Eating Out of Your Suitcase is simply bringing portable travel food with you. Can I pack a suitcase full of food? You Bet. We did this for 2 trips to Atlantis Bahamas to save a lot on their overpriced resort food. Affordable Family vacations are possible. Food can be one of the largest expenses and can make your cheap family vacation very expensive. These tips and ideas for portable travel food can help you enjoy a family vacation on a budget. You can also learn to eat cheap and save on food while traveling. If you are heading on a road trip these 50 cold meals are great options.
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There are limitations to what you can pack when traveling to some countries so make sure you check the country’s rules (usually on their Customs page) regarding fresh produce, meats, and dairy. Part of Affordable Family Travel includes finding affordable food options. Eating out of your Suitcase is a great way to save.
Eating and trying new foods is a big part of travel for me. While I love to eat all sorts of food our kids (and sometimes my husband) are sadly not so adventurous. We have often brought snacks and even toddler-friendly food when traveling. Usually, I like to experience and enjoy local foods but sometimes the savings from bringing food to outweigh the benefit of eating out. Our Trip to Atlantis was really the first time we packed several days worth of food for multiple meals each day.
Peanut Butter and Jelly is a Great Travel Food
A kid-friendly it’s very easy if you are checking luggage pack the jar of peanut butter and jelly but make sure to put the jelly in a ziplock bag sealed and wrapped with something soft like clothing. Annoying as it is I think the safest place for bread is in your carry-on backpack. 1 loaf of bread lasted us the 5 days at Aulani the kids and my husband were all eating sandwiches for several of the days and even one dinner with some bread leftover and plenty of PB & J to last a few more days if needed. Aldi’s Wheat bread is very affordable and the kids love it. This is one of the easiest meals to bring when eating out of your suitcase.
Salami rounds and crackers
Aldi’s sells salami rounds- precut circles of salami. The bag is shelf-stable which means you only need to refrigerate it when you get to your destination. Aldi also sells wheat cracker rounds and the salami happens to fit perfectly on them so salami and crackers are lunch our kids (as well as my husband and I ) enjoy. This is one of our kid’s favorite things when eating out of your suitcase.
I purchase Quinoa cups from Aldis though I have heard you can get them at other grocery stores. My favorite is the artichoke and red-pepper and the Pesto. The cups require no heating and can be eaten at room temperature simply mix the 2 cups together for a healthy meal. I am the only one in my family that enjoys these so I usually eat them while everyone else has PBJ. Quinoa cups cost about $2. I highly recommend brining these when eating out of your suitcase.
Tuna/Chicken Salad and crackers are a great snack or meal. Tuna is a healthy portable meal. Many people enjoy pouched tuna that comes in many flavors but I really need some sauce or mayonnaise with mine. I enjoy Aldi’s prepared tuna and chicken salad cans that come with crackers for about $1 each.
My kids love carbs and often need a second meal before bedtime. When on the road it’s difficult to have a meal simply ready if they happened to need a second round. We have started packing Idahoan instant potatoes because they only require hot water. Using the coffee machine or even the tap, and the plastic cups provided in hotel rooms, we can easily make them something satisfying to eat before bed.
Another side dish that can easily be made with just hot water is Twisted couscous. They are small packets that take almost no space in your luggage and come in a variety of flavors.
Sometimes you can make an entree go much further by adding sides like these to an ordered entree. Side dishes can cost anywhere from $3 to $10 additional. By ordering 1 entree to share you can easily save $12-$50. But sometimes splitting one entree just isn’t enough. For example, ordering a 10oz steak with only one side may not quite fill to adults but splitting it and adding an additional side can make a big difference.
This one is a little odd, but it’s my daughter’s obsession. After our trip to Universal Studios, I decided I would always bring hot dog buns with me where ever I go. Why? Because our daughter loves ketchup buns and after you have paid $10 for your child to eat a bun that costs 79 cents for an 8-pack you decide you will bring your own in the future. I mean how can you go wrong with 79 cents for 4-8 meals! My lovely coworker started saving up Ketchup packets for me so those were free too. Maybe ketchup buns aren’t your thing but I am sure there’s some odd combination of food your kid loves that may work great for travel.
Sauce Packets add flavor to Travel Food
Does anyone save sauce packets from fast food places? You may start too. Besides ketchup packets, there are many different sauces that could be shelf-stable like ranch dip, hot sauce honey mustard, yellow or spicy mustard. I wouldn’t bring a huge variety but those you know you may use.
Breakfast Travel Food
This is where I spoil the kids a little. They don’t like to eat oatmeal on vacation though my husband does. He simply has hot water from the tap (or you can use the coffee maker just run it through with no coffee in it). The kids like to have sugary cereal, pop tarts, and croissants. You can also pack donuts and breakfast pastries that come in packages like Entenmann’s. Bagels are a nice easy travel breakfast if they like them with peanut butter or jelly or plain. Or you can play it simple with a granola bar and fruit.
Fruits or Veggies that are Portable Travel Food
It can be hard to eat healthy when eating out of your suitcase. Our kids love fresh fruit but sadly they are not allowed to be imported into most countries. We have packaged fruit in a large Tupperware container when we head off to Disney (I refuse to use my snack credit or pay $3 for a piece of fruit). We often pack freeze-dried fruit that the kids love. Aldis sells them and they can be found at most grocery stores as well. Our kids still enjoy apple sauce pouches too so we will pack those if we have space and weight allowed for them.
Dried fruit- processed and sealed is also a good option. Our kids enjoy raisins and craisins and we often purchase packs of the tiny boxes to make them more portable. We picked up a variety of packages of mini cereals that were a big hit at Atlantis every day kids got a different super unhealthy cereal and they loved it. I had a protein bar from Aldis for breakfast. Veggies are portable but also not allowed to be imported into most countries. If traveling within the US, most fresh veggies can be carried with you for a day refrigerated.
Toddlers Approved Travel Foods
My kids loved Gerber ravioli when they were little we kept a couple in our diaper bag where ever we go but also brought them on vacation. We preferred the no sauce options like turkey and vegetables. Gerber makes other toddler meals but we found the ravioli to be the only big hit.
My kids snack like crazy and that can be expensive but I also hate carrying more than we need. Triscuit thins are crackers we all enjoy and are filling as well as popcorn. I will buy a back of premade popcorn and carry it in my carry-on backpack along with the loaf of bread. Pringles are another good portable snack since they are in a container that protects them. We usually pack fruit snacks, some candy, and some other salty snacks such as chex mix, Buggles, and almost always combos as they are my husband’s favorite and the kids enjoy them too.
We usually bring Slim jims which everyone eats and a variety of protein and granola bars. I have heard of people freezing cheese or bringing cheese but some countries will not allow dairy in and I’m just not sure how the cheese will be it doesn’t keep the right temperature and sweats out all its oil. Those cheese and meat gift sets would be a good option as well. I think a trip to Harry & Davids would be fun to check out all their “gourmet” travel food options. It’s easy to make an antipasto with jarred artichokes olives cured meats hot peppers roasted red peppers even sundried tomatoes can come packages and they can also be mixed into your quinoa cups.
There are many affordable Microwaveable Meals you can enjoy even in a Hotel room. The kids love easy mac. On our second trip to Universal Studios, we stayed at the Cabana Bay Resort for half our stay, which has a microwave in their food court. We were able to make an easy mac which saved us $8 per kid vs a kid’s meal. There’s also a lot of different varieties of shelf-stable microwaveable meals. Barilla now makes microwaveable pasta pouches which are also a great portable food option.
Hormel microwave meals are great portable options. They range of options including Spaghetti and meatballs, chicken alfredo, or Swedish meatballs. There’s even a Hormel variety pack that comes with a great assortment.
So what did breakfast and lunch look like when we ate from our suitcase?
My husband had 2 packets of oatmeal, I had a protein bar both with coffee, and the kids enjoyed sugar cereal (they refused oatmeal the first day) 1 package of pop tars split between then, either an apple sauce pouch or freeze-dried fruit or raisins/craisins. or sometimes both.
Pringles or Triscuits and fruit pouch or freeze-dried fruit or even a can of tuna/chicken salad
PBJ or Salami with wheat crackers whatever from snack they didn’t eat Snack: they really only snacked once sometimes before lunch sometimes after. Dinner was eaten out at a restaurant. Leftovers can be kept in a soft cooler or in Togo back the food came home in with ice inside the bag.
Things to bring when planning to eat from your suitcase
- Ziploc bags sandwich, quart, and gallon. this is a must for travel in general. Ziploc bags are my duck tape.
- soft cooler than can be packed in your suitcase
- a small pairing knife- you never know when you may need it- must be packed in checked luggage. My husband wished we also had a simple butter knife to make the PBJ with.
- Paper plates and plastic spoons- not always necessary as tissues from the hotel room can work as plates for most food you may not need plastic ware and sometimes can get it onsite. The quinoa cups and prepared tuna and chicken salads come with things to use which is great.
- kids bowls. we still have take and toss containers from when the kids were toddlers we usually bring 2 and wash in the sink
- dish soap- a small travel size 3oz is plenty.
Check out our Trip to Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas where we ate out of our suitcase and saved a ton of money doing so.
Eating out of your suitcase is one of several ways to save on food while Traveling. Eat Cheap and Save on Food while traveling by eating affordable restaurant options while traveling.
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