Ready to get some tips about keeping travel food costs low, and providing healthier eating options while traveling? Tonya is here to share all about what necessities she packs when she’s planning on cooking in a hotel room on vacation. It’s the latest in our A to Z packing tips series, so welcome Tonya!
Are you a frequent traveler who tires of take-out and dining in expensive restaurants? Maybe you love to eat out on vacation, but are simply looking for ideas to reduce your budget so you can travel more? I’ve been in both situations. My husband sometimes spends more time on the road with his job than he does at home. He abhors fast food so when I visit him, so I’ve learned to prepare easy home-cooked meals in a hotel room- even when a kitchenette isn’t available. It may surprise you, but I’ve become pretty good at cooking in a hotel room.
Beef and Bean Burritos, Reuben Sandwiches with Corn on the Cob, Tortellini, Brussel Sprouts and Garlic Bread, and Filet Mignon with Boiled Potatoes and a Garden Salad are a sampling of the items I’ve prepared over the years, using items from my portable kitchen.
Necessities for cooking in a hotel room will vary based on the type of food your family enjoys eating. While traveling, I often seek out meals that are incredibly easy and budget friendly.
These are some of the items that I include in my travel tote:
I travel with a large tub of disinfecting wipes so I can wipe down all the surfaces in the hotel room. Yes, I know, that may be a bit overkill for some of you. At the least, you’ll want to disinfect the area where you’ll be cooking.
2. A Vinyl Flannel-Backed Tablecloth
I lay this down on the desk, or area where I’m cooking to protect the surface and as a bonus, it makes clean-up super easy.
3. A George Foreman Grill
I used to travel with a skillet and single burner, but now I prefer to use this handy item. This little grill allows me to cook warm sandwiches, garlic bread, quesadillas, hot dogs and even steak, for those times when we throw the budget out the window.
4. A Jr. Frydaddy
Forget the oil and greasy fried foods, this item is amazing for boiling water, cooking soups and pasta, and steaming vegetables. This has become one of my favorite portable kitchen items and has extended the variety of meals I can cook so I don’t need to rely on the microwave foods. Did I mention that it boils water really quickly?
A bonus- this item comes with its own colander so I no longer need to pack one.
5. Basic Cooking utensils & dishes
I started out using paper plates and plasticware but decided it was more ‘home-like’ and saved money in the long run if I traveled with plastic plates, cups, and bowls and purchased an inexpensive set of silverware for the road. I also make sure I have a serving bowl with a lid (for leftovers- yes, we do have them), a mini-cutting board, knife, and can opener.
I’m a firm believer in spicing things up in the hotel room- so I travel with my portable spice container.
7. A plastic tub, drying mat, dishcloth and dish washing liquid
Clean-up in a hotel room isn’t nearly as bad as it is at home. With limited dishes and no pots and pans to dirty, I can clean in a matter of minutes. I simply wipe down my George Foreman Grill, wash out my Jr. Frydaddy, and wash my dishes in a plastic tub and lay them on a drying mat to air dry. I pour the dirty water down the toilet, wipe off the tablecloth and pack everything pack into my tote. It really doesn’t get any easier.
8. A Cooler
While you’ll ideally reserve a room with a refrigerator, I’ve had times when one hasn’t been available. You can remedy this problem with a small cooler and ice from the hotels machine. It’s not as convenient, but it should still save you money.
Keep in mind that I’m an avid road tripper so it’s easy for me to pack this from destination to destination.
Are you ready to give cooking in a hotel room a try? What would you add to the contents of my tote?
Tonya Prater is a wife, mom and travel blogger who dreams of living as a nomad. A former full-time RVer, Tonya loves road trips, roadside attractions, and national parks. She shares travel tips, destination reviews, and things to do in the US at The Traveling Praters.
Thank you Tonya for your tips for cooking in a hotel room! Check out all the other great posts in our A to Z packing list series:
Alcohol & Wine, Building Lists & Plans, Chargers are a Must
D’s to Remember, Embark on a Cruise, First Aid Kits
Games for Any Family Trip, Hiking with Dogs, Inside My Bag
Jewelry Packing Tips, Kids Travel Bag Activities, Laundry on Vacation
Master Packing List Template
Friday 8th of July 2022
What a great post! Thank you for all the tips. I never thought of bringing my George Foreman grill. We live in Europe(Spain) and they don’t have kettles in hotel rooms, so I bring my own. I also bring a gadget called a Remoska, which is a deep pan with a lid that has a heating element. It works like a mini oven. I have used it in hotel rooms before. I’ve never heard of a fry daddy. But to cook rice or pasta I use my kettle (rice in a sachet or freshly made pasta). Most hotels have a microwave for guests to use ( mainly for baby food) so I could use that as well. My husband is going to have major surgery in the big city far from home. I’ll stay in a hotel nearby. If I ask someone to drive us there in the car, then I can take all this stuff and it will save me a lot of money. Thanks for your suggestions. Lisca
Tuesday 4th of May 2021
Where did you get your take it to go bag?
Tuesday 4th of May 2021
Hey Cynthia -- this was a guest post, but it looks like a thirty-one large utility tote to me: https://www.mythirtyone.com/us/en/collection/large-utility-totes.
Saturday 17th of April 2021
Thank you SO much! This is the most useful post on this topic I have found! I'm about to stay in a hotel with just a microwave and minifridge, for a week, with 7 kiddos. I thought the room had a kitchenette, but it doesn't, so I'm scrambling on how to make do! I love the cleanup tips and fry daddy and spices tips! You're a genius!
Monday 22nd of July 2019
I’ve considered bringing a small crock pot. That way I can prep the stuff in the morning and leave it while I’m busy going/doing. The reason I end up eating out is because after a full day of sight-seeing and walking around, I absolutely don’t want to spend another hour or 2 prepping and cooking a meal! But with a crock, you can easily prep in the morning before adventures, and no worries when you get back. Just serve it and cleanup.
Monday 22nd of July 2019
I love using a crock-pot even when at home for the same reason!
Friday 21st of June 2019
What about the smoke detectors? Wouldn't they go off?
Sunday 23rd of June 2019
I wouldn't think it would be any different than if you're in your own home cooking. Just avoid burning anything or creating a lot of smoke and you should be fine! :)