Welcome to this weeks edition of 4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage. This week Connie, KimC and The Headmistress and myself are sharing our tips for feeding the troops while traveling without going bankrupt.
Traveling with a large family can be expensive. Gas, lodging, activities and food can all add up. One way to significantly reduce costs without eliminating the fun is in the food department.
Since generally when we’re traveling with the children it’s for a fun family time so we don’t want to eliminate fun, ‘vacation’ food. We’ve found with a little bit of foresight we can have our fun and eat it too.
The “fun while driving” meal.
The kids look forward to this each time we have a long distance to travel.
You will need some basic supplies:
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Small plastic bowl for each person
- Paper towels
- Ziploc bags
Then when you get to the point of needing a gas or bathroom break stop at a grocery store and purchase some fun, easy to eat items for the meal. Things like:
- Salami, summer sausage or lunch meat
- Cheese – my kids love string cheese, but it’s generally prohibitively expensive so I usually purchase 2 lb. block.
- Cookies, pretzels or chips
- Candy – Things like gummy bears or M & Ms
- Trail Mix
- Pudding or yogurt cups (If I ever skipped these I’d be in trouble, we NEVER have them at home, but always at least once on vacation.)
- Something fun to drink or large quantities of water
Since you have the equipment to prep the food don’t buy the travel size packages or options. Simply use the cutting board to slice cheese, fruits and veggies and dish everything into the little bowls that you brought with you.
Dish each course individually into the children’s cup and pass them around varying healthy foods with treat foods. When the children are finished with the first course, they pass their cup up for the next course. When you’ve made it through all of the food choices, offer seconds.
Spend the next hour or so eating a 21 course meal. It’s a fun way to pass the time and if you rarely have many of ‘junk food’ options at home, the kids will think it’s a huge treat. I try not to let the kids see what I purchased so that each ‘course’ is a surprise and they are excited to see what comes next.
Because staying in a hotel is prohibitively expensive for our family (Did you know that by law we are required to pay for three hotel rooms or two suites? Ouch!), we choose to either camp, stay with relatives or rent a home. So the majority of our meals while traveling are eaten in.
There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. You may cook ahead of time and take several frozen meals or just head to the grocery store to shop and get what you will need for the extent of your stay. We generally do the later because we do not have enough room in our 12 passenger van for 12 passengers, all of their necessities for vacation in addition to all of our food.
We plan simple fun meals from our regular menu that everyone enjoys and we cook and clean together, so that it still feels like vacation.
Yes, we do eat out. When budget permits we like eating out one time on travel days (days when we are traveling through all three meals) and we also enjoy going to a local restaurant at our destination. There are many ways that we reduce our total bill when we choose to eat at a restaurant.
- We never order drinks. This is easy for us. We always drink water at home and we always drink water when we head to a restaurant.
- We rarely order appetizers or desserts.
- We rarely order a kid’s meal for each kid. Depending upon the restaurant it may be more economical to purchase adult meals to split between several children or sometimes our kids split kid’s meals. Think outside the box and find the least expensive way for everyone to fill up their bellies.
- Head for the Kid’s Eat Free options. There used to be a restaurant that did not have a limit on how many kids ate free per adult entree. We could almost eat there cheaper than I could prepare something equivalent at home. Two adults and 8 children for under $15 including the tip.
Take it with you.
Each time we leave ‘home base’ while we’re on vacation we pack snacks and/or the next meal. We do not want to have to cut our adventures short to go back and eat and we also don’t want to spend the balance of our vacation money by eating out/buying snacks we didn’t plan on. This has also given us some lovely and unique memories of impromptu picnics.
Food & lodging.
If the situation is such that we have to stay in a hotel, we always choose a hotel with a substantial free breakfast.
How do you keep the fun and feed your kids inexpensively while traveling?
Our latest long road trip was 1,800 miles round trip.
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