Whether you’re planning a family reunion in Chicago or a girls trip to Nashville, traveling with a group can be a wonderful way to foster community, enjoy your friends or spend quality time with your extended family. But it can also pose challenges — especially at mealtime. Dining out is frequently the vacation go-to, but costs add up fast and splitting checks can get complicated.
If you have access to a kitchen and supplies in your hotel or vacation rental, making meals can save you money and give your group even more quality time together. Of course, more people also means more shopping, more chopping and more cleanup. How to get it all done? Here are a few strategies for keeping it together while keeping everyone fed.
How to Grocery Shop for Group Vacations
Plan ahead. Don’t wait until the vacation to make team decisions about what to cook or who’s in charge of shopping. Work it out in advance, perhaps over email. Then, instead of dragging groceries to your destination — or dragging everyone to the store — go online and arrange for groceries to be delivered. Or call ahead and pick them up in your rental car upon arrival.
How to Meal Prep When Cooking for a Group
Divide and conquer. Ask each member of the group to be responsible for planning a meal. Or pick recipes where many hands make light work — a taco bar, for example, where each person can prep a different topping.
If you’re planning to cook a big meal later on your trip, check out this article for tips on what to prepare in advance to make day-of cooking a cinch.
Choose Easy-Cleanup Vacation Meals
Make it easy on yourself. Consider fixing one-pot recipes, like the chili below, which are easy to make and painless to clean up. Pre-prepared ingredients also reduce both prep and cleanup — pre-cut vegetables, for example, and pre-made sauces and dips. Also, don’t forget compostable or recyclable disposables to cut down on dishwashing.
Easy Group Travel Meal Recipe: Chili with White Beans and Scallions
Chili is always a crowd-pleaser, and it’ll make the cleanup crew happy, too, since it’s a one-pot meal. This version is a breeze to put together, with only a few ingredients to chop and prep.
For vegetarian travelers, a few simple substitutions can make this a tasty dinner for your group, too.*
6 slices thick-cut bacon
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds pork loin roast or boneless pork chops, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chili powder
4 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
2 cans (15 ounces) cannellini beans or other white beans
2 cans (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup sliced scallions
Cooking and serving utensils
Large saucepan or small stockpot
Measuring cups and spoons