Vacation Food Ideas and Menus

You have decided to plan a vacation for the family, go camping, drive to a National Park or visit a new city.   Here are some tips, vacation food ideas, and menus to cut costs and make sure you are eating healthy and conveniently while on vacation.  

There are many variables when coming up with your plan. The first thing that makes a difference is where you will stay.

Questions: Will you have a kitchen or a refrigerator and microwave? Will you be eating out of cooler? Will you be moving from place to place or staying in one place?

One Basic Tip: Eat two meals on own and eat one meal at a restaurant per day.  This gives you a starting plan and if you don’t follow your plan 100% that is okay.



If you are staying someplace for a whole week and with a kitchen, this makes things a lot easier for you. You will basically need to come up with a tentative plan for the week by what you are doing.   Plan to make and eat breakfast where you are staying.

If you will be hiking or out and about for lunch then make sandwiches to eat along the way. If you are in a town for the afternoon, eat lunch there and come back to make dinner.   The options are endless when you have a kitchen the whole week.

After you have an idea of the meals you will need then planning food is easy.  Write your list before vacation and when you go grocery shopping you will be prepared for your week.  My experience is you will buy plenty of food and end up having your last meal a leftover meal.  I will list meal ideas at the bottom.

Hiking food
Hiking food


If you are eating out of a cooler for a week and hotel refrigerators plus moving from place to place you will have to plan ahead. The Washington DC and Grand Canyon trips in last weeks blog on summer vacation ideas were the most challenging vacations to feed a family.

If you are traveling by car, plan a break to eat a meal at a restaurant.  If you are hiking, pack sandwiches and food that will not spoil if left un-refrigerated.   Buy ice for your cooler every other day to keep things cold.  If driving, bring a plastic bin of food purchased ahead with snacks and non-perishables. 

When we flew to Grand Canyon area, we purchased an inexpensive cooler to keep in our rented van all week. At the end of our trip we left the cooler at our last place with a note to keep it.  It was worth the $18 to purchase the cooler and give it away rather than eating out every meal.

Vacation Menu ideas

Menu Ideas  

Lunch Ideas:

Sandwiches- turkey meat, and cheese slices on a bun, bread, bagel, or tortilla, or tuna salad sandwiches, healthy chips/pretzels and fruit/raw veggies

For hiking or non-perishable lunches: Peanut butter and bagels, meat sticks, granola bar, apple sauce or dehydrated fruit and water with drink packets.   We carry these premade foods in our backpacks like on our Washington DC trip, Grand Canyon trip or hiking in Colorado. We always had plenty to eat and then if we saw Ice cream it was okay for a treat.   

Dinner Ideas:

Healthy Chunky Soup, Pudding, Fruit {this is a good meal to make on a cook stove in a camping cabin or heat in a microwave}. Pasta and spaghetti/meat sauce and salad kit and milk. Stir Fry Kit- Can make these meals in a kitchen or cookstove. Grilled food also works for a meal too.  Bean burritos are great in the microwave with chips and Salsa.

If you have a Costco available- eat a meal in the food court and purchase some frozen items your whole family can eat.  You can also find food that is premade in the refrigerator section too. This works if you have a refrigerator or kitchen.

Breakfast Ideas:

Cereal with milk and bananas, bagels, yogurt and fruit. Eggs made in kitchen or cookstove, with toast. Homemade egg McMuffins with eggs, Canadian Bacon and English muffins. Finally, oatmeal packets made in the microwave or just hot water.  

Pack ahead For Cooler:

Ahead of time buy and freeze 100% fruit juice boxes and use as ice packs. Freeze bottles of water to keep the cooler cold and add fruit, yogurt, raw veggies, make up sandwiches for travel, cheese sticks. Add foods you buy at the destination to your cooler.

Grocery list

Grocery list:

Half gallon milk, orange juice, salad kits, turkey sandwich meat, meat sticks, cheese slices and cheese sticks, bread, bagels, tortillas, fruit, eggs, salmon or tuna packets and salad dressing, Canadian Bacon and English muffins, premade smoothies, cereal, pasta, sauce and meat, bean burritos, raw veggies, stir fry kit.

Juice boxes, bottled water, raw veggies, fruit, lunch meat, yogurt, salad kits, hummus, crackers or melba toast, nuts, turkey bites, granola bars, applesauce, snack foods, tortilla chips and salsa, beef jerky, gum, shelf stable chocolate milk, and ice. Any microwave meals, frozen bean burritos, and summer sausage. 

Also buy: Laundry detergent, paper plates, cups, spoons, forks, wet wipes if you are staying in a camping cabin or hotel

Trader Joes Snacks

Buy ahead and bring with:

Peanut butter, gum, raw carrots, pudding, apple sauce, dried fruit, pretzels, granola bars, protein bars, paper towels. Drink packets such as True Lemonade and Tea bags, lunches packed for the drive. Fruit, crackers, nuts, cups, spoons, wet wipes, plates, coffee, coffee press and a way to boil hot water.

If you can get to a Trader Joes or an Aldis, they have some good snack foods like nuts and dried fruits that you can buy ahead and take with on your trip.

Pack any Camping Gear you will need if you are staying in a Camping Cabin, like a cook stove, pans, utensils, bowls and spoons.  

dried fruit and nuts

Actual Menus We Have Used:

Day 1

Breakfast at home

Car Drive with a Lunch Stop: Tuna sandwiches, water, fruit, animal crackers, baby carrots.

Dinner: stop on way to destination

Day 2

Breakfast: Yogurt, protein bars, and orange juice and fruit. This works great in a hotel with teenagers.

Hiking lunch: Peanut butter bagels, dried mangos or applesauce, baby carrots, water with ice tea mix or juice box. Granola bar and jerky for a snack.

Dinner: Mexican place

Day 3

Breakfast: Eggs, toast and fruit, OJ

Lunch with Cooler: Turkey, hummus, cheese, tortillas rolled up, raw veggies and hummus, healthy chips, fruit, chocolate milk

Supper at Cabin– Spaghetti with meat sauce and salad kit or raw veggies, milk and pudding. Make on cookstove or in kitchen.

Day 4

Breakfast: Granola cereal, milk, fruit, OJ

Lunch:  out

Dinner: Bean burrito, chips and salsa, milk and salad kit. (microwave)

Day 5

Breakfast: Egg Mc Muffins with eggs, Canadian bacon, cheese, and English muffins, and orange juice.

Lunch:  non-refrigerated meal for hiking or turkey sandwich with cheese or a lettuce salad with turkey and veggies, applesauce or apples, milk, and pretzels. 

Dinner: out

If you are on a special diet, adjust accordingly.  These menus have kids in mind and sometimes you can’t eat 100% healthy every day.  This gives you a start.

I hope this helped you with menu planning while traveling. You will feel so much healthier and know when you eat out you will enjoy the meal. Every meal is not perfect and you may eat some things you normally don’t eat.  The meals will be easy and will save you money.  Relax and enjoy!

Vacation Food Ideas and Menus

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