While traveling for family vacations is fun and exciting and ideal for memory making, it can also require lots of prep work! Traveling with a large family (think 14 adults and 10 kids) is even more of a challenge! My husband comes from a big family (5 siblings, 6 kids total) and it has steadily grown as we have welcomed new in-laws and grandkids over the years. For as long as I can remember, we have gone on a family vacation with the entire Reilly family and this has remained a priority each summer even as the number of our traveling party has now far exceeded 20. It’s a blessing. A big one. And boy oh boy, does it require a lot of prep and planning! Probably the most time consuming portion of the planning is the food. So-many-snacks. When you have 10 grandkids to satiate, you know the snack to human ratio is going to be off the charts. And while it’s nearly impossible to cater to every person and child’s dietary preferences with a party of this size, there are some basic, easy ways to keep snacking healthy-ish and crowd pleasing to make buying in bulk a breeze. Here are 15 suggestions for clean option vacation snacks that we have and continue to use for our vacation travels! Speaking of traveling, if you’re looking for some seat friendly activities to keep your kiddos busy (without being glued to a screen) during your long drive or flight, be sure to check out this post for some fun ideas!
15 Nutritious Vacation Snacks:
- Trail Mix: Create your own mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and a touch of dark chocolate for a satisfying and energy-boosting snack. We mix our own trail mix all the time, not just for traveling. It’s an easy way to customize what we like and also pack it full of vitamin and mineral rich ingredients. Some examples of things we mix in include: sprouted seeds (like pumpkin), dried coconut chips, freeze dried or dehydrated strawberries/mulberries/apples/bananas/blueberries, raisins, peanuts, cashews, Enjoy Life chocolate chips or Hu chocolate nibs.
- Fresh Fruit: Fruit isn’t always low maintenance, but if you choose the more “grab and go” variety you’re more likely to snack on it and take it with you on a hike, canoe ride or lounge sesh on the beach. Grapes, bananas, clementines, apples and pears are easy to just throw in a bag and eat as is.
- Veggie Sticks and Hummus: Carrots, cucumbers, and bell pepper sticks with hummus make for a crunchy and nutritious snack. To make life even easier you can buy the single serving size hummus cups to avoid having to portion out a serving.
- Greek Yogurt Parfait: Layer Greek yogurt with granola and fresh fruit for a protein-packed snack that’s both filling and delicious. We opt for a grain free granola like this one made by Purely Elizabeth.
- Nut Butter Packs: Single-serving nut butter packs paired with crackers, pretzels, apple slices or celery offer a balanced combination of protein and healthy fats.
- Cheese and Crackers: Crackers and cheese are a vice for my family. Give me some raw cheese slices and some GF crackers (we’re a big fan of Jovial’s einkorn crackers or Simple Mills pita crisps) for a savory and satisfying snack.
- Pretzels and Guacamole: We typically use these gluten free pretzels and the single serving pre-made guacamole cups to make life even easier.
- Popcorn: Opt for stove popped vs microwave bag popcorn seasoned with herbs or nutritional yeast for a guilt-free snack. We also love the Lesser Evil brand that come cooked with healthier oils such as olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil.
- Smoothie Packs: Freeze pre-portioned smoothie ingredients like spinach, banana, and berries for a quick and nutritious blended treat. Costco sells large bags of frozen smoothie ingredient kits for an no maintenance option to avoid having to purchase each item separately.
- Granola Bars: Simple Mills and Scout are two of our favorite brands for granola bars. Simple, clean ingredients and the Scout bars are high in protein to help fill bellies with meaningful ingredients instead of empty calories.
- Beef Sticks: Organic grass-fed beef sticks are a great way to get a high protein snack on the go. We love Chomp Sticks but our most favorite are from Paleo Valley because they come in a wide variety of flavors/seasonings.
- Fruit Leather: Fruit bars are such a great, convenient snacking option. Solely makes a great fruit jerky that is made from just fruit! It satisfies the sweet tooth and is grab-n-go.
- Mixed Nuts: Sometimes you just want a handful of something salty. Mixed nuts offers a satisfying crunch and a dose of heart-healthy fats.
- Cottage Cheese: Not necessarily easy to take with you to the beach or on a boat ride, but individual servings of cottage cheese paired with fruit make for a protein-rich and satiating snack. Good culture and Nancy’s are both great, clean ingredient options.
- Cheese and Pepperoni slices: Lower key than a charcuterie but still a convenient savory snack. Applegate sells pre-sliced pork and turkey pepperoni slices that I like to pair with some raw sliced cheddar cheese. Another protein rich, satiating snack idea.
Top 5 Meal Prep Tips for Big Family Vacations:
In all honesty and transparency, meal prepping is not one of my gifts. I don’t enjoy it. Deciding what to make, figuring out what ingredients I already have, shopping for the ones I need, and then actually cooking and preparing the dish…I don’t really get excited for any of it. So one can imagine the cold sweats that ensue when preparing to meal prep for a family of 24! It’s a team effort and this responsibility never falls solely on one person’s shoulders for our family vacations, however, it requires a good bit of planning, creativity and often times multiple crock pots. Here are some of my best tips for preparing meals (specifically dinners) for a large crowd on vacation.
- Plan Ahead: A little planning goes a LONG way. Create a meal plan before your trip, taking into account the number of days, meals, and dietary restrictions of your family members. We are fortunate to not have any food allergies in our family so this makes life and options a lot easier. Thankfully though, for those families that do, there are now an abundance of resources available for recipes that accommodate the most common food allergies. Do a search for east Whole30 or Paleo dinner recipes and you will be immediately inundated with options.
- Batch Cooking: Prepare large batches of versatile ingredients like grilled chicken, quinoa, and roasted veggies to mix and match for various meals. These hearty, generic ingredients can be used not only for dinners but also thrown into salads and sandwiches or lunches as well.
- Bring Spices and Seasonings: One recipe calls for a tsp of smoked paprika and you’ve got to spend $6 (or more) for an entire bottle. It’s these little, specialty items that seem to rack up your vacation grocery bill in a hurry. Sure, you can buy it and bring it home and re-use it, but why not bring it with you if you already have it at home! It’ll save you some money on the grocery bill and prevent waste. By planning your meals ahead of time you are able to tap into your and your family members’ spice racks to see what can be brought instead of bought.
- Divide Cooking and Clean Up Duties: If you’re traveling with a large party and multiple adults and family units, talk about assigning a cooking and clean up day for each couple/adult member. This will avoid having the responsibility fall on the same person/people throughout the vacation and give each member a chance to sit back, relax and enjoy being served. This is something our family initiated very early on and it’s been one of the best decisions ever since. Each couple knows ahead of time which night they will be preparing dinner and are responsible for clean up and general tidying of the common area. It cuts down on stress and ensures that dinner will be ready at a reasonable time for hangry children.
- Include At Least One Free Night: This is a night when it’s every man for himself. When our family instituted this tradition, it was meant to give people a chance to go out and explore some of the nearby restaurants and give each family unit a chance to break off alone. Not to mention, seating a party of 24 at a sit down restaurant…I mean…yeah, no. Some people choose to just stay at the house and eat leftovers or pop in some frozen chicken nuggs, while others venture out to see what there is to see and eat what there is to eat. It’s one less night of meal prep and a fun change of pace.
Family vacation planning can be a lot of work! But it’s always worth it in the end. My hope in sharing these tips and insights is that it will help your family vacations be what they are meant to be…peaceful, fun, an escape from the daily grind and that you’ll be able to spend way more time making memories because you’ve done a little prep work beforehand. Sticking to our “typical” diet and eating habits isn’t necessarily easy to do while on vacation with other family units, and honestly, I don’t let it stress me. Low stress, having fun and easy peasy are priorities that take precedence during this once a year, unique opportunity we are blessed to have. Coming prepared with some easy, nutritious snacks and efficient meal prep strategies will help to ensure your family stays fueled and ready to make the most of your unforgettable vacation memories!