We traveled lots last month – first spring break in Black Mountain, NC (aka: our second favorite place), and then to Puerta Vallarta to celebrate my mom’s 29th birthday. I don’t want to know what she would do if I put her age on the interwebs. We had so much fun in Black Mountain, as usual, and it was extra wonderful to escape to Mexico with just adults for a few days. I felt like it was my birthday instead of my mom’s.
We stayed at a place in Black Mountain that was 1) gorgeous and 2) remote. We knew that going in, but we had been wanting to try this neighborhood for several years, wanting to wait until the kids were a bit older. Since we were fairly far (20ish minutes) from town on super windy mountain roads, we only went into town once a day, usually for a morning hike followed by a late lunch. Usually, when we go on vacation, we prefer to rent a place with a kitchen, so we can cook breakfast, lunch, and some dinners in, and then go out for dinner the other nights. This time, we ate all of our breakfasts and dinners in and then went out for lunch. It was actually quite a bit cheaper since lunch menus are typically cheaper than dinner ones, which was an unintended benefit. Grant and I love going back to the same place because it feels like a second home for us – and now for the kids too as they get older. It makes for a very relaxing vacation, since we have our favorite restaurants, hikes, and things to do. We always add in some new stuff to spice things up too.
We have honed some of our vacation cooking habits over the years, and I thought I would share what works for us in case it helps anyone else. I would also love to hear your suggestions and traditions too!
- Google the farmer’s market before you go. This time, we were out of season for Black Mountain’s farmer’s market, but we typically love hitting up the Saturday morning market if possible. It’s a great spot to connect with locals too and get the scoop on the best local restaurants and stuff to do. Local Harvest is a great database of farmer’s markets around the country.
- Find a local grocery, market, or deli/butcher. This is easier in some areas than others, but Black Mountain has three great local options that we always hit up for local produce, meat, and other goodies. I recommend Yelping “local grocery” or “local market” in the location of your choice – I find this typically turns up good options.
- I typically am more of a bulk shopper, but on vacation, I like to take after many Europeans and shop nearly every day, especially if I have a few great markets to hit up. So we will stop at the market, see what’s the freshest or on sale and buy just enough for that night. This leads to less waste at the end of the trip and is an easy way to decide to what’s for dinner because there isn’t as much thinking involved when you’re letting what’s in season or looks the best decide for you. We mostly do a protein and lots of veggies. I don’t buy grains or other items that typically require me to buy other ingredients. My staples are typically: milk, olive oil, garlic, and onions. Roast some veg in the oven, toss together a salad, and throw some meat or fish on the grill – done and delicious!
- Fortunately, our family loves leftovers, so we try to leave a day in the middle or end of the trip for “clean up” meals.
- We let up a bit on our usual “food rules” on vacation. We never buy boxed cereal at home, but we let the kids pick out any cereal at the grocery store when we’re on vacation (this time one picked Lucky Charms and the other picked Crunch Berries — and then mixed them together! I cringed every morning). It’s become a tradition and something the kiddos look forward to.
- We typically pack in our own snacks from home. So I’ll make a big batch of granola and trail mix, plus pack our favorite bars for the road, to keep a squirrelly kid quiet, or for hiking breaks. I’ll typically let the kids pick a snack of their own too just to spice things up a bit from our usual routines at home.
- We head out on the first day to stock up on local beer. In the case of places we go frequently like Black Mountain, we even buy growlers from our favorite breweries and take them down with us to fill up throughout the week (and then on the last day to bring home!). Our kids still go to bed pretty early, so having a little beer tasting in the mountains after the kids go to bed makes it really seem like vacation. If beer isn’t your thing, try something local and unique to the place you’re visiting. Grant usually packs his coffee gear, and we love buying a few pounds of some locally-roasted coffee too.
- As far as finding restaurants, Yelp and Eat Well Guide are my go-to sources for finding local spots serving local fare. We have found some of our favorite restaurants around the country doing a little internet digging first.