By Marla Cimini
For family travelers, choosing a family vacation rental with a kitchen (or small kitchenette) can be a true lifesaver, especially when preparing fast meals for children on the go. Most importantly, planning a few food items in advance can save time and money on vacation, while still providing healthy dinnertime options for the entire family.
These easy kid-pleasing meals are a recipe for a stress-free family vacation:
“Wrap” it up!
Easy to prepare in advance, colorful and healthy wraps are ideal for a laid-back dinner. Rolled in flour tortillas, a few hits include avocado and cheese; turkey, cheese, lettuce and tomato; and peanut butter (or almond or cashew butter) and jelly. Best of all, parents can get creative when making wraps, and add all sorts of favorite combinations that their kids love to eat. An added bonus: Wraps take up less space in the refrigerator than classic sandwiches, and can be cut into small portions that are easier to hold than sliced bread or rolls.
Italian pasta delight
Luckily, pasta is usually a big winner at mealtime, as it comes in fun shapes and sizes. When preparing a children’s pasta dinner, it’s best to choose bite-size varieties, such as penne or rigatoni, while avoiding the more cumbersome and hard-to-manage linguini. It’s a snap to boil pasta (and to store leftovers in the fridge for later) and top with a light sauce of olive oil or butter and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Then toss in any type of steamed or sautéed fresh vegetable, such as broccoli, zucchini or sliced cherry tomatoes. Or puree the veggies to hide them in a prepared tomato sauce. You can also add grilled chicken strips, which can be bought ready-made.
Easy pizza bagels
A tremendous crowd-pleaser when vacationing with your family, pizza bagels can be prepared in a flash. An alternative to making pizza dough from scratch, you can simply slice a bagel in half and add a variety of toppings that your kids love—like cheese, tomato sauce and pepperoni. After a few minutes in the oven (or toaster oven), your pizza bagels will be finished—and ready to feed your hungry crowd. Served alongside a garden salad, these crispy mini-pizzas can put a smile on the face of even the pickiest eaters.
Egg salad sandwiches
Convenient to transport just about anywhere, hardboiled eggs hold up well when traveling. A classic easy and nutritious meal, egg salad sandwiches are satisfying and delicious. After peeling and chopping, eggs can be mixed with a dollop of light mayo and a simple shake of salt and pepper in just five minutes. Served on whole grain toast with lettuce, plus a pickle and pita chips on the side, this casual, filling dinner makes an egg-ceptional meal.
Sloppy Joe Sliders
A traditional kid-friendly dinner, Sloppy Joe sliders are a fast favorite that can be made in about 10 minutes. While the tomato sauce (with spices such as chili powder) can be bought or made ahead of time, the ground beef, chopped onions, carrots and garlic get browned together in a stovetop skillet and added to the sauce. Lightly toast the mini-burger buns and top with an individually sized portion of the sizzling Sloppy Joe mixture. Serve hot…and watch them disappear.
Freelance journalist Marla Cimini has a passion for travel, music and culinary adventures (combining all three whenever possible). Her articles have appeared in USA TODAY and numerous publications worldwide. She is co-author of the book, A Century of Hospitality, a historical exploration of U.S. hotels.