Beach Vacation Meal Planning: Easy Ideas for Family Meals

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Tips and tools for making beach vacation meal planning easy and customized to work for your family. 

Beach Vacation Meal Planning

Why Meal Plan on Vacation?

Heading off for a beach vacation brings up dreams of sandy shores, clear waters, and lazy days soaking up the sun. But here’s a question: Why bother with meal planning during your getaway? Well, it’s not just about saving time and money. It’s about making sure your beach trip is as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Here’s why I choose to meal plan on vacation, and why I think is totally worth it!

  • The money we save by cooking some meals allows us to spend more on experiences such as mini golf, boat rentals, and go-karting. 
  • You’ll always have the answer to “What’s for dinner?”
  • Planning ahead allows plenty of time for some meal prep to be done before vacation. 
  • When you know the groceries you’ll need before you leave, you can have them delivered instead of spending hours in a crowded grocery store during your vacation.

Vacation Meal Planning Templates

The perfect tools to plan and organize your vacation meals.

Vacation Meal Planning Template PDF pages

Vacation Meal Planning Template
PDF Version

Vacation Meal Planning Template - Google Sheets

Vacation Meal Planning Template
Google Sheets Version

People eating at a restaurant

Planning to Eat at Local Restaurants

Having a meal plan doesn’t mean you have to cook every meal on vacation. One of my favorite things to do while on vacation is enjoy some of the local restaurants. It’s a good idea to do some research and pick out the places you want to eat before you get there. Decide how many meals you want to eat out, then plan to cook the rest of the time. You don’t have to cook every day of your week-long vacation. 

  • ​It’s typically cheaper to take the whole family out to lunch than dinner, so plan some lunches out.
  • Opt for dinner restaurants with large servings and plan to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. 
  • If you have older kids, order them pizza one night and go out for a date night dinner for two. 
North Captiva Island Beach Rentals

Choosing a Vacation Rental

If you plan to cook some of your own meals on your next vacation, there are some things you need to consider about where you are staying. Instead of staying in a hotel room, look for places like a beach house or a beach condo. They will usually have a full kitchen that includes a stovetop, oven, microwave, and the all-important coffee maker. 

Before you plan all the meals for your family vacation, check to see if your vacation rental has any specialty appliances. 

  • crock pot
  • air fryer
  • coffee pot
  • toaster
  • access to a grill
  • oven
  • coffee maker – Ask what type of coffee maker (drip, Keurig, etc.) so you’ll know what kind of coffee to bring. 

You’ll also want to check for cooking equipment and storage containers in your vacation rental:

  • ​mixing bowls
  • containers to store leftovers
  • paper products
  • cutlery (I like to bring my own kitchen knife.)
  • large frying pan
  • baking sheet
  • large pot
  • can opener

Easy Beach Vacation Meal Planning

The most important thing to remember as you plan meals for the week is to keep it simple! Select easy meals with a short list of ingredients. Vacation is not the time to try a new recipe. Use your family favorites that are easy to prepare. Here are some of our go-to meals on vacation. 

Beach Vacation Meal Planning - Breakfast Ideas

Quick Breakfast Ideas

  • Fresh fruit
  • Scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • Frozen waffles and syrup
  • Muffins
  • Yogurt with granola
  • Cereal and milk
Beach Vacation Meal Planning - Lunch Ideas

Easy Lunches for Your Beach Vacation

  • Hot dogs – Young children especially love hot dogs! They only take about 30 seconds to microwave, making them perfect for a quick meal. 
  • Pasta salad – Make a large pasta salad early in the week and enjoy it for lunch several days. 
  • Chicken salad – Pick up a rotisserie chicken and whip up a quick chicken salad. Pita pockets are a great way to make quick sandwiches. 
  • Tuna salad – Another great option to serve on pita bread. 
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – Get frozen ones already made, or make them yourself. A PB&J with a tall glass of cold milk makes for a filling meal. 
  • Pork sandwiches – Pick up some BBQ sauce and buns to use with the leftover Pulled Pork from dinner.
  • Carnitas tacos – Here’s another option for leftover pulled pork. Grab corn tortillas, a red onion, limes, and cilantro. 
  • Frozen pizza or pizza rolls
  • Sub sandwiches and chips
  • Bagged salad kits – Caesar salad pairs well with pasta meals. I also like to add leftover grilled chicken to Caesar salad for a lunch option. 
Beach Vacation Meal Planning - Dinner Ideas

Easy Dinners the Entire Family Will Love

Remember, the goal is to plan easy meals. Vacation is not the time to try new recipes or make dinners that require a lot of prep time. Here are some quick meals we love to make while on vacation.

  • Taco Night – Set up a taco bar and let everyone make their own tacos. Include things like taco meat, flour tortillas, corn tortillas, shredded lettuce, sour cream, shredded cheese, and jalapeños. 
  • Spaghetti – This is one of our go-to meals on every family vacation. It’s inexpensive to make, and we always make extra so leftovers can be used for lunch the next day. 
  • Pulled Pork in the Crockpot – We like to serve yellow rice and black beans as side dishes with this meal. Then we use the leftover pork for BBQ Pork Sandwiches or Carnitas Tacos. 
  • Frozen Lasagna – This totally counts as cooking. 
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Patties – They cook in 15 minutes then throw on some cheese, fresh lettuce, and fresh burger buns for a quick and easy meal.
  • Grilled Chicken – If you have access to a grill, we like to make grilled chicken with easy side dishes like mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and a bag of frozen veggies. Any leftover chicken can be used in salads for lunch the next day. 
Beach Vacation Meal Planning - Snack & Treat Ideas

Don’t Forget the Snacks and Desserts

It’s vacation! There will likely be a little more snacking than usual, so be prepared with a mix of healthy snacks as well as some sweet treats. 

  • Fresh fruit – Whole fruits such as apples and bananas are portable and easy to toss in a tote bag to take to the beach.
  • Cookies 
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Ice cream
  • Pretzels
  • Goldfish crackers 
  • Fruit cups or applesauce
  • Pineapple Mango Salsa – great dip for tortilla chips and to serve on top of grilled meats
  • Popsicles
  • Chex Mix
  • Nuts
  • Salsa and tortilla chips
  • Brownie bites
Vacation Meal Planning Video Walkthrough of how to use the Google Sheet

Making Your Grocery Shopping List

Now it’s time to make your shopping list. Go over your meal plan and add all necessary ingredients for each meal to your grocery list. Take your time so you don’t miss anything. A little bit of extra effort before you leave will be worth it when you’re taking in those ocean views!

The best part about making your grocery list ahead of time is that you have the option of ordering your groceries. Find a local grocery store that delivers or can have your groceries ready to pick up when you get there. The few extra dollars for this service will save you a lot of time and get you in your beach condo quicker. 

Best Tips for your Vacation Meal Planning

  • Cook extra for leftovers – Making a little extra on the nights you cook dinner will turn into an easy lunch the next day.
  • Don’t plan too many lunch options – Because you will have leftovers from some dinners you cook and dinners you eat out, you won’t need a new lunch option every day.
  • Plan simple recipes – Opt for meals with a few ingredients and easy preparation.
  • Meal prep before your trip – Do as much work ahead of time as possible. Chop vegetables and freeze them in plastic bags. Make a casserole and freeze it. Freeze your homemade spaghetti sauce.
  • Get some seafood – Things like fresh fish and fresh shrimp are usually cheaper in beach towns. Take advantage of this by working some seafood into your meal plan.
  • Take turns cooking – My husband and I take turns cooking at home and on vacation. We also let our older kids prepare some of the meals while on vacation. Don’t try to do everything yourself. It’s your vacation, too!
  • Pack water bottles for every family member – Being out in the salt air and hot sun is going to make you thirsty. We like to pack drink mixes like Crystal Light or powdered Gatorade for quickly mixing up a large batch every morning.
  • Make an easy meal the first night – After packing, traveling, and unpacking, you are not going to want to cook that first night. Consider making a casserole ahead of time and freezing it. It will have time to thaw while you’re traveling, then you can easily pop it into the oven when you arrive at your beach house. 
  • Get your groceries delivered – This is THE best thing about vacation meal planning. Since you’ve done the work ahead of time, you already have your grocery list ready. Order your groceries online and have them delivered giving you extra time on that precious first day of vacation. 
  • Bring a cooler and ice packs from home – Pack some of the meal prep items in your cooler, and use the cooler to take lunch items down to the beach during your stay. 

The next time you plan a family trip or vacation, give vacation meal planning a try. You’ll not only save a ton of money but having a plan for meals will maximize your time to relax and enjoy every minute of your vacation with your family. 

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Beach Vacation Meal Planning

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