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Ready to save money and time in the kitchen while on vacation? Freezer meals are the answer! I’ve rounded up the best make ahead meals for vacation, as well as expert tips for prepping and transporting them. My top picks for my family would be #12, 16, and 20 from this list.
Why Make Food for Vacation?
I’ve made food ahead of time and taken it on vacation for years. Not only has it saved us hundreds of dollars by eating in our hotel, condo, or cabin, but I spend very little time in the kitchen and a lot more time having fun with my people!
Whether you’re headed to the mountains (read about our Estes Park, CO trip) or the beach (read about our Destin, FL trip), I’ve rounded up 20+ delicious freezer meals to make ahead and take on the road with you. But, first, consider our expert tips before making your freezer meals for vacation…
Tips for Making Freezer Meals for Vacation
Choose meals that don’t require much work on the back end.
Sometimes freezer meals are fast to prep on the front end but require more work at the end. I intentionally chose meals that have most of the work on the front end, so it will only take you minutes to prepare on vacation.
Package and freeze them the right way.
The best way for storing most of these vacation freezer meals is either in a rigid freezer container with a lid or in gallon-sized freezer bags that you will freeze flat for easy stacking. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that air is the enemy of good freezer meals. So wrap your meals up really tight. Make sure your meals are frozen solid before transporting them.
What to Store Your Food In
Wondering what containers to store your meals in? We’ve got you covered. While we review freezer containers, many of these options work great for the fridge too.
Transport them the right way.
Stack your completely frozen meals in a large cooler and cover them in ice. They will stay plenty cold and mostly frozen in the cooler for 24 hours at least. You will need to add more ice after 24 hours. Even if your meals thaw a bit, it’s not a safety issue as long as they stay super cold.
Two of my friends used their Yeti coolers (and filled them with ice) last summer on their 15-hour drive to Florida, including an overnight stay on the way. They transported a week’s worth of meals and all of it remained frozen for nearly 30 hours!
Thaw them the right way.
As soon as you arrive at your destination, you’ll probably want to place several or all of your meals in the refrigerator right away to begin thawing. They can take 24-48 hours to thaw. You will need to use them within about 3 days of thawing. Or, use one of these other safe thawing methods.
Pick up and serve easy sides.
Keep things simple on vacation when it comes to side dishes. Make a quick trip to the store once you arrive at your destination to grab some simple sides to serve with each of these meals. Here are a few side dish ideas:
- Baby carrots, veggie sticks, and/or sugar snap peas with hummus or Ranch dip
- Store-bought guacamole and/or salsa and tortilla chips
- Lots of fruit to use with each meal (i.e. apples, berries, watermelon, peaches, etc)
- Salads in a bag
- Baked beans and coleslaw from the prepared food section (or use our 5-ingredient coleslaw recipe instead.)
- Applesauce (or make your own crockpot applesauce ahead of time and freeze it)
- A loaf of bakery bread, like Sourdough or Italian, and butter to go with the casseroles
- Prepackaged cooked rice
- Tator tots or oven fries from the frozen food section
25+ Freezer Meals to Take on Vacation
These make ahead meals to take on vacation have been well-tested by our families and our readers over the years. Not only are they a favorite among all ages, but they require very little work for you on the back end.
The magic of this freezer meal is that the taquitos go directly from freezer to the oven and to the table in no time. Serve with your favorite Mexican toppings, like guacamole, sour cream, and salsa, on top. Kids love these! (Or try our Beef Taquitos instead.)
Put together this crowd-pleaser casserole, do NOT bake, and then freeze. When you arrive, place in the fridge to begin thawing. Bake as directed. Serve “as is” or over your favorite pasta with a salad and some bread on the side. Super easy!
Another easy thaw and bake casserole option. This is a HUGE and very popular recipe, so you’ll have leftovers for another meal or two. My friend, Laura, made a few of these casseroles ahead of time for her entire extended family to take to their family reunion. It was a big hit and very low stress for her when she got there.
Perfect for lunch or dinner. All ages love these sliders.
A hearty, grab-and-go breakfast option. Warm up in the microwave in seconds.
Here’s another casserole that your family will love and that only requires you to pop it in the oven after it’s thawed.
8. BBQ Beef Sandwiches (or try Instant Pot BBQ Shredded Beef)
Cook and shred the meat ahead of time. Freeze it in the sauce. Then simply thaw and rewarm for a quick dinner. Corn on the cob, watermelon, baked beans, or easy coleslaw are all great side dish ideas for this one. Or, you may prefer BBQ Pulled Pork instead.
If you have access to a grill, this is an easy and tasty one to prepare ahead and grill later. Simply season your pork tenderloin(s) and place in a freezer bag according to the recipe. Thaw and grill at your destination. Leftovers are great on sandwiches with some BBQ sauce, too. Or bake this using our Oven Roasted Pork Tenderloin recipe instead.
If you have a slow cooker or an Instant Pot, this is a super simple recipe to prep head and make on vacation. Every age enjoys it, too. You’ll need mini buns, grated Parmesan, and Provolone slices on hand to complete the meal.
Budget-friendly, vegetarian, and goes straight from the freezer to the oven or microwave. Enjoy for lunch or dinner.
Perfect for healthy breakfasts and snacks! We’ve developed 7 delicious smoothie recipes to make ahead and freeze. Just add liquid to the blender, dump in your pack ingredients, and blend. Another one of my friends, Kelly S, made a week’s worth of these, packed them in the cooler, and hauled them to our beach vacation last summer. Brilliant!
This homemade veggie-rich Sloppy Joes recipe with a tangy-sweet tomato sauce is a family favorite. Double and freeze extras for later!
I love that these go directly from freezer to oven! Absolutely delicious for any meal.
17. Taco Bar Kit
Make some homemade seasoned taco meat and freeze it along with cheese and tortillas. When you arrive at your destination, grab your favorite taco toppings. When ready to eat, warm the meat and set up your taco bar. So easy and everyone’s happy!
A kid fave and so easy to bake. Serve with simple sides for a healthy dinner. Gluten-free options and naturally dairy-free.
19. Crispy Carnitas
A crowd favorite! Serve in tortillas with Mexican toppings of your choice. You can make these either in the slow cooker or Instant Pot once you arrive at your destination, OR cook them ahead of time and freeze the shredded pork in the sauce. This is gluten-free and dairy-free (if you serve without cheese).
Here’s a really easy meal to prep ahead–chicken breasts in your favorite marinade. We’ve given you 7 options of tasty marinades, several methods for cooking the chicken, and several ideas for how to use your cooked chicken.
This one works for breakfast or dinner, and it’s absolutely cheesy, bacony, and unforgettable. Make ahead and freeze before baking. Then, thaw and bake when ready to eat.
One reader suggested breakfast burritos or these because you can warm them in the microwave in a hotel room for a quick and hearty breakfast or lunch. Love that idea!
If you have access to a grill, make these flavor-packed burgers ahead of time and freeze the patties. Buy some frozen fries and a bag of salad as easy side dishes at the store, throw these burgers on the grill, and you’ll have a delicious, cheap, and easy dinner! (Or try Italian Sliders, Turkey Burger Sliders or Mini Chicken Burgers.)
25. Baked Oatmeal
We have so many delicious baked oatmeal recipes. They are simple to prep ahead and freeze, pretty healthy, and work for breakfast or dinner. I pair this with scrambled eggs or a Baked Omelette (which you can also make ahead and freeze). Here are your options:
Perfect for taking on vacation for breakfast or dinner. Everyone loves this simple casserole filled with hash browns, eggs, cheddar cheese, and sausage (or bacon). You can also add in veggies.
These are super yummy and easy to make! My crew loves them. Make the filling, build the casserole, and freeze before baking. When you arrive at your destination, put it in the fridge to start thawing so it’s ready for the oven. Serve with a simple salad (maybe our Mexican Chopped Salad) and chips and guacamole.
Healthier than frozen pizza, these customizable, individual “pizzas” go straight from the freezer to the oven or air fryer. Kids loves these.
Some quick meals for vacation can include sandwiches, wraps, salads, or pasta dishes using pre-cooked ingredients like rotisserie chicken or deli meat. You can also prepare simple breakfasts like yogurt with granola or overnight oats.
The #1 way to save money on vacation meals is to cook and eat simple meals where you are staying. An easy way to do this is by prepping and freezing some meals ahead of time to take with you in a cooler to have on hand. Meals like Creamy Chicken Taquitos, Breakfast Burritos, Turkey Pesto Paninis, On-the-Go Chicken Burritos, and Breakfast Sandwiches aren’t expensive and work well to bring along.
Absolutely! For camping, consider making foil packet meals with chopped vegetables and protein like our Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Foil Packets or kabobs such as Grilled Steak Kabobs or Honey Garlic Chicken Kabobs. Pre-made trail mix, Powerball Cookies, and dried fruits work well for quick snacks.
How to Make 6 Freezer Meals in Just 1 Hour
Here’s possibly the best vacation solution of all! Check out 1 Hour Freezer Prep. We give you everything you need to throw together 6 DELICIOUS, family-friendly meals in just 1 hour!
Friends, we’ve taken all the guesswork out of batch cooking for you. We give you everything you need, including simple instructions, an organized shopping and equipment list, dairy-free and gluten-free substitutions, and even pre-filled freezer labels. Check out what one session includes…
Vacationing with friends? Here’s an idea. What if each of you made a different 1 Hour Freezer Prep Session and then swapped some meals so everyone had a variety to choose from?
I hope this list of make ahead meals helps you save money and time on vacation, so you can relax and enjoy your time away!