5 Frugal Food Tips for Family Travel

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We’re a foodie family, so we love to eat on vacation. We have a few traditions that we keep to.

5 Random Food Tips for Family Travel - We're a foodie family, so we love to eat on vacation. We have a few traditions that we keep to.

Over the years, we’ve developed a few things that we like to do on vacation that make the trip easier and more fun. They are random and fun, and things that we rely on make family travel special.

1. The kids get a vending machine allowance.

If we stay somewhere that has a vending machine, the kids get $1 a day to spend. This is particularly fun since I rarely buy “junk food”. It’s a tradition that our kids absolutely love.

2. If there’s a kitchen, I bring some freezer meals.

Whether it’s a condo kitchen or my mother-in-law’s, I try to bring at least one pre-prepped frozen meal. It stays cold in a cooler during the drive and then I know that I have a yummy, allergy-free meal that my family likes that is ready to go.

3. We let the kids pick things out at the grocery store.

I am not one of those moms whose kids can convince her to buy junk at the grocery store. I was one of those kids. I know how it works. But, we do let them choose fun food at at the grocery store when we hit the road. The kids particularly loved this during our sugar fast last spring since their every day fun food was pretty limited.

5 Random Food Tips for Family Travel - We're a foodie family, so we love to eat on vacation. We have a few traditions that we keep to.

4. I read restaurant menus of our destinations in advance.

I personally take a long time to decide what to order at my favorite restaurant, so I know I need extra time at a new place. For vacation, I like to have time to study the prices and figure out an economical hack to the menu. Feeding eight people can be pricey, so a little study time helps me get creative.

5. Find a special food to make into a tradition.

Over time, as we’ve revisited certain locales, we develop traditions as to where we go eat on repeat visits. For instance, my husband and kids love eating at The Stove in Mammoth. In Santa Barbara, we always get smoothies at Blenders. In Santa Clarita, we for sure eat at Stonefire Grill.

Do YOU have a special food tradition for vacations?

5 Random Food Tips for Family Travel - We're a foodie family, so we love to eat on vacation. We have a few traditions that we keep to. Travel with Kids

This is part of the Travel with Kids series. Every day in October, I’m posting tips, tricks, and tutorials for making all your travels fun, frugal, and family-friendly.

Be sure to read through the archives in case you missed a post.

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  1. Your post made me laugh – isn’t it funny what makes them happy sometimes?

    ‘chips’ is what mine love about road trips – Mom can be counted on to grab a few bags or let them choose – even though they’re pretty much never seen at home – it always amazes me!

  2. Love “The Stove” in Mammoth!! Its our favorite place when we’re fishing in the Eastern sierras! If you go to the Monterey coast to visit Monterey Bay Aquarium try Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing! My kids are 25 and 22 and still remember getting to buy junk food on vacation!!

  3. Love the vending machine allowance idea! Because we have some food allergies in the family, I tend to portion out nut- and dye-free snacks into ziploc bags and keep them in a plastic lidded shoe box up front. Easy to toss to the hungry masses in the way back!

    The best thing my husband did for me this summer was give me an evening of a nice dinner alone when we arrived at Hilton Head. I think he realized how hard it is to pack for a family of small kids plus adults when we pulled up to our fancy resort and I got out wearing 2 entirely different shoes. I hadn’t even noticed once on the entire 5-hour drive. I’m hoping the quiet meal alone becomes a tradition…..

  4. Wow, some great ideas! We do change diet for little gizmo toys from those little vending machines. My family would be too sick from vending machine junk food on a trip. It is one thing to be sick from sugar overload or chip excitotoxins at home but so much worse while traveling. The only thing that seems to work for me is to have a junk food meal/snacks the day after trip,
    Unpack rig, get laundry going, discuss best/worst things. Sometimes we see something unique in a specific place but usually it is just a bag or Oreos and lays potato chips with dip with Canada Dry ginger ale. I grew up with specific foods on different holidays like chips and dig were only at New Year’s Eve, wayyyyyy before hek293 senomyx-cloned baby fetus showed up in chips and pop.