Prepping for vacation.... (Very long)
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  1. #1

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    Default Prepping for vacation.... (Very long)

    Okay, there was a request that I tell more about cooking foods ahead for my vacation. There really isn't a whole lot to tell (sorry!) so I am going to share about my whole process for getting ready for vacation. Some of this may be helpful for others, who knows?

    About 6 weeks before we go to the beach, I start getting really itchy to get there now. So I start checking out the websites for the places we go. Maybe a little crazy, I know, but it helps get me in the right frame of mind to actually get things done so that I am virtually all packed and ready to go (other than actually putting things in the car.)

    About one month prior to going to the beach, I tell DH that it is time to start eating foods only from the pantry/freezer, etc. I try to use up as much of the food that we already have as possible. This helps ensure stock rotation, and it also helps to save a little money before we go on vacation, as we don't spend a whole lot on groceries during this time period. This also ensures that if there is an extended power-outage and the freezer food is spoiled, we haven't lost as much. I am not a big menu planner, but if ever there was an appropriate time for menu-planning, this is it.

    I also make a list of the things we need to take with us that will be shared amongst other family members (my parents, sisters, and their entire families go, as well as one sister's in-laws.) These include things like paper towels, toilet paper, napkings, soap, garbage bags, etc. The houses we stay at generally have a small supply of most of these, but it is our responsibility to ensure that we have enough to last the whole week.

    After I make this list, I e-mail my Mom and sister(s) (depending on who is actually staying in the same house as I am) and determine who is going to bring what. I try to volunteer to bring the things I already have on hand. As it turns out, this year I am bringing almost everything, as I have spares of hand soap, plastic bags, etc. The only extras we need are laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and foil. I gather all these things (yes, it is a month ahead of time, but it will save me from thinking about it later) and put them in a box to take with me to the beach.

    I know you are thinking, "But aren't there stores at the beach?" The answer, of course, is yes. But it costs a lot more to buy most things there, and I am a car-packing engineer, so I'd rather take much of it with me. We don't take a whole lot of food with us anymore, as we did the first couple years (after a dozen years there, we are pretty adept at grocery shopping there- staples are purchased at Save-a-lot, and produce and fresh meats, etc are purchased at Shop Rite), but we do like to have toilet paper when we get there in case the people before us didn't leave any- it is no fun to have to rush out to the boardwalk bathrooms when you are trying to get settled in.

    Speaking of food, at this point (still a month ahead) I try to think of food items I WILL be taking with me. These include things I want to buy in bulk (snacks for adults and kids alike) or things I am picky about brand that I don't want to have to hunt down at the beach. I pick up these things at BJs, keep my eyes peeled for sales, and get my bottled water ready to go.

    I do like to make certain food items ahead of time to take with me to the beach to save time and money while I am there. For instance, last years I made dozens of waffles ahead of time in many varieties (nut, sprinkles, chocolate chip, cinnamon brown sugar, blueberry, etc.) I take one or two days, a few weeks before the trip, and go nuts with the waffles. I buy my mix at BJs (Aunt Jemima) and even including electricity and add-ins, it is still a LOT cheaper than buying frozen waffles at the store, and INFINITELY cheaper than buying breakfast out. Also, it saves me a lot of time. I make the waffles in the waffle maker, then freeze them laid out neatly (not stacked) on a cookie sheet. As soon as they are frozen, I put them in large freezer storage bags and squeeze out all the extra air. I try to make at least a dozen of each variety. My nieces and nephews thought this was great fun- we just popped them into the toaster for a quick breakfast.

    I also made lots of pizza dough last year. I didn't pre-shape or pre-bake them or anything, though if I start now, it would be smart to do that this year. I just made about 12 or 14 doughs all at once using my KitchenAid mixer and lots of spare bowls. I let them rise once, then punch down and freeze. At home, I generally use individual 8-oz cans of tomato sauce to make pizza (not frugal, but very convenient.) On vacation, I planned on making two pizzas a day for lunch (again, everyone likes pizza and it was convenient- defrost the dough ahead of time, and the whole thing takes less than 1/2 hour) so I can get larger cans. I also take pre-shredded cheese. I use the store bought pre-shredded kind because in my mind I justify it by saying it is cheaper than buying pizza, but honestly, it wouldn't take a whole lot of work to buy a big block of cheese at the store and throw it in the food processor, then toss with a tiny bit of flour to keep it from sticking. I don't generally freeze the shredded cheese, but if you wanted to, you could, since it will be used for cooking anyway. I take along my pizza stone and my pizza cutter, and lunch is available any time we choose to have it. (Cold pizza also makes a great snack or beach treat, and it travels well in foil or plastic bags.) With 15ish people, it is no problem off-loading 2 pizzas a day, and any extras can travel home with us, since the dough is kept frozen until the day before it is needed. (Pizza makes good travelling food, too.)

    I used to make tasty pastry snacks, too, to help prevent trips to the bakery. I don't really do this too much anymore. I don't want you to think we don't enjoy good food on vacation- it is more that we don't eat EXPENSIVE junk just because it is convenient. We still enjoy all the must-haves on vacation (Buzzard's water ice, fries on the boardwalk, last-night dinner at the Crab House, a wrap from Brad's, and let us not forget a pecan waffle at Uncle Bill's Pancake House on our first morning there, etc...) but we take some of the focus off of eating, and save our wallets from feeling the full pinch. I'm always on the lookout for a few easy staples to make-ahead and freeze.

    Once I get all that stuff in the freezer (it travels to the beach in a cooler with no problems- it survives the 5 hour drive fully frozen) I move on to giving the house a good tidying, which is a challenge for me. However, nobody likes to come home to a messy house, plus you never know when there will be an emergency and someone has to go in your house, so you want things to be orderly. I hate this part, but it must be done, and it also helps with packing, since all the laundry is done and you know where everything is.

    At this point, I begin thinking about what I am going to wear at the beach and look for good deals on anything I may need to buy. I start to make a mental list, which comes before the written list.

    About a week before I go, I start actually packing my clothes and other things I will not need in the week before I go. I make a list of what I am taking, and when I am done packing, I put the list in my suitcase to make sure everything makes it home with me. And I actually try all these things on to make sure they fit okay and don't need any attention (like spot-treating or mending.) Other than the trying-on, I do the same for DH and DD. It's just easier than waiting for DH to do it. I try to make sure this is all done by Sunday, as I work MTW, and then if I need to buy anything else, I can do it Thursday with plenty if time to get everything else done.

    I also make lists of everything else that needs to get packed, and gather it up. This includes toiletries, beach toys, chairs, books, radios, etc. I try not to take any of DDs very favorite toys, in case they get lost, and thankfully, she isn't so attached to a lovey or anything that we need to take one with us. I don't take too many toys for her, but you never know when you are going to get stuck with a crummy day and will need some toys or videos.

    I also let my family know that I will be bringing the common travel medicines- I get everything from the hospital pharmacy at cost, so I pick up the Tylenol, Immodium, tums, lidocaine (after-sun), etc. I plan to pick up whatever I don't have on Monday the week before we leave- this way, if I forget or don't get time to pick it up Monday, I still have two more days to get it w/o having to make a trip into the city, which wouldn't really be worth the savings. I also make sure I have band-aids, etc, at this time.

    One of the last things I do in this long preparation is to make a list of things that need to be done in the last day or so before leaving. We have no pets, so I don't need to worry about that. But I do make sure most things are unplugged, that houseplants have plenty of water, that the pool is in order (it actually looked MUCH worse the year we had someone care for it for us, so now we just put a ton of chlorine in it before we go, and it is perfect when we return,) the mail has to be stopped, etc. I also get out into my garden (which this year is sadly empty) and I get it weeded and harvested.

    Then, on the last day, I follow this list. I put ice cubes in plastic bags in my freezer so I can tell if things have melted. I tape my freezers shut. I put toilet bowl in the toilet (JUST before leaving.) I make sure everything is turned off that needs to be turned off. I turn down the water heater. I pack the car the night before we go. (We leave at 2 or 3 in the AM to stay out of traffic- it saves us a lot of time and fuel- we don't need the AC nearly as long, and we just aren't sitting in traffic the way we did one year. Our 5 hour trip actually took us 9 hours!)

    Lastly, I take a shower, pull my hair back, and put on travelling clothes (a t-shirt and comfy shorts neither of which I would normally like to be seen in public wearing.) I dress DD in comfy clothes, too, then we set the alarm and go to bed. When the alarm goes off, we get up and head out the door, and everything is already ready for us.

    I know this seems like a ton of work for a vacation, but it really only adds up to a little bit here and there, and isn't bad at all. That is part of the beauty of doing so much ahead of time. We really, really, enjoy our vacation and want to get the most out of it, and prepping like this makes that possible.

    Hopefully this will have helped someone- if not, it has at least gotten me a little more organized in how I do things for my own upcoming vacation.

  2. #2
    Registered User dwallyfam's Avatar
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    Kimberly I do almost the same thing when we go to the lake. This way it is much easier to get there and come back. Glad to know people actually do this. DH makes fun of me because of it.

    Kellie

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    Registered User Early Bird's Avatar
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    Thank you.

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    Member Darlene's Avatar
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    Bravo! Wishing you & yours a wonderful time!




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    Registered User Mom23boys's Avatar
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    Thank you for sharing Kimerly. I did learn a few tips that I hadn't thought of. I never of making waffles ahead of time and taking them with you to save on time and of course eating breakfast out every morning. Great idea!! I also like the pizza dough idea!!

  7. #6

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    Thanks a bunch!!

    This year we are having our first 'real' vacation - renting a condo at the beach! I definitely appreciate your advice!

  8. #7

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    Valerie, somehow I missed your post. We always like to rent a place at the beach because it ends up being cheper in the long run, and we can all (many, many of us) stay together. This year, there will only be 16 of us- usually there are 23-27 of us, so we are only renting one house this year instead of two (but it does have two units.)

    We are also dragging along my best friend, her husband, and their baby. They stayed in a hotel last year, and they are renting a condo this year.

    I hope you have a great time- we go to the same place every year because it really facilitates spending time together as a family relaxing. If we were having to check out everything new every year, we'd always be on the go. We used to do 2-3 vacations a year, before DD, but now we are lucky if we have 2. We do make a lot of long weekend trips to my parent's lake place, though.

    If you don't mind sharing, where will you be going?

  9. #8

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    Oh, and Valerie, I wnted to add that you definitely want to keep traffic in mind when you plan your trip. The year we didn't was miserable and took almost twice as long. Where we go. most rental are Sat to Sat and are open at 1 or 2 pm. If we planned our trip to arrive then, we wouldn't get there till much later, because EVERYONE plans to arrive then. And you also hit weekend beach traffic from people who live nearby. Yuck. Something to think about.

  10. #9
    Registered User SammeyG's Avatar
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    What some great tips. Very useful.I want to try to plan a vaction with my brother, sister-in-law, nephew and mother this year. Or atlest in the winter. I live in a tourist town and those are our off months. But I will keep some of these tips in mind if we go.

  11. #10

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    Kimberly, somehow I missed your replies as well, but I had this thread bookmarked for the great ideas.

    We are going to the Oregon coast, near Newport - Dh wants to surf. It will just be the four of us, in a one-bedroom ocean view condo. Queen bed in the bedroom. Queen hideabed and full hideabed in living room. Probably we'll put the kids to bed in the bedroom and them move them when we want to go to bed.

    I really wanted the ocean view because, sometimes, it takes an hour for the kids to eat. At least while we're waiting, I can gaze out. Or if it rains, we can watch the storm from the comfort of our place. Also the tiny u-shaped galley kitchen will allow me to watch waves while I cook. Or if the kids really need to go to bed, dh & I can watch the sunset from our windows.

    I ordinarily do a lot of freezer cooking and think I will stick pretty close to what I do at home. We'll have a few meals out, to be sure, but - like many here, I'm sure - I cringe at the cost.

    Oh, and we're going there on a Monday, so traffic won't be a problem. Unfortunately, we're returning on Labor day.

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    Registered User Libby's Avatar
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    My family is planning a drive down to Atlanta from Ontario. Since we take the family van we can pack a lot I just bring enough clothes and toiletries that need to be finished that I can throw away while Im down there. This goes for both toiletries and those period panties - yes ladies, you know the ones that we can use once more and throw away b/c they've served their purpose.

    We pack the car full of paper goods b/c one never does know what the rest stop entails and sometimes we um... have to make our own rest stops Hand Sanitizers and anti bacterial wet wipes are our friends. We bring bottled water - mostly my sister goes through a case in a day - yes she drinks that much. This year I think Im going to bring a case or two for her and a few 4L/1 gallon jugs for me to refill my reusable water bottles. Can always refill at rest stops. We bring munchies and diet pop from up here as the ones down in the US have a slightly different taste. And if we're planning as I think we are -sandwhiches, fresh fruit/veggie sticks for first day along with our trusty kettle, instant noodles/soups, instant coffee w/whitener for late nite stops. Plus the set of travel dishes/cutlery.

    Over our years of travelling - we just bring what wont spoil on us so canned goods, prepackaged snacks/crackers etc and the rest we buy fresh on the road. Travel mugs are a must too and b/c Im a bit of a neat freak, yes there will be a garbage can in the car at all times Maybe a Glade Ultra Spray for the rest stops - should need arise!
    Last edited by Libby; 08-18-2006 at 03:23 AM.

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