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For some people, being on vacation means never having to say “I cooked.” For others, it means “I have all the time I need to create fabulous meals!” Regardless of your take on cooking, making easy meals on vacation is the way to save money on food costs. And it’s easy if you’re staying in a fully-stocked vacation rental or RV . But even if you’ve booked a standard hotel room, you can make these easy meals. Plus, cooking on vacation is a great way to eliminate the stress of dragging tired kids out to a restaurant at the end of a long, fun day of touring. Here are our favorite easy meals to cook on vacation.
Our TravelingMoms are a resourceful bunch. They know how to wring every cent from a vacation budget to get the most out of every family trip.
One of our secrets: Save money on food by packing snacks and cooking at least a few of your vacation meals.
Here, we share our favorite easy meals to cook on vacation, even if you only have the limited tools supplied in a standard hotel room, like a fridge, coffee pot and microwave. Give a TravelingMom a fully-stocked vacation rental with a gourmet kitchen and watch what she’ll create!
Read on for our favorite recipes, prep tips and shopping lists.
Chef Art Smith’s Brown Rice Salad
For this, you’ll want to shop the local farmer’s market to pick up fresh cucumbers, celery, peppers and tomatoes. And bring along your favorite sharp knife so you can chop through those veggies as easily as Chef Art does.
Could you chop those veggies in a food processor? Sure. But Chef Art says “nothing delicious is hurried.” Chopping by hand “makes sure your family really feels the love.”
TravelingMom Tip: If you’re driving to your destination consider bringing your blender, slow cooker or instant pot. You can make a lot of easy recipes using them. Find more easy meals to cook on Pinterest!
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
This flavorful but easy meal to cook in a vacation rental can feed the whole family. Skip takeout and enjoy this refreshing salad recipe at home.
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1 box penne pasta
- Head of romaine lettuce
- Cherry tomatoes
- Caesar dressing
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Cook chicken on the grill or sautéed on the stove. Let cool and cut into cubes.
- While your chicken is cooling, cook the penne according to the directions on the box, drain and rinse with cold water.
- Slice cherry tomatoes in half.
- Toss all of the ingredients together with the dressing (use your own judgment on the amount of the dressing) and top with the croutons. If you are making ahead, don’t mix the lettuce in until right before time to serve, otherwise it will wilt.
You will need a medium-size stockpot to boil the water for pasta, a frying pan to cook the chicken (unless you have access to a grill), a colander and a large bowl to toss the salad together.
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Before you say “my kids won’t eat that,” know that TravelingMom Allison Taylor thought that too. Then one night, she just decided to give it a shot and was shocked that her kids ate the salad…and liked it! This Italian inspired dish is now one of her family’s favorites.
This is a common weeknight dinner while home. Why not enjoy it on vacation, too? Mexican food is always a crowd-pleaser and a quick dinner when you’re short on time or just wiped out from a day of fun.
- Ground beef or chicken
- 1 package of taco seasoning
- Black beans or refried beans (if desired)
- Shredded lettuce
- Diced fresh tomatoes
- Avocado (optional)
- Shredded cheese of your choice
- Tortillas or crispy taco shells
- Brown ground beef or chicken. After the meat is cooked thoroughly, add the taco seasoning. In the microwave or on the stovetop (whichever is available).
- Shred the lettuce, dice the tomatoes.
- Put the desired components into your shells and serve!
You will need a skillet for browning the meat, a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl for heating the beans, a cutting board and knife. You can use these same ingredients to make nachos or quesadillas.
TravelingMom Tip: If you won’t have a stovetop kitchenette at your hotel, brown the beef or chicken at home and simply reheat it in the microwave.
Foil Pack Hobo Dinner
The ingredients for this dinner idea can vary wildly. We recommend finding a farmers market in the area and picking up some goodies for this weeknight meal. It’s comfort food wrapped in foil! It can easily be cooked in a vacation rental, over a grill or even a campfire!
- Veggies. Choose whatever vegetables are in season or your kids will eat — zucchini, squash, carrots, onions, asparagus, red peppers or green bell peppers, white or sweet potatoes and green beans. You can even add jalapenos for some extra heat.
- Meat (chicken thighs or breast, beef, pork chops, shrimp and salmon fillets or other fish all work really well.)
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Cut pieces of aluminum foil 17 inches long (or so), one per person.
- Slice veggies, and then toss in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Divide the veggies among the foil sheets, placing the veggies in the center of the foil.
- Brush the meat of your choice with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Once you have your foil assembled, fold the sides together to create a seal. Place all of the foil packets on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 mins.
You will need aluminum foil, a cutting board, a sheet pan or casserole dish and a knife for this recipe. A side kale salad goes great with this dish. It’s an easy meal to cook that is both filling and delicious! If you don’t have an oven, this work just as well on the grill.
Read More: Recipes that Travel Well
Expand Your Easy Meal Options with the Right Blender
This section is sponsored by Vitamix.
Sadly, few vacation rentals and zero hotel rooms come with a blender as a standard kitchen equipment. Having a blender will exponentially increase your in-room and in-rental cooking options. We highly recommend the Vitamix blender because it can make everything from hot soups to ready-to-serve frozen yogurt.
Here are a few of our favorite easy meals that can be prepared using nothing more than a Vitamix blender:
Before heading out to explore your destination, fool the kids into a quick but healthy breakfast with the Creamsicle Breakfast Smoothie. Despite a name that makes it sound like a dessert, this smoothie requires just a few healthy ingredients and will fuel everyone for a full day of fun.
After a long day, the last thing anyone wants to think about is cooking! A simple dinner idea is the roasted red pepper soup. This blend of roasted red peppers, cashews, basil and vegetable or chicken stock “cooks” after six minutes of blending. You’ll have dinner ready in your hotel room or vacation rental in no time.
And for an actual dessert, make berry frozen yogurt with a blend of frozen fruit, yogurt and honey. The key is to not blend it so long that it melts! Or, if you’re more of an ice cream fan, opt for this real strawberry ice cream recipe. The kids will love enjoying this sweet treat as they snuggle down for a movie or head out to the pool.
More Easy Meals to Cook on a Road Trip
TravelingMom Nasreen Stump is queen of the road trip. Traveling to see her family in the northeast from her home in Texas with kids in tow, means nights – and dinners – on the road. Nasreen’s tips, particularly her spice trick, are epic. Read on for lessons learned, a shopping list to cover six vacation nights and recipes.
Prep in Advance
If you are driving to your destination, pack a cooler with pre-made food that is easy to pop in and out of your vacation rental and grab for lunch or even a snack.
Some of the foods we like to prepare ahead of time: chicken salad, tuna salad, frozen baked spaghetti or lasagna. These are perfect for easy weeknight dinners while on vacation!
What to Bring from Home
Nasreen travels with spices. It’s a huge money saver on the road. Cooking in hotels is easy. Buying spices to give everything flavor is expensive.
Nasreen’s epic spice tip: Use a pill container and keep a few teaspoons of each spice on hand. Use the packets of salt and pepper from the breakfast area of your hotel.
Spices needed for the recipes below:
- Oregano (3 tsp)
- Red pepper flakes (4 tsp)
- Ground rosemary (1 tsp)
- Nutmeg (1/2 tsp)
- Paprika (1 tsp)
- Turmeric (1/2 tsp)
- Cardamom (1/2 tsp)
- Cumin (1/2 tsp)
- Cinnamon (1/4 tsp)
Plus 4 tsp each of salt and pepper if you aren’t able to grab some packets from the hotel.
1 box Success Boil in Bag Rice
Small container sour cream
Bag of shredded Mexican cheese
Can of corn
Can of black beans
Can of chickpeas
Can of tomato sauce (16 oz)
2 1/2 lb small potatoes
1 small onion
1/3 lb tofu
1/2 cup white wine. If you are staying at a suite-style hotel, chances are there will be a complimentary meal on weeknights that includes wine. Snag a glass to use in your cooking. Otherwise, buy a bottle (it doesn’t need to be fancy) and drink the leftover!
Bunch of basil
1/2 dozen eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Olive oil, small bottle
Pasta sauce, 1 jar
Mozzarella balls, small container
1 box pasta, your choice of shape (16 oz)
1 stick butter
8 oz heavy cream
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Garlic, 1 clove
1 large bag microwave steamable broccoli
1 can diced beets
1 package of bacon
1 lb frozen small shrimp
1 box Organic Imagine Corn & Lemongrass soup (trust me this is the winner in the flavor category- but aim for something Thai-ish if you can’t find it)
1 box mushrooms
1 bunch parsley
Pseudo-Parmesan (Tofu Parmigiana)
The night before: Drain tofu (1/3 lb) and thinly slice into slabs. Place back into empty container or into a bowl. Add a drizzle of olive oil, 1/2 c white wine, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, a 1/2 tsp of pepper, 10 basil leaves and 1 tsp ground rosemary. Make sure tofu is submerged. Place in hotel fridge overnight to marinate.
That day: Wash 1 lb potatoes and start them boiling. In a large skillet, place 2 tbs or so of olive oil and heat over low. Beat one egg in a bowl and set aside. Place 1/2 c breadcrumbs on a plate. Take the tofu from the fridge, piece by piece place tofu in egg then coat in breadcrumbs. Place in oil pan and fry slowly until golden brown. Remove tofu to plate and rinse skillet.
After rinsing, pour 16 oz jar of pasta sauce into the skillet and start heating on low heat. Place all basil leaves from the marinade into the pasta sauce. Heat slowly.
Add tofu back in, placing 3 pieces of sliced mozzarella balls onto each piece. Quarter remaining mozzarella.
Drain potatoes & cut large ones in half. Toss in pan with mozzarella, 2 TBS olive oil, and additional shredded basil from bunch. Dish into bowls & serve topped with tofu and sauce.
A New England classic, red flannel hash is popular anytime of day. This hearty dish makes a great dinner!
Dice 1 lb potatoes and put into large pot to boil for ten minutes. Take out the bacon and chop dice. In a saucepan, fry bacon and drain off excess fat. To bacon add: 1 can diced beets, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 1 tsp red pepper flakes.
Drain potatoes and add to saucepan with beets. Cook on medium-heat, stirring regularly to avoid sticking.
In another saucepan, add 1 TBS olive oil and fry your remaining 5 eggs. Serve hash in bowls topped with a fried egg (grown ups in our family get two).
Pseudo-Persian (Khoresh-e Qeymeh)
I love to celebrate my culture, but the time-consuming cooking led me to this quick knock-off for weeknights. The kids love it and it satisfies — and cooks in under a half hour.
Wash and chop a 1/2 lb of potatoes into matchsticks. Fry in 2 TBS olive oil and set aside on a plate once they are golden brown.
In a pan, boil one of the large Success Rice Boil in Bags (or 2 small ones). Chop your onion and sauté until golden brown in 1 TBS of olive oil. Add the 16 oz can of tomato sauce, the can of chickpeas, 1/2 tsp cardamom, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and 1/2 tsp turmeric. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 a lime into the sauce. Cook until heated through.
Serve rice with chickpea sauce and topped with French fried potatoes.
Wannabe Tom Kha Gai Soup
This is one of my family’s favorite dishes. It couldn’t be easier and it mimics a dish we all love to order in Thai restaurants. If your kids don’t like shrimp, it can be made with chicken or tofu. Use the shrimp with tails on to save time, then just put out a bowl for everyone to throw their tails into as they eat their way through the soup.
Chop 2 carrots into rounds. Slice mushrooms. In a saucepan, melt 2 tbs butter and add the bag of frozen shrimp. Squeeze the juice of one lime over the shrimp. Let them cook on medium until tender when squeezed. Add in the mushrooms and carrots. Add 1 tsp red pepper flakes and a tsp of salt.
Once the carrots are tender, add the Imagine Corn & Lemongrass soup (comes in a 16 oz box). The soup has the coconut flavors of a traditional Tom Kha Gai.
Heat through and serve. Cut up the remaining 1/2 lime into wedges for each bowl. Easy and delicious!
The Best Pasta Alfredo Ever
Serve this rich and creamy dish to your family on the road.
In a saucepan, melt 6 TBS butter. Sauté 1 clove minced garlic in the butter until golden. Stir in 8 oz of heavy cream, 3/4 c grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes. Stir consistently while cooking over medium heat.
In a large pan, boil the box of pasta. In the microwave, cook bag of microwave broccoli according to package instructions.
Drain pasta. Add broccoli and alfredo sauce into pasta. Mix and serve immediately.
Rice and Beans
When you’ve reached the last night of your vacation and you want a little comfort food as you pack and prepare to return to the real world, this is the recipe to choose!
In a large pan boil 1 Large Success Rice Boil in Bag (or 2 small ones). Drain a can of black beans and rinse several times. Put black beans into saucepan along with the can of corn, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Heat. Once rice is done cooking add it to the beans & corn.
Serve topped with shredded Mexican cheese and sour cream.
Happy Cooking! What are your favorite meals to make on the road? We’d love to hear in the comments below the easy dinner ideas that work well for your family when you decide to cook on vacation! Do you cook specialty meals that are carb or gluten-free, vegan or keto-friendly? Share your recipes with us on Instagram and tag us @travelingmom!