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Group vacation food

Anyone have experience going on a vacation with a group of friends and dealing with buying/bringing/preparing the food?

My experience for a "fun weekend getaway in the mountains" is so far not fun based on the 75-100 emails back and forth about what should be brought, who will bring it, who will pay for it, who will eat/not eat it, etc.
This may be my last group vacation unless someone has some advice!!

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  1. Elect one or two persons (volunteer yourself?) to be responsible for food. Agree on a per/person budget or at least a "not-to-exceed.) Agree that the responsible party will do all menu planning and shopping within that budget and that's it, no more input.

    Everyone else can STFU, and focus on having fun.

    1. It can be pretty tough. Just went on a canoe trip. I took responsibility for all food (buying preparing packing etc) and we split the cost evenly - simply because I couldn't be bothered to deal with the back and forth. People could make special requests, which were accommodated. (But a canoe trip is also pretty different considering the challenge of no refrigeration and the fact that you need to carry all your food around and hang it from the bears...so you don't have as many options)
      If you don't want to take charge of all the food, then assign meals to people. If there is one person in particular who can't eat a lot of what's being suggested, then that person can bring alternatives for themselves.
      Personally, I find that snacks on these types of trips are pretty important...they can make up for a mediocre meal.
      Hope you have a good time

      1. we assign responsibility and schedule a meal for each "pod" or family or group including drinks. let people know how many adults and children they are preparing for. they are also responsible for clean up. it's great because not one "group" is strapped with everything. if people have food allergies, etc., they are responsible for having food for themselves that they can eat themselves.

        good luck.

        1. We travel only with like minded people in terms of food. One of the women and I do all the food planning, shopping, and cooking. We always have too much good food. We always have fun. We collect $ from others if needed. I always have a traveling kitchen ready to go.

          1. I went on a six day houseboat trip with two other families. Each family had to provide two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners. One meal per family per day. It worked out pretty well. The one picky eater on board looked a bit glum sometimes, but was polite. It was nice to have one family totally responsible for a meal, while the others goofed off.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Glencora

              This is a great plan. My trips with friends usually involve everybody bringing a ton of food and a lot of it being thrown away, lugged home or eaten out of guilt.

            2. You've described the weeks leading up to our yearly family get-together perfectly ... The solution an aunt came up with (and it works perfectly) is that one person is in charge. She assigns breakfast/dinner shifts to each of us. We give her our menu for the night in advance, with a grocery list. She does all of the grocery shopping, we reimburse.

              The only flaw we've found with this plan is that clean up always falls to the same 3-4 people ... so next year clean up duties will be included in the meal schedule. That will go over well :D

              1. I could write a book on this subject. A group of about 10 of my friends and I have met for an annual or semi-annual camping trip/beach house get away for about 15 yrs now and I can empathize with your apprehension!

                You've received some great pointers so far. I'd like to suggest that if you and your friends all live in the same general area you should have a pre-planning session one evening instead of sorting it out by e-mail.

                Keep things simple. We usually hike and picnic so we are each responsible for own lunches and usually bring a treat to share with others. Other meals are divided amongst couples.

                So we don't get cabin fever and kill each other, we plan at least one dinner out. The mandatory stop on the way to our destination is usually to the town closest to where we'll be staying. We break up into groups of 3-4 and do research, get menus, restaurant hours and phone numbers, flyers relating to local entertainment, then we reconvene to make further decisoins. We are of unlike minds but I guess our research misson really builds comraderie.

                Keep in mind you won't go hungry and that you are there for the company, R & R and adventure.

                1. Well, when I've done getaways like this its usually with folks who have similar thoughts on food...so that helps.
                  But the easiest way to do it is to assign meals to each couple and/or individual...and let them cook that meal for everyone. You might want to consider making lunches an "everyone bring your own" kind of thing: folks can bring sandwich makings, fruit, chips, etc and set out a table full of stuff. The same thing works for snacks....

                  For the meals that you assign, assign it and then let the cooks do their thing and don't worry about it. Maybe a group email about allergies, or absolute can't haves can be sent out...and if you get no response, then assume everything is ok.

                  Try not to worry too much about money. It will be more or less even if you follow this plan.....and if one couple/individual/family can't/won't cook, then they can do takeout for "their" day.....

                  1. In February, I went on a ski trip with some friends of my husband. We were all supposed to bring food to share and plan meals. My problem was that the emails were going to him, not me. Eventually, I emailed another woman in the group who likes to cook and she added me to the mailing list. It's a good idea to make sure the most cooking/food-bringing oriented person is included in the email, if there are couples.

                    My suggestion is to make a list of meals and come up with some ideas that are easy to prepare or can be done in advance and reheated if necessary. Excel spreadsheets work wonders for keeping track of who is bringing what. Don't forget important items such as cutlery, plates and napkins. Also, large batches of snacks are great if they are things than can be kept in a fridge or at room temperature and eaten as desired.

                    1. On my yearly group vacation, we have everyone bring whatever they want for breakfast and lunch and snacks for themselves, and then dinner items to share. We always have more food than we need this way, and avoids the group emails.

                      1. There are several ways to approach it depending on the circumstances. Here are several.

                        1) Is there someone who really loves to cook and wants to do it? I used to be taken on several ski vacations a year. I like ski resorts but hate skiing and cold weather, The people I woudl travel with with provide me with a room, all the food, etc. and I would cook to my heart's content. When they got back from the slopes, they would serve and clean up.

                        2) My mother would cook for 30 for two weeks at the family fishing camp every August. She would freeze a lot of the food up to a month in advance and use that to cover some of the meals. At the end of the trip, she would settle up for all the meals.

                        3) When my mother died and my brother took over, he did the same ... but people got too picky. Then everyone went back to cooking for their own families. I prefered this as my brother could cook what ever he wanted and did not have to make everything bland for the crowds.

                        Personally, I am not into group travel too much. If I was goign to do it again, I would have people take turns preparing meals and everyone pay for the meals they are responsible for preparing. And I would have a meeting far in advance to lay out what the expectations are.

                        BTW, what KILLS group events like this are a bunch of !#$$%^ who have to be catered to for their tastes. Granted, some items like liver and onions should be avoided but pick a menu that will appeal to most and run with it. I always figured that if i did not like something being served, there was enough other food around OR there would be something to make a sandwich with,

                        Hope that helps.

                        1. We go on vacations a few times a year with friends and have for many years. For a while I was the only girlfriend and if I let the boys take care of the food there were always disasters so I eventually just took over. I know my friends food preferences fairly well and I would just say that I was going to buy the food, cook one or two of the nights and get stuff to grill or make yourself for the other meals.
                          Generally I do this via email and the first email includes:
                          a)what I was planning on making for the group dinner(s), snacks, and other grill items that will be available
                          b) I was planning on spending __ amount per person, is that okay with everyone's finances
                          c) are there any special requests
                          d) I am not planning on providing X please bring your own of that (generally beer/wine)

                          Since I started this when we were in our early 20's and are now in our late 20's early 30's this has worked out even with the addition of new girlfriends & friends.

                          Perhaps I am a control freak but I like to cook and I just prefer to take over. Also, my lovely friends often offer to make certain meals that they are good at and clean up. Good luck it should be fun.

                          1. I agree with many of the other folks here: assign whole meals to one person/group of people and let them make/bring what they want and spend however much they want.

                            When we have family reunions (at least twice a year) there's about 30 of us, (grandparents, their four kids and spouses, and we grandchildren). If we're getting together for a weekend gathering, that breaks down into four main meals (Friday and Saturday night dinners, Saturday and Sunday lunches) and everyone is on their own for breakfast. If we're gathering for longer, then each group is responsible for two meals (or two of the groups work together on a blow-out meal). (My grandparents are now "retired" and have no cooking responsibilities, though my grandmother still insists on bringing a collection of home baked cookies, which are always devoured.)

                            One of the key things that we've learned is to serve customizable meals (since we've several no red meat/pork eaters, a couple of ovo-lacto vegetarians, and one vegan in our family). Meals like burrito bars are wonderful: each person can make what they want from the variety of fillings/toppings (and if someone isn't eating carbs, then they can have theirs without the tortilla). And spaghetti is easy, too: make a large batch of tomato sauce and then add meat to half of that. For lunches, basic cold-cuts, cheeses, and sandwich fixings are great and easily customized for those who have dietary concerns.

                            Another thing we've learned is that while the meat-eaters will (at least usually) consume food that doesn't contain meat, the vegetarians won't, so we lean toward more vegetarian offerings.

                            Here's hoping that you're able to take everyone's ideas and make this work (and that no friendships will be fractured!).