Step 3: Fill in the gaps.
Once you know what meals you plan on making, you can start making a list of what you want to eat. Some you can keep simple; others require more planning. Make sure that your unit has the tools you need to create your meals or that you’re bringing the necessary tool along with you.
This is probably the easiest meal to prepare in your timeshare kitchen, since it can be as simple or as complicated as you like! Try to pick something simple that you don’t mind eating all week long, such as cereal or oatmeal, since it cuts down on how many ingredients you need to buy and doesn’t require much prep or cleaning. Making breakfast burritos ahead of time is a great way for everyone to eat on their own schedule. You can mix it up by adding local fruits or buying a brand of cereal you wouldn’t normally get at home.
Think back to your grade school days when brown bag lunches were all the rage. If you’re packing your days full of activities and don’t have time stop back at the room, make sure to pack something you can carry with you. The obvious choice? Sandwiches and wraps. Just like with breakfast, you only have to buy the ingredients and it’ll last you all week.
Snacks are critical for vacations because not everyone gets hungry at the same time, and sometimes you don’t need a full meal to satisfy your hunger pain. When it comes to snacks, think simple. Snacks that come individually packaged are great for when you’re on the go. A bag of pretzels or crackers will not only run you significantly less than an impulse French fry purchase, but it will be healthier too! Many grocery stores have single-sized healthy snacks available. And remember, you’re on vacation! Get a few guilty-pleasure snacks, too. It’s okay, we won’t tell.
This is where planning becomes important. Know exactly how many meals you are going to make and pick them out ahead of time. This will help you plan your shopping list. Try not to choose anything that may need special hardware. Often times, timeshare units will have things like slow cookers available upon request, but make sure to call ahead and make sure! We doubt you’ll have enough suitcase space to bring your own. Note: It might be good to leave one homemade dinner spot empty. This leaves you the flexibility to go out for dinner if you really don’t feel like cooking or to finish up any leftovers before you head home!
Step 4: Make lists.
Make a list of EVERYTHING you will need to create the dishes on your menu. Even down to the seasonings. Don’t worry, this isn’t your shopping list. Once you have everything written out, see where you have overlap and what you can bring from home. Now make a second list of everything you can bring from home and a third list of everything you’ll still need to buy at the store. Keep quantity in mind.
The goal is to only have to make one trip to the store, and to finish up your vacation without bringing anything extra home.
Once you have your lists and your schedule, you’re all set! No more worrying about what’s for dinner. Now you can spend all that extra money and focus on what really matters—you.