My Secret to Eating Better (and Cheaper) on Vacation

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Noam Armonn)

My toddler and I have pretty similar eating habits, at least when it comes to frequency. Thanks to wonky blood sugar levels, I need to snack at regular intervals, and my 2-year-old has an insatiable appetite. Because we both get “hangry” (i.e., hungy + angry = not a happy camper) when we haven’t eaten enough, I’ve mastered the art of always (always) having snacks on hand.

That’s (relatively) easy when we’re on home turf, but less so when I’m on the road. So, what’s my secret?

The hotel mini-fridge is the key to keeping both of us in good spirits.

With a few no-mess, cutlery-free snacks at the ready, I’m never worried about where, when, or how we’ll find our next meal — a lesson I’ve learned the hard way after one too many late-night minibar benders and $45 salads from the room service menu (oops!).

To avoid paying an exorbitant fee at the hotel’s snack and sundry shop for the hunger-busters I stock in my mini-fridge, I head to a nearby grocery store or pharmacy (whichever is closer) that carries fresh goods for the most wallet-friendly selection. As a courtesy to the hotel, I try to be discreet about it, using my own tote or beach bag in place of plastic grocery bags, boxes, or coolers.

(Image credit: Trish Friesen)

My trip to the grocery store typically happens the day after my family arrives, so we’re not making food decisions based on late-night hunger pangs or jet lag. If I’m getting low on goods halfway through my stay, I incorporate a trip to the store when I’m already out and about, so I’m not borrowing any extra time from my precious vacation hours!

For optimum efficiency, either my husband or I dash out once the kids are napping or have gone to sleep for the night. If we can pull our toddler away from the hotel pool, he loves giving his aisle-by-aisle input on what we should buy. While there are often a few wild cards, most of the time he adds to our grocery list with good stuff, such as yogurt drinks or an arm-full of bananas.

Ready to see what I keep in my hotel fridge to satiate hunger and ward off any cravings for Pringles or chocolate bars?

3 Tips for Stocking Your Hotel Fridge

1. Load up on fruits and veggies.

One health concept I take from home to hotel is to “eat the rainbow.” I pack my hotel fridge with easy-to-eat veggies that are naturally rich in color, such as carrots, cherry tomatoes, and finger cucumbers, as well as a selection of fruits I can eat on their own or with accompaniments.

To add some substance, I’ll pair veggies with a protein-packed dip like hummus. Bananas are perfect with a package of Justin’s nut butter; apples are A+ with cheese or almonds; and yogurt (or cottage cheese) is great with raspberries and blueberries.

(Image credit: Trish Friesen)

2. Pretend you’re French.

Any time I’m in doubt about what to eat in any situation, I ask myself: What would the French do? (And why can’t I exude such sophistication?) Applying this logic to a hotel room snack attack, the answer is a picnic, n’est-ce-pas?

Stock that mini-fridge with some cheese (we like Gruyère cheese), some thinly sliced ham, and a handful of grapes. Grab a baguette and you’ve got everything you need for a satisfying snack. (Add a bottle of wine and a family friendly movie and you have the makings for a perfect night in.)

3. Juice is always a good idea.

Fresh-pressed juice always takes up residence in my hotel fridge. It acts as my nutrition back-up plan, given that veggie-forward dishes can be scarce when you’re eating out a lot. A veggie- and fruit-filled juice is a great way to start the day, quench thirst, or hold off your hunger before a meal. Look for it in the local grocery store’s grab-and-go section, or ask the concierge for the nearest juice shop.

What are your hotel snack-attack staples? Tell us in the comments below.