Feeding a large family on vacation

Thursday Travel Thoughts 

Feeding a big family while on vacation can quickly add up to a huge portion of your vacation budget. Here’s a few ways we saved on our food budget on our vacation to Mt Rushmore.

Eating at the hotel room vs. Eating at a restaurant 

While on vacation in Rapid City, SD  I went to the grocery store and bought food for lunch AND dinner for $50. Since we had a microwave and fridge in our room, we thought we could save some money by eating in the hotel room. We had salads and sandwiches for lunch and for dinner we had cantaloupe, bananas, watermelon, chips, macaroni salad, potato salad, chili turkey dogs and cookies.

One day we stopped at Wall Drug for lunch.  We ordered two buffalo burgers, 2 hot dog baskets, a chicken sandwich basket, chicken nugget basket and 3 souvenir cups to share.  Even though we shared drinks, it still set us back $50.

When you have a big family a big chunk of your dinner bill goes to drinks. A $2 refillable soda at a restaurant quickly adds up to $12, then add in tip and suddenly you’ve got $15 worth of liquids. 

Buying food at the grocery store and eating at the hotel room or picnic area can save a big family around $50 a day. 

Eating at a rest stop, park, or picnic area vs. Eating at a fast food joint.

On the way to Rapid City we stopped at rest stop and ate our lunch we had bought at the grocery store the night before. We took the easy route and bought pre-made items such as sandwiches and Lunchables along with sliced apples, grapes and cookies. (I don’t like buying Lunchables as I don’t think they are very healthy or filling. But as a special treat I let the kiddos have them. They always eat everything in the box!)

Buying pre-made didn’t save us much money as it totaled $25. Although it was nice to know that we could eat at any time and any where, especially since it was a new trip to us and we didn’t know where to expect good pit stops. We could have easily saved more money by making the sandwiches ourselves and staying away from the evil Lunchables.

Before we went to Custer State Park, I went to the grocery store to pack a picnic for our trip.  This time I decided to see if I could save money by making our sandwiches instead of buying pre-made food.  This time I still spent $25. 

A meal at a fast food joint like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, or Subway can easily cost us over $35. So eating a picnic lunch or dinner will save you a little over eating at a fast food joint. I did feel good that we were eating healthier by packing our own lunch.  Plus knowing that we had our meal packed with us in the car gave us the flexibility of stopping at any time to eat and not having to worry about finding a place everyone wanted to eat at. 

By using these two cost saving ideas of eating in your hotel room and packing your own meals, big families can easily save $20-$60 a day. 

Another way we saved on our trip was to pick up a few cheap pizzas at Little Caesars. (I know, not the best nutritionally) For $11 we made up for our spurge on lunch at Wall Drug. Then we headed to Sonic Drive-In to take advantage of their summer promotion of buy one shake, get the second free.  We were able to go out and get malts for less than $11. Total for dinner and dessert for six? $22 

Tell me how do you save on food costs during vacation?

About Theresa Jorgensen

Theresa is the mother of four including twins. She is the owner of SixSuitcaseTravel, a travel site for big families of 5, 6, 7, 8. She enjoys helping other big families build life-long travel memories. Her family's travel bucket list includes DC, Yellowstone, London and anywhere in the Caribbean.

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3 thoughts on “Feeding a large family on vacation

  1. We’ve tried many of the same techniques as you have.

    One thing that saves a ton of money is to drink water when we do eat in a restaurant. Sodas are often nearly $3 these days!

    Like you, I’ve found that the initial trip to the grocery store can be expensive, but the loaf of bread usually lasts more than one meal, as does the package of lunch meat, etc. It’s even cheaper if I pack food at home to take along (a good cooler and a box for non-perishables). Then I can use groceries I’ve bought while on sale and bread from Sam’s Club, etc. and it’s no more expensive than eating at home would be.

  2. We, too, drink water when dining at restaurants. Also, my husband I will often split a dinner entree to save on cost, calories and overeating. We are usually both satisfied. Last tip: When I pack groceries for roadside picnics, I like to buy pita pockets rather than a loaf of bread because it’s easier to store and travel, and I have found beef jerkey to be a great travel snack — not messy, filling and satisfying.

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