Our 1st Real Food Vacation (sort of…)

Well, I think it’s finally settled down enough around here that I can type up this blog post.  Last week we returned home from our first BIG family vacation in over 3 years.  (Yep, that means this was the first real vacation we ever took our boys on…for a reason!  We have three kids…there are only two of us…)  🙂  Anyway, we spent 4 days at Disney World followed by 3 1/2 days on the beach in Siesta Key.  It was mostly a great vacation.  I say this because my kids (ages 4 and twin two year olds) don’t always make traveling, sleeping, and just relaxing in general easy for me, but they had a lot of fun experiencing Disney for the first time and I loved seeing it all again through their eyes!

Meeting Minnie Mouse - my daughter's favorite character!
Meeting Minnie Mouse – my daughter’s favorite character!
After Disney, we spent lots of time swimming in the ocean and building sandcastles!
After Disney, we spent lots of time swimming in the ocean and building sandcastles!

I decided I would like to write a post about how we ate on our first ‘real food vacation.’  Before I go any further with this, I want to say right away that I had NO INTENTION of eating only real foods for the entire vacation.  Not only would this have created a TON of stress and work for me, it’s probably not even realistic.  Can it be done?  I’m sure.  But I’m not there yet…

We left EARLY on a Friday morning and didn’t get home until LATE Sunday the following week.  So, in total, we were gone for 10 full days.  Going into the vacation, I already knew I wasn’t going to be too hard on myself or make this vacation any more difficult than it was already going to be at times (remember…three little kids).  For the last 10 months, while home, we’ve done really well eating only real foods and avoiding all the processed stuff.  And, really, it’s been great.  My husband may complain from time to time (because he misses some of his old favorites), but I actually enjoy this way of eating over the old.  I feel healthier.  Plus, I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking new recipes!  And my kids?  They honestly never even noticed we made any changes.  So, how did it go?

Well, here is a quick recap…

I started with really good intentions.  For our ALL DAY long drive to Florida on Friday (we live in northern Indiana), I made sandwiches for all of us using homemade bread, nitrate-free lunch meat, cheese, and mustard.  I put organic grapes in individual baggies for the kids.  I packed bananas and peeled clementines.  I also purchased several types of boxed “natural” snacks from the grocery store ahead of time that I don’t usually buy.  These were our “treats” and I knew they would prove beneficial to have handy when the kids got bored in the car or while standing in line at Disney. I also packed a container of mustard, jam, peanut butter, plastic knives, some spoons, paper plates and lots of plastic baggies!  I try to avoid baggies at home (using reusable containers when I can), but sometimes convenience wins out.  Besides, I had no desire to wash dishes in our small hotel room after long days in the parks.

I may have overdone it on boxed snacks…  😉

I guess we'll pack that cute little boy in the background too.  ;)
I guess we’ll pack that cute little boy in the background!

I don’t usually buy all this boxed stuff.  And, for a second, I actually started thinking about buying the cheaper, ‘typical’ processed snacks that we used to buy.  But…I couldn’t do it.  I looked at the labels and saw ingredients that are known to cause hyperactivity in kids, cancer, disease, etc.  It just wasn’t worth it to save $20.  It’s hard to see what’s in this picture, but I have several boxes of Annie’s natural/organic snacks, organic applesauce cups/squeezes, raw cashews, some Back to Nature peanut butter cookies (which I really liked), and a few cereals.  I also bought a loaf of bread because I knew mine wouldn’t last long enough once we actually arrived at Disney.

I thought about MAKING more snacks before we left, but I’m learning that sometimes homemade snacks don’t travel as well, especially when they’re going to be eaten in OUR van.  A lot of my foods crumble easily (especially when being eaten by two year olds!) and they also don’t last longer than a few days without being frozen.  So, by the time we got to our hotel in Florida, these snacks would already be 2 days old and nearing the end of their life.  I decided to make my life a little ‘less stressful’ and just buy a lot of our snacks.  The kids were definitely excited about all the new stuff I pulled out throughout the trip!

Fruit, fruit and fruit (with two little bags of baby carrots)!
Fruit, fruit and fruit (with two little bags of baby carrots)!

Check out all that fruit!  We like fruit in this house and I’m so glad I brought so much of it with us.  These same items were crazy expensive at the food court at our Disney hotel.  It was so nice to have fruit on the drive down and then some to take into the park with us each day.

Our food plan while at Disney was to eat a quick breakfast in the hotel each morning (dry cereal, granola bars, fruit, etc.).  I then packed a collapsible cooler each day filled with baggies of fruit and sandwiches for each person (either turkey or pb&j).  I also had an extra bag with dry snacks (cheddar bunnies, fruit snacks, cashews).  We planned to eat dinner in the park each day, along with buying one fun snack (ice cream, etc.).  This plan worked great for the whole time we were in Disney World.  We saved a ton of money (and avoided upset stomachs from too much grease or sugar).  We also ate a lot of our food while waiting in lines (which helped alleviate boredom for the kids).  By the time late afternoon came around, we were usually ready for something different and we then ordered whatever we came across…

Like these ice cream treats while waiting to watch a parade.
Like these ice cream treats while waiting to watch a parade.
Or these corn dogs we all ate for our dinner one night.
Or these corn dogs we all ate for our dinner one night.
Or this M&M covered rice krispy treat while waiting for the Electrical Parade to begin.
Or this M&M covered rice krispie treat while waiting for the Electrical Parade to begin.

Eating at Disney went just as I had planned and I was happy with that.  The real, natural foods I brought from home balanced out nicely with the artificial, ‘theme park’ food we also enjoyed.

After Disney, we traveled to our condo in Siesta Key where we would be staying for less than 4 days.  At this point, the only food we had left was boxed snacks and clementine.  We went shopping at Wal-Mart shortly after arriving…on empty stomachs.  Uh-oh…

All sorts of things went into my cart that I hadn’t purchased since last December!!  Now, before I tell you what I put in my cart, I will say this first.  I don’t feel guilty about it.  And I didn’t read any labels.  I had three days left on vacation and I didn’t want to worry about it at this point.  And, yes, I was VERY hungry.  So what did I buy?  Double stuffed Oreos, donut holes with sprinkles, Lays potato chips, Dean’s French Onion dip, strawberry fruit popsicles, a pre-made pizza for an easy dinner, and other items I can’t even remember anymore.  Oh, and my husband bought some chocolate candy bars that I may or may not have enjoyed with him.  😉

I cooked a real meal one night, but the ingredients weren’t as good as what I use at home nowadays.  I made baked nachos using ground beef, a packet of taco seasoning (no MSG), cheese (I still shredded it myself), regular tortilla chips, and a tomato.  Not horrible, but not great compared to our new standards these days.  We went out to eat one night and we had pizza the other two nights.  I can tell you this about the last few days…  I ate WAY too much food.  I think a lot of this was because I knew that in just a couple of days we’d go back to our regular food routine again (plus, we just simply bought too much food for only three days).  I didn’t go crazy, but I will admit I had some fun eating things I haven’t had much of in the last year.  I miss Oreos.  (I’ve seen recipes to make them myself, but it seems like a lot of work…)  I miss seeing a new dessert and just buying it without thinking twice about the quality of the ingredients…  I miss these things sometimes, but yet I have no desire to actually eat them ALL THE TIME.  It was fun to have a few days off from our regular life, but now I’m glad to be back home and eating ‘normally’ again.

Overall, I think this was exactly the type of ‘real food’ vacation I was looking to take.  I planned ahead and made smarter choices for half of the time and then didn’t even think about it for the other half!  I got my Oreo fix and now I’m good…until our next vacation.  🙂

There…  that was my HONEST account of our vacation.  Just keeping it REAL for you!

Hard at work!
Hard at work on the beach!  🙂

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14 thoughts on “Our 1st Real Food Vacation (sort of…)

  1. I LOVE this post! We faced a similar situation this summer, traveling to Alaska (from PA) to visit family. I did pack some snacks, like nuts, trail mix, & my favorite non-GMO granola bars . . . but we ate very differently while there, staying with family and spending many hours on the road (our family that lives up there are 8 hours apart!). It felt good to not be so stressed out about food–knowing we were on vacation and it was only a limited time we would be eating like that– (and yes, while visiting my sis-in-law I had a vanilla chai tea latte EVERY DAY(!)–sometimes 2 a day!!). It was also fun, once we got home, for my kids (a daughter and twin boys, also!) to tell me just how much they missed my green smoothies while we were away ;).

    1. Hi Janine! Glad you liked the post. 🙂 As much as I would love to say we ate only real foods the whole time we were gone, it was definitely so much simpler just to relax and not overthink it! It was a vacation for my brain too. ha! How neat that you have a girl and twin boys too…how old are yours? Thanks for the feedback! I love to hear from readers. 🙂 ~LeAnn

    1. Hi Tanya! I’m finding that it’s really hard to find cereals or snacks that have only ingredients that I would use in my own kitchen (which is the guideline I try to follow when reading food labels). When we’re home, I typically try not to rely on these items. For breakfast, I make pancakes (in large batches to freeze for the toaster), toast with a variety of toppings, scrambled eggs, smoothies, etc. For snacks we eat a lot of fruit, air-popped popcorn, and string cheese. However, I do realize that occasionally life is a lot easier when you can buy store-bought snacks and cereals (and, as you read, I relied on them quite a bit during vacation)! I really like Annie’s brand of snacks (which can be found in the natural food aisles). They still have some ingredients that I try to avoid, but overall, it’s a really good brand with high quality products…fruit snacks, cheddar bunnies, granola bars, etc. As far as cereal…I’m still trying to find good ones. Some brands are better than others, but I was really disappointed to find “caramel color” when I read the label on two of the brands of natural cereal I bought while on vacation (Barbara’s and Mom’s Best Cereals). As always, the best tip I can give is just to read labels and don’t buy anything with ingredients you wouldn’t use at home. Hope that helps! There are lots of good brands out there…I just haven’t had enough time to find them all yet! 🙂

      1. Thanks! I get completely overwhelmed by all of this whole, real food stuff. I by no means eat that way, but still like to provide my children with a balanced healthy food. I am addicted to sugar and junk food junkie, but better control what they have than myself. :). I am active though so that is a plus. I am trying to think about some healthier snack options and breakfast ones too. Just hard to know where to start!

  2. I think you did great for travelling with kids 🙂 We have some theme parks near where I live and every time I go there I take my own food because the food they have there is expensive and not nice at all!

    This weekend I’m going away to the beach with my parents (they live in another city so they’re flying up, then we’re driving together). They don’t eat the way I do, so I’m planning on packing some supplies of my own, then we’ll probably go shopping once we get there.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Liz! 🙂 I did the ‘best I could’ without killing myself with stress and worry every minute…and still allowing for a little bit of the ‘fun stuff.’ Good luck with your eating when you’re traveling this weekend!

  3. I agree, you need a vacation for your brain, too! I loved how you wrote about not reading labels and not feeling guilty (I did the same thing!) . . . for me, it was difficult to stop at gas stations and let the kids get beef jerky and chips . . . but it made them happy and made the long car rides very silly and fun! . . . and they laugh now when we are out somewhere and they can say, “But you let us eat this in Alaska!” My daughter is 15 and my twin boys just turned 9 (we adopted all 3 of them in 2007, so our daughter was 8.5 at the time and the boys were 2.5).

    1. Janine, wow! I bet 2007 was a busy year for you guys!! Yes, it was definitely hard at times to watch my kids eat certain foods (as it always is when we go out)…but I know that I have to let them make their own decisions at times too. I don’t want them going crazy every time I’m not around in the future just because they are deprived of the “fun stuff” that they see so many other people eat. I figure if I can “control” the majority of what we eat at home, then hopefully that will help prepare them to make better decisions once they’re on their own (because they will have experienced eating processed foods too). My daughter will now take a bite of cake/dessert somewhere and not want to finish it because “it has too much sugar.” I definitely did not train her to think that way! She’s just learned that certain foods are way too sweet for her tastes now and she doesn’t like them as much (I’m still working on it….). 🙂

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