My extended family has been vacationing together for a number of years now. Sometimes we do Disney World, sometimes the beach, but we always use this method for bringing our food along.
I’ve updated this post, which originally was published in 2009. The photos are not great quality. Every year I think I should try for better pictures, but it’s vacation and I forget in the midst of all the fun.
Subtitle: How My Mom Transported 5 Dinners for 13 People from Indiana to Florida in August without Giving Anyone Food Poisoning
What? Not eat out on vacation? Who wants to cook while they’re vacationing? Probably nobody, but with a little planning making your own food on vacation can be easy and will save you hundreds of dollars. (It also helps if you have a mom who does all the work. More on that in a minute.)
I’m not going to talk about using crockpots, hotpots, toasters and coffee pots in a hotel room, although I have done that before. This info will be most useful for those of you who rent a house or cabin or if you camp. These are also great ideas if you are doing a “staycation” and want to eat at home, but keep it simple and good.
Using Dry Ice to Transport Food
My parents packed a very large cooler about 4:30am with the food, which was already frozen solid. They bought dry ice that morning. There were guidelines on the package of dry ice that said to use something like 12 lbs. for 48 hours. Because of the heat, they decided to use 20-25 lbs. of dry ice. They packed it on top of the food because cold descends. The dry ice was also wrapped in newspaper to better insulate. All the ice was gone when the cooler was opened, but the food was still frozen.
You need to know that my parents left Indiana at 4:30am on one day. The cooler was not opened until about 4:30pm the next day! That is a long time to keep food frozen in August. The cooler just hung out in the back of their van while they drove and then enjoyed a half day at Epcot. We were a bit nervous before opening it, fearing it had all rotted. But it worked!
Tip: If you can’t find dry ice, check with a local welder. They usually have plenty and will sell it to you, although it is a good idea to check with them ahead of time to be sure they will have it for you.
Update 2016: My parents packed the cooler with the frozen food and 60 pounds of dry ice on Thursday around noon. We didn’t unload the cooler until Saturday around noon. Everything was still frozen and there were still pieces of dry ice. Do be careful unloading if you have pieces of dry ice remaining. It will burn your skin if you touch it. We used tongs to remove the dry ice, and towels to handle frozen metal pans.
I’m not sure why the amount of dry ice has increased so much since we started this. We’ve never had anything thaw before. Maybe we’ve just gotten nervous about it?
There are lots of different foods you could make that could be assembly only and frozen to reduce your cooking and clean up time on vacation. These are some of the foods we made. Click the links for recipes. I took these photos with my old point-and-shoot camera.
Update 2016: This is the exact menu we ate this year (and every year). It works for us.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Hashbrown Casserole
A few other tips
Make good use of foil pans and crockpot liners. They will greatly speed up the cleanup process.
We used a grocery shopping service called We Go Shop in Orlando. That saved us spending our vacation time buying perishables that couldn’t be frozen.
Update 2016: We’ve used We Go Shop a number of times. They are wonderful to work with. I highly recommend them.
Mom also made and froze a cake, cookies, waffles, banana bread. Obviously, there was some work in planning and preparing the food, but it really paid off in the end.