Family Vacations are so important. One thing we have done the last couple of years is join with a group going to the Great Wolf Lodge. By going with a group, we are able to stay in a nicer room for less than we could for the least expensive room without the group discount.
Every time we stay in a hotel, I bring oatmeal packets. These days many hotels have coffee makers in the room. We use the coffee maker to heat water and then make instant oatmeal for breakfast. If there is a mini-fridge, I hit a grocery store for a couple of apples and some yogurt too. My kids love having their oatmeal in the room since I never buy oatmeal packets at home.
This year we decided that since there is a mini-fridge, and we would have 5 meals on our vacation we would pack for 4 and only eat out at the restaurant for dinner before we went home. For lunch the first day, I brought PBJ from home. For dinner I found some noodle bowls from Trader Joe's like this for about $2 each. They were actually pretty filling and they were all natural too. I also bought a bag of salad greens and a jar of salad dressing. We ate our noodle bowls (with coffee-pot hot water) then poured the salad in the bowl and ate that.
Lunch the second day was hummus, carrots, and crackers. For snacks we brought some granola bars and apples.
Could I have fed us even cheaper? Yes! But I didn't have a lot of time to prepare food beforehand so this was still a good compromise between the restaurants and home cooking. We swam, ran, played, and laughed. Tiger, Butterfly, and Pumpkin Pie all had a chance to take a "Jr. Lifeguard" class too. They got the opportunity to rescue some ducks from the pool and then to use the lifeguard noodle to pull each other to safety.