When I was growing up, vacations consisted of long road trips in the family van. Though I will always cherish those memories, after days of eating food out of a box or whatever we could get from a drive-through window, the meals on these vacations left much to be desired. I love that traveling with an RV means no more eating out for every meal or settling for peanut butter sandwiches day after day. However, I won’t deny that packing food and meal planning can be time consuming and quite stressful as you prepare for your trip.

Planning ahead for three meals a day plus snack options and multiplying that by the number of vacation days can seem like a ton of food and can be overwhelming to say the least. I’m finding it much easier to have a list of “camping” meals in circulation whenever we travel. This saves time by cutting down on decision making and allows you to keep a master list for grocery items needed. I like to pick meals that are easy to put together, can be prepared ahead of time and keep me out of the kitchen as much as possible. After all, it’s my vacation too and while I’m happy to provide meals for our family, I want to be out relaxing and enjoying the fun with the rest of them.

Prepping the food ahead of time - more time for enjoyment on the road

Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful in simplifying meal planning and preparation when vacationing.

1. Start by listing out the total number of meals you will need for each time of the day (ex: 3 Breakfast meals, 2 Lunch, 2 Dinner).

2. Next fill in your list with travel friendly meals but keep it simple. Try keeping a list of your favorite “camping” meals to refer to each time you plan a trip. Avoid meals that require a lot of hands-on time or an excessive amount of dishes. Also, make sure you consider the amount of space leftovers may take up in your fridge. While it is so handy to have leftovers available, too many large items will make you wish you planned ahead as you work to find space for everything in your refrigerator like a jigsaw puzzle. While it may go without saying, another item to take into consideration is what kitchen appliances will be available to you. If you’re camping without power, stick to a meal that can be made on the stove or in the oven. Examine your meal list to make sure you are not reliant on the use of a microwave, toaster, hand mixer, etc.

3. Gather your recipes. Before vacation prep starts going into full swing, I like to make sure my recipes will be where I can find them. Consider making copies of each recipe that you can keep in your RV at all times. Keeping these recipes together in a folder or small container where you can easily refer to them will keep you from having to “wing it” off the top of your head at meal time.

4. Make your grocery list. Whether you’re meal planning for a vacation next week or 3 months from now, making your grocery list ahead of time takes one more thing off of your to do list when it’s go time. With your meals all listed out go through each recipe listing what ingredients you will need. You can do your shopping for non-perishables ahead of time or shop for your list all together as your vacation approaches. Either way having your list already made lets you cross one more thing off of your to do list. If you stick to the same meals each vacation, you may want to create a master copy of this list to refer to the next time meal planning comes around.

5. Do what you can at home ahead of time:

Pre-cook: For vacation meals I like to have meat or raw, messy foods cooked ahead of time whenever possible. Not having to handle raw meat in the RV makes things faster, cleaner, and easier which is a win for me. Buying things like pre-cooked bacon, preparing taco meat at home, or grilling up chicken in advance for salads throughout the trip means I can whip up something quick when meal time comes around.

Another item I like to pre-cook is French toast or waffles. I make these at home in bulk and they hold up great in the refrigerator or can also be kept long term in the freezer if done far in advance. I’ve found the easiest way to reheat these on the go is in the toaster but of course the oven can do this just fine for times when power is not available. Pairing this with pre-cooked bacon and prepared fruit makes for a fancy breakfast without all the fuss.

A great tip for adding eggs to the mix is to scramble your raw eggs at home and store them in an easy to pour container. When meal time comes around you can cook these up in a flash without the messy hands or raw eggs shells to deal with. If you prefer, store bought liquid eggs keep this process clean and simple as well.

Prepare: While I love all the great kitchen features in our RV, I find it so helpful to do lots of the prep work at home while I have more space and access to a dishwasher. I do as much chopping as I can before I leave home. This makes for less prep time before each meal and keeps things condensed in the refrigerator for easy storage. To help encourage healthy snacking on the go, I also wash and pre-cut our fruits and vegetables.

6. Fridge Organization. While it may be hard to stay organized in a much smaller refrigerator than you’re used to at home, it only took a few trips in our RV for me to realize the benefit of keeping things orderly. I like to group each of our meal items together as much as possible. Our refrigerator comes with two removable bins for food storage. For meals with lots of ingredients, I like to assign one meal per bin and keep as many ingredients as will fit inside. For example, one bin holds the ingredients for tacos and the other bin holds our sandwich fixings. When meal time comes around I don’t have to root through the fridge pulling out a million different bags or containers. For meals with fewer ingredients I like to group these together on their own shelf when possible. Everything is right at my fingertips and easy to find.

Organize the Fridge

I hope these simple tips and reminders can help you keep it simple as you plan and prepare for your next trip. Do yourself a favor - plan ahead and get some of the work done in advance. Remember a little time upfront can keep you out of the kitchen and free to enjoy your vacation however you please. Happy travels!


Emily Helgeson
Author: Emily HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Emily Helgeson lives with her husband and two children in Eastern Washington. They enjoy adventuring together and are learning how to use their RV to continue this lifestyle with their growing family.


+1 #2 Jean 2018-03-01 16:40
I'm a seasoned (70 years) camper, but you have some great tips I hadn't thought of. One more: The last thing I want to do after a long, tiring, road trip is head for the kitchen and cook. So I have a home freezer full of soups, sauces, broths, meat loafs, etc. to quickly heat and serve. Easy to do- just make a double batch for regular at-home meals and freeze half. These are also handy to put a couple containers into the trailer for quick on-the road meals, or pull out for unexpected company..
+1 #1 Kevin 2018-03-01 01:24
Pre-cooking is great. YOu should also "bake" your bacon at home. The cooked bacon keeps well in the freezer and can be reheated in a pan just like raw bacon, only faster!

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