Posted on June 11, 2015 at 6:00 am
I put down my fork and survey the table, realizing it’s happened again; we just ate a meal when we weren’t even hungry. The husband and I are so stuffed we can’t move and the girls’ meals lay almost uneaten. I feel frustrated at the wasted money and irritated at my lack of self control. But we were on vacation, it was dinner time, and we needed to eat, right? Wrong.
Last summer, as I began to plan a week-long vacation to Portland and the Oregon coast, I was determined to avoid making the same mistakes as our previous vacation. So I developed a plan to help us eat healthier, eat less, and even save some money.
The first thing I decided was that we would only eat out one meal per day. This was largely an effort to save money, but I also felt that eating at a restaurant for three meals a day was far too much food and took up a lot of valuable time. So as I looked for hotels, I made sure that they included a free continental breakfast. I also started researching restaurants in the area and selected two to choose from for each day of our stay. In making those selections, I stayed away from chain restaurants, picking local places that had great reviews.
I tend to avoid letting my kids order from a kids menu. If you have a willing family, try to order and eat family style. We typically can’t agree as a whole, so we do a lot of meal splitting. Sometimes I can get the girls to agree to split a meal, otherwise the husband and I might split our meal with a kid and order a side salad to supplement in some veggies. Other times we might order an appetizer for the table, some soup or salad for the kids, and then the husband and I will split a meal.
Secondly, I planned to bring our own food to supplement our meal out and the hotel breakfast each day. I made some of our family favorites that I knew would travel well: lara bars, hummus, and boiled eggs. I also stocked up on fruits and veggies that hold up well in a cooler: carrots, cucumbers, mini peppers, and apples. I rounded it all out with some dried fruits, nuts, crackers, cheese sticks, applesauce, and granola. We had enough food to feed us for snacks and lunches the duration of our trip. I packed a large cooler to hold the food and brought along smaller insulated lunch coolers for packing up that day’s eats. I loved the freedom this allowed for when and where we ate our meals. Additionally, you could plan to explore a local market to supplement fresh foods if you don’t want to pack everything at the onset.
Lastly, I made sure to not forget that this was vacation and that means it should be fun and special. With that in mind, I knew that I needed to plan in some splurges. For my family, I knew that going out to breakfast and having dessert with dinner would both be nice treats. I told the girls ahead of time that we would be doing each of those things once during our trip. This gave them something to look forward to but also set our limitations. We ended up eating out for breakfast during our stay at the beach because the hotel’s continental breakfast was abysmal. For our dessert night, we ordered two desserts to split among the four of us, which was still plenty!
Since we were not stuffing ourselves by eating out all the time, I didn’t feel guilty when we splurged on ice cream while walking around downtown one day, or when we got some fudge at the coast. These were both decisions made on a whim, which made them even more exciting to the girls.
All in all, our plan worked well. We stayed within our food budget and enjoyed some fantastic meals. As vacation season approaches again, I know I have a proven approach that works for our family.