I remember the headline as clear as day: Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties in Closer Proximity to Ocean. It was published on The Onion, a satirical news publication, five years ago, but is still memorable — and hilarious — because it's true.
So painfully true.
Even with older children — my boys are 8 and 11 years old — I still find that renting a vacation home, whether an efficiency apartment, condo, or house, is the best way to travel with kids. You get more space for your money, plus the flexibility to spread out, come and go as you please, and cook your own meals. Which, yes, is actually better in the long run, because it saves tons of money and you don't have to eat out with your kids three times a day (which is stressful).
The only challenge is that once you throw meal planning, food shopping, and cooking into the mix, you run the risk of killing those vacation vibes.
To help alleviate the buzzkill, I asked five moms who slay in the kitchen to share their smartest meals that allow them to actually enjoy vacation. Tuck away these back-pocket dinners, quick go-to breakfasts, and other ideas for your next vacation so that you can take advantage of a home rental and still feel like you're getting a break.
1. Summer Snack Platter from Catherine McCord of Weelicious
Lunchtime at home is always an afterthought for me, which is the nice way of saying that it's my least thought-out meal. And on vacation, that can make lunchtime stressful — especially when I'd rather be lounging on the porch. That's why Catherine's summer snack platter is pure vacation brilliance.
Catherine says: "Summertime is all about quickly tossing a bunch of nutrient-dense snack foods onto a serving plate and letting the crowd munch away! Grab fruits, veggies, hummus, cheese, or anything your family loves and place it on a big board or platter. It makes eating a lot more fun and you'll be surprised at how many more healthy foods you can get into your kid's body."
Follow Catherine on Instagram: @weelicious
2. Japanese Garlic Fried Rice with Grilled Shrimp from Nami of Just One Cookbook
Nami's choice of Japanese garlic fried rice is one of my favorite suggestions because of the multiple ways that I can use it over the course of a week.
First, you can bet that my husband will dig into a bowl for breakfast (garlic breath be damned!). Then, with a handful of thawed frozen peas and carrots, my boys will dig into a bowl for lunch one day. And on another, the whole family will enjoy this for dinner with a side of grilled shrimp, as Nami suggests. (If you don't like shrimp, she offers other ideas too.)
With so many options, making a big batch is well worth the time.
Nami says: "Garlicky and buttery, this simple Japanese garlic fried rice with garlic chips is a dish I have cooked many times over the years as one of my go-to rice dishes — even on vacation! It is as easy to make for just a few people as it is for a large party. Also, it pairs perfectly with so many proteins, including succulent grilled shrimp, steak, or teriyaki tofu."
Follow Nami on Instagram: @justonecookbook
3. Pineapple Beef from Jehan of Jehan Can Cook
Stir-fries are a go-to dinner for my busiest nights at home, so why wouldn't they also be a go-to on vacation to keep cooking quick and easy?
This pineapple beef from Jehan Can Cook has that irresistible sweet-and-salty combination that will make it a sure thing with my crew. And a sure thing that cooks in 30 minutes is exactly what vacation nights call for. (Well, that plus a glass of dry rosé!)
Jehan says: "I love this recipe because it's a quick stir-fry and I don't have to spend a ton of time getting dinner on the table. You can even use frozen stir-fry vegetables as a shortcut. Plus, my kids love the sweetness of the pineapple."
Follow Jehan on Instagram: @Jehancancook
4. Pizza Pasta Salad from Laura Fuentes of Momables
Laura is a master at meal planning and school lunches, so of course for vacation she'd combine her two skills to prep ahead a meal that could serve as both lunch and dinner if need be. Because when better a time to keep it casual and easy than while on break?
I might even prep all of the elements of this tasty pizza pasta salad separately so that my older kids can toss together their own bowls at will. And some grilled chicken might go nicely in the mix too.
Laura says: "Pasta salad is the ultimate no-fuss vacation food when you want a ready-made meal that can go from fridge to table in seconds. Whether you warm it up and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top for dinner or bring it to the beach for lunch, this pizza pasta salad is always a winner with the whole family."
Follow Laura on Instagram: @momables
5. Easy Summer Burgers from Krysten and Marrekus of Cooks with Soul
What's vacation without a night (or two) of burgers? They are the quintessential summer comfort food, and especially easy if you can throw them on a grill. You just need a few ingredients, they cook up fast, and cleanup is a cinch.
Krysten says: "This easy summer burger recipe is one of our favorites because it's quick, the kids love it, and it doesn't require much work, which makes summer dinners a breeze. With fewer than five ingredients, plus whatever toppings we want to add, I can have dinner ready in no time, which means more fun in the sun while on vacation!"
Follow Krysten on Instagram: @cookswithsoul