When we were planning our last road trip, I had this crazy thought: What if I could create a DIY Travel Kitchen that could be used in any hotel room – allowing us to save money and eat better by preparing home cooked meals? Was it even practical? Would it be more hassle than it was worth?
After a little research I found a few ideas for how to cook in a hotel room, and set out to create my own travel kitchen, which I’ll share below.
(There are affiliate links in this post, meaning we may get a small commission from any purchases you make. We only recommend products and services we actually use and love. Click here to read our full disclosure policy.)
As you go about creating your own DIY Travel Kitchen, here are some suggestions for things you’ll probably want to bring with you on the road:
A PORTABLE HEAT SOURCE
Depending on what you like to eat, this could be anything: a mini George Foreman grill, Slow Cooker, or an extra deep electric skillet like this one. An Instant Pot looks like another good option. After reading this blog post, I decided to use a large rice cooker we already had and were comfortable using. It turned out to be a great choice for us, more on that below.
VERSATILE COOKING UTENSILS
This could include:
- Can opener
- Paring knife with safety cover
- Slotted serving spoon
- Pancake flipper
- Measuring cups and/or spoons if needed
DISHWASHING SOAP AND SPONGE
You’ll definitely want to bring dish soap and a sponge to clean your dishes. Hotel room sinks can be small, so you may want to bring a small dish tub as well. I ended up using the insert for our rice cooker as a tub to wash dishes in, and rinsed under tap water before laying them out on a towel to dry.
MINI SPICE COLLECTION
Empty Tic Tac containers make excellent mini spice jars. I brought 3, and filled one with seasoned salt, one with a mix of salt and pepper, and one with garlic powder. We barely used them, but they were nice to have on hand.
PLATES, BOWLS AND PLASTIC SILVERWARE
For our last trip, we brought reusable bowls and disposable utensils. The plastic bowls packed nicely for travel, and were easy to clean up. We were tight for space, and I didn’t want the hassle of trying to keep paper plates and bowls from being crushed while traveling. I brought disposable utensils because we had them on hand, and I didn’t want to risk losing pieces of my flatware set on the road.
PAPER AND PLASTIC PRODUCTS
- sanitizing wipes for surfaces before and after cooking
- paper towels (we used these for napkins as well)
- ziploc bags for storing leftovers, etc.
- small trash bags
A word on the trash bags – even the nicest hotel rooms we stayed in had tiny, very thin trash bags. It’s worth bringing your own extra trash bags so that you can dispose of any food-related waste properly – it makes everything much nicer.
You Might Also Like: 10 Road Trip Essentials That Could Save You Hundreds
HERE’S WHAT WE BROUGHT IN OUR DIY TRAVEL KITCHEN:
- Nordic Microwaveable Bowls (in blue)
- Small cutting board
- Paring knife with cover
- Can opener
- Plastic measuring cup (used as a serving ladle)
- Cotton dish towel
- Cotton dish cloth
- Small pot holder
- Small containers of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, a mix of salt and pepper, and garlic powder
- Small container of dish soap
- Roll of nice paper towels (we like Viva)
- Assortment of plastic ziploc bags
- Disposable plastic silverware
I was able to pack everything except the food and roll of paper towels inside of the rice cooker. Since we were traveling with two kids (5&6) and a cat, it was nice to pack in such a small container. The only thing I REALLY wished I had brought along was a slotted spoon for scooping out pasta to drain.
We ate simple meals on our travels. I practiced at home to test cooking times and serving sizes – I didn’t want to have any leftovers. Here are some of the types of meals we ate:
- Kielbasa, potatoes and canned green beans.
- Macaroni and cheese with canned chicken breast.
- Burritos with refried beans and shredded cheese.
- Hearty canned soup and crackers.
We had a good stash of healthy snacks with us, so most of our meals included a side of fresh veggies or fruit from our snack bag.
WE LOVED OUR DIY TRAVEL KITCHEN
It’s true, it did take a little effort and experimenting to put it all together – but it was totally worth it! We saved money, and had a more relaxing experience overall. Several times we prepped the food and then relaxed in the hotel pool while our meal was cooking – how cool is that?
Hotel room cooking isn’t for everyone — and it’s not necessarily something we’ll do on every trip. But there are some times when it is necessary, and I love knowing that if needed, we can make do in any hotel room with our DIY travel kitchen.