Isn’t vacation time the best!! Getting away from your normal routine, getting out of town, and spending time at the beach or in the mountains. The last thing you want to do is spend your whole vacation in the kitchen making dinner. If you are traveling with a large group it can be difficult to go out to eat for every meal. Planning to make dinner at home for a big group on vacation is much more economical. It just takes a little planning to make sure you are prepared.
Every summer in July all my extended family heads off into the rustic wilderness of the Boundary Waters. We have a few nice cabins we stay in that have fire pits, grills and full working kitchens. A couple weeks before we leave, the meals (dinners) are planned between all the families. We have 50+ years planning these dinners so we have mastered how this works!
I’m excited to share some tips and tricks and GREAT menus with you! Read on for 30 meals including side dishes to help making your group vacation dinners a little easier…
Planning all the dinner menus ahead is CRUTIAL to make sure everything runs smoothly. Here are some things to think about when planning:
- Plan who is making the main entrée each night and who is bringing side dishes to complete the meal.
- Plan what dinner will be had on which night so each family can plan.
- If you plan on grilling check the weather so you know which evening is best to light the grill without rain!
- Make sure your lodging has the cooking supplies and plates/silverware/cups you need.
- Don’t forget to get supplies for a few breakfast and lunches… more on that later.
- Think about feeding kids… they never want to sit down for dinner. This Kid’s Charcuterie Board is a great way to feed kids when they just want to be running around playing!
- Do a final head count to make sure you purchase the groceries you need.
- Make sure you are doubling or tripling the recipe to feed your whole group. On Mom’s Dinner you can hover over the “servings” on a recipe card and move the slider to change the amounts when you are making the recipe for more people.
- Double check any food aversions and allergies to make sure everyone will have something to eat at each dinner.
- Make sure you have enough dinners for all the nights you are staying on vacation. But plan the last night as a “leftover” night, more on that later…
Only Plan Dinner
For large group vacations I do not recommend planning meals for breakfast and lunch. Just make sure you have some supplies for people to make their own breakfast and lunch (lists below).
At breakfast time, especially on vacation, everyone gets up at different times, likes different breakfasts (sweet vs. savory), or has different plans for the day.
Lunch is similar, some people don’t eat lunch, only want to snack, maybe they got up late and ate “brunch” instead. Or there are usually leftovers to eat up or maybe a fun lunch place to check out.
Breakfast Supplies to Consider
- bagels and cream cheese
- packaged muffins, breakfast bread or pastries
- granola bars
- eggs and toast
- frozen breakfast sandwiches
- yogurt, fruit, and granola
Lunch Supplies to Consider
- store bought soup
- grilled cheese
- turkey and/or ham sandwiches
- veggies and fruit
- peanut butter and jellies
- mac and cheese
- frozen chicken nuggets
- bagged salad
If there are multiple families or multiple adults, plan on splitting dinner duties. Have each family take at least one dinner. They can plan the main entrée and then the other families can help fill in with a side dish or two and/or dessert.
Make It Semi Homemade
Just like in this post for Feeding House Guests, I recommend that you take some help from the grocery store or your favorite restaurant. Making 50% of the meal homemade and 50% purchased.
Some ways to think about making dinner semi-homemade:
- Meat from your favorite BBQ Restaurant.
- Dessert from a great bakery.
- Bagged Salad.
- Side dishes from your grocery store deli.
- Salsa from your favorite Mexican Restaurant.
- Rotisserie Chickens.
- Frozen Meatballs (Costco is a great place for these!)
If you are like my family we make enough pasta to feed an army, or grill enough hamburgers or hot dogs for double the amount of people that are actually there. My best advice is plan for the last night to be a leftover night.
Either you can’t haul all the leftover food home with you on a plane or you just don’t want to go through the mess of packing it all up.
Sometimes this is my favorite meal of the vacation… you can have a little taste of everything you ate on vacation. A true buffet of flavors.
Make Ahead Meals
On vacation the last thing you want to do is be stuck in the kitchen for half the day, every day. If you are traveling to vacation by car you can make food ahead and bring it in a cooler.
Large cuts of meat that you can cook and shred ahead of time are your best friend for feeding a crowd on vacation! Or a soup that can be frozen (and some are better with time anyway, like chili!).
Barbacoa Tacos or Instant Pot Chicken Tacos: soft and hard taco shells, salsa, cheese, shredded lettuce, sour cream, (add your family’s favorite taco toppings), chips, guacamole, Mexican Rice, 15 Minute Refried Beans, Cilantro Pineapple… and Margaritas if you’re up for it!!
Instant Pot Italian Beef: crusty rolls (something like ciabattas), provolone slices, extra pepperoncini, Pasta Salad with Veggies, French Fries doctored up with parmesan and garlic powder (or this truffle salt is NEXT LEVEL and great on popcorn too!), fresh fruit salad
Chicken Noodle Soup: saltine crackers, “tea” sandwiches (turkey and ham with a little mayo and mustard on small buns), raw veggies (carrots, celery, cucumbers, sugar snap peas) with ranch or blue cheese dip, warm crusty ciabatta bread …. and if you have picky eaters this Chicken Noodle Soup for Kids is great too!
Beef Ragu: pasta (about 5 people per pound of pasta), parmesan shaker, store bought Caesar Salad, Garlic Bread
Super Easy Dinner
Keeping things easy is always welcome on vacation. These dinner menus can be put together in a breeze, leaving you more time to chill on vacation!
Fish Stick Tacos: corn or flour soft taco shells, jalapeno tartar sauce or classic tartar sauce, cilantro lime coleslaw or store bought coleslaw, fresh lime wedges, pickled jalapenos, Mexican Rice, 15 minute Refried Beans, chips with salsa
Chili Dog Bar: Buns, Chili for hot dogs, shredded cheese, diced white onions, sauerkraut, ketchup, yellow mustard, jalapenos (fresh or pickled), relish or dill relish, diced tomatoes (or add other family favorite toppings), Chips, Pickles, baked beans, store bought macaroni salad, potato salad
Taco Bar: Ground Beef Taco Meat, hard and soft taco shells, salsa, cheese, shredded lettuce, sour cream, (add your family’s favorite taco toppings), chips, guacamole, Mexican Rice, 15 Minute Refried Beans, Cilantro Pineapple
Meatball Subs: highly recommend the frozen beef meatballs from Costco (Kirkland Brand), store bought Caesar salad, chips, seasonal fresh fruit
Baked Cajun Salmon: Cajun Aioli, store bough boxed Cajun rice or dirty rice (like Zatarain’s), or you can make this skillet dirty rice, roasted broccoli or asparagus, Sweet Cornbread Muffins, honey butter
Supper On The Grill
Double check that your lodging has a grill and that it is usable for a large group. Also check if you need to provide your own charcoal/charcoal chimney/grilling utensils. Or if you need to “reserve” the grill area plan that ahead of time… but make sure you reserve it on a non-rainy night!
Grilled Steak Tacos: flour or corn soft taco shells, pico de gallo, tortilla chips, guacamole, Mexican Rice, 15 Minute Refried Beans, fresh fruit salad… since you have the grill on this Grilled Tomatillo Salsa is great too!
Soup for Dinner
As long as it’s not 90+ degrees outside soup can be a great option for a large group. Add some warm crusty bread and maybe a green salad, dinner is simple and comforting.
Instant Pot Beef & Barley: store bought bagged kale salad and crusty warm ciabatta bread and butter
Classic Chili: saltine crackers and Fritos, sour cream, green onions, shredded cheese, raw veggies (carrots, celery, cucumbers, sugar snap peas) with ranch dip, sweet cornbread muffins with honey butter
Instant Pot Creamy Potato Soup: “tea” sandwiches (turkey and ham with a little mayo and mustard on small buns), store bought bagged kale salad and crusty warm ciabatta bread and butter
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup: saltine crackers, “tea” sandwiches (turkey and ham with a little mayo and mustard on small buns), raw veggies (carrots, celery, cucumbers, sugar snap peas) with ranch or blue cheese dip, warm crusty ciabatta bread
Instant Pot Recipes for Dinner
I know there are a lot of die hard Instant Pot lovers that travel with their pressure cookers. Which is actually a great idea if you have room to travel with it and you have electricity access where you are going. Especially in the summer it is a great way to make dinner without turning on the oven.
Instant Pot Hamburger Soup: “tea” sandwiches (turkey and ham with a little mayo and mustard on small buns), store bought bagged kale salad and crusty warm ciabatta bread and butter
Instant Pot Swedish Meatballs: Mashed Potatoes or Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes, you can also serve them over buttered egg noodles if you don’t want to use mashed potatoes, store bought bagged salad, oven roasted carrots, garlic bread… or if you don’t have an Instant Pot check out these Swedish Meatballs
Instant Pot Chicken Chili: Fritos, green onions, diced white onions, jalapenos, sour cream/ Greek yogurt, cheese, fresh avocado, and/or cilantro, tortilla chips with guacamole, and pico de gallo, store bought bagged salad
Instant Pot Beef & Noodles: store bought bagged salad, oven roasted broccoli, garlic bread
Easy Desserts for a Crowd
By all means if dessert isn’t your jam, just open a bag of Oreos and everyone will be happy! Or pick up a few dessert options at a local bakery. Or plan to go out for ice cream!
But if you have a strong sweet tooth, these are some great desserts to plan that are easy to make:
- Blueberry Crumble and Ice Cream
- Frosted Banana Bars
- No Bake Chocolate Pot de Crème with Whipped Cream
- S’mores if you have a fire pit, or Oven S’mores if you don’t
- Cherry Pie Bars or Apple Pie Bars
- No Bake Cookies
- Chocolate Sheet Cake with Pour On Frosting
Cocktails for a Group
If you have a group that likes to have some beverages wine or bubbly is always a great and easy option (make sure to pack a cork screw!!!). But if you want to partake in some yummy cocktails, here are some easy options when you have a crowd: