I have been traveling a lot recently. Or I should say, I’ve been tagging along for travel a lot recently. My other half will have a continuing education conference in Milwaukee, a professional development course in Seattle, or an industry leadership roundtable in Vegas. And I get to tag along for the ride and sample new hotel rooms.
So far, my favorite hotel is the Westin in Kansas City, mostly because it has an outdoor, temperature-moderated, full-length lap pool available year round. That's pretty awesome. Last week, I spent a good portion of my time in the pleasant Chicago Hyatt Regency. The vistas from the 24th floor are stunning. And over the next few months, I'll be sampling a few more hotel rooms.
The real challenge when I travel is what to eat. I don’t really like to traipse around cities on my own, so I spend many hours alone in the hotel room. With a laptop and internet connection, I can keep up with just about everything including recipe writing, Etsy listings, and remote work for my day job. Solitude and sweeping vistas is a recipe for getting a lot of work done.
But what to eat? I hate eating alone in restaurants. If I’m going sit there, alone, I’d rather not go. And while I could dine on room service, there’s no way I’m shelling out that kind of cash. So if I want to eat in the hotel room, I have to bring food with me.
One solution is to grab some convenient pre-packaged food at the grocery store (like crackers, granola bars, puddings, fruit cups, cookies, etc). There are plenty of options that don’t require refrigeration and most are super tasty. But most pre-packaged convenience foods are also loaded with sugar and preservatives. Tasty, yes. Healthy, no.
So after a hungry couple of trips surviving on meager hotel rations, I began to work out a menu of convenient in-room hotel food. I wanted a well-rounded menu with fruits and vegetables and proteins - and a few treats to keep me from going crazy. The list below may seem obvious now, but it took me a couple years to come up with this menu. That’s why I’m sharing with you. Now the next time you travel, you can easily pack food to stock your hotel room. Or, if bringing all that food with you is prohibitive (like on airplanes), you can stop by a local market on your way to the hotel, armed with this list of menu options.
Best of all, none of these items require refrigeration or cooking.
- Roasted nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, walnuts)
- Smoked jerky
- Peanut butter
- Rolled oats (stir into hot water from the in-room coffeemaker and let stand for 10 minutes; add raisins for passable oatmeal)
- Laughing Cow cheese (individually wrapped)
- *Babybell cheese (*only if you have a in-room refrigerator)
- Edamame (frozen or fresh)
- Baby carrots
- Grape or cherry tomatoes
- Apples, pears, bananas, clementines, mandarins, peaches, nectarines, grapes, apricots
- Dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, etc)
- Ultra-Pasteurized milk (in individual single-serving cartons); no refrigeration necessary but you can always chill in the in-room ice bucket
- Bottled water
- Bread, rolls
With a little creativity, you can easily build a solid breakfast and lunch by mixing and matching from the above categories. I don’t typically bring more than 5 or 6 food items with me, but the more variety, the less bored you’ll become.
Here are some of my favorite menu combinations:
- Granola with milk and banana
- Oatmeal with raisins, banana and almonds
- Oatmeal muffin with peanut butter and a clementine
- Carrots with peanut butter and raisins, apple, milk, and a cookie
- Smoked jerky, carrots, apple slices with peanut butter, and milk
- Bread with cheese, edamame, tomatoes, and milk
- Celery with peanut butter and raisins, pear, brownie and milk
- Radishes, smoked jerky, edamame, grapes, cookie and milk
Just don’t forget to bring something to prepare your food. Below are some bare necessities I find particularly helpful. But I admit, I’ve been quite resourceful in the past, crafting a spoon out of the foil wrapper from a yogurt container.
- Metal or plastic bowl
- Metal or plastic knife
- Spoon and fork
- Resealable bags
The next time you plan a trip, take a few minutes to plan your hotel menu. Bake up a batch of brownies or cookies, bring along some homemade granola, and raid your fridge for fruits and vegetables. And don’t worry - just because you bring enough food for survival, doesn’t mean you can’t dine out. If you’re like me, after two meals in the hotel, you’ll be ready to treat yourself - and appreciate - a “real” meal out on the town.