Self Catering Vacation... [General]

2010 Apr 7
I notice that a great number of my friends who have travel in Europe have opted for self catering vacation; renting an apartment or house with kitchen facilities. Talking with them, I noticed that the majority didn't actually use the kitchen for anything other than making toasts and coffee but I find the idea very intriguing.

Has anyone ever rented such property? If so, did you bring some 'essentials', perhaps a knife, from home? It is something you would do? or is the fun of vacation to avoid all housework and to eat out?

I'd be interested to hear your input

2010 Apr 7
I did this in Prague some 20 years ago and evrerything was provided for us. At the time it was not really a big financial incentive since Prague was dirt cheap at the time, having only been opened up for less than a year.

I did it again in Germany 10 years ago and the financial side was a huge motivator. I still ate out quite a lot but it made the trip a little easier on the pocketbook to have this option. Once again, everything was provided - and in this case it was a regular hotel with just a simple kitchenette.

2010 Apr 7
Sort of did that last summer in Mykonos (a super expensive Greek island) where we rented an apartment. I had visions of cooking most of the time, but we only ended up doing so on the last night since we were part of a group of 7 friends and everyone else just wanted to eat out. Man, it was expensive!

We didn't bring any tools or essentials with us because to me part of the fun is seeing what you can do with what is available. Sometimes it's frustrating, but I like a challenge.

Next time we go to Morocco, I really want to rent an apartment and shop for ingredients in the medinas each day.

2010 Apr 7
Some of the best food I've had was going to open air markets (Spain, France, Italy) and getting food there that didn't require a lot of prep work, finding a nice park nearby and picnicing. Also, I enjoy cheap food a lot, so I found that going to local dives or eating street food didn't cost that much.

2010 Apr 7
I tend not to travel anywhere very exotic however I tried staying in a suite on a trip to Toronto a few years ago. I was travelling with a friend so we found a place at one of the chain hotels (Holiday Inn I think?) mostly because it had a kitchenette. We ate mostly breakfast in our hotel room as planned however we were hoping to make an afternoon visit to one of the markets during our stay (either Kensington or St. Lawrence) then prepare a meal in our room. The holiday went by fast and we had so many activities to squeeze in we never did cook that meal.

2010 Apr 7
I actually just came back from the French Indies and we rented a 3 bedroom Villa (we were 3 couples). We loved it so much, that we already booked for next year. I would say we made 50% of our meals and went out for the other 50% of the time. It was scorching hot for 2 weeks (40 degrees), so having a big fridge to store wine and beer, was great :-) ..and ice!

2010 Apr 7
We have done this many times all over the world and I never travel without my knife (I bought a sheath for it at C.A. Paradis). I have a small (male) toiletry bag that I have converted into my kitchen on the go. I bought small vitamin containers which screw together, from GNC, which I fill with a few dried herbs and stuff I maybe wouldn't find abroad (smoked salt, smoked paprika).

I also bring 6" bamboo skewers, kitchen twine and a good vegetable peeler. I may sound a tad obsessed, but we love to cook local food and produce and are often frustrated by what they consider 'kitchen equipment' in these rental units.

We end up (over a two week period for example) eating out about 30% of our meals.

In the fall, we were sailing in the Greek Islands for two weeks and my little kit came in very handy ;-) I also brought a couple of ziplock bags with rice, couscous and barley. These made nice additions to our meals. Sometimes you can't buy just a small bag for one evening.

I don't tend to pack lots of clothes/shoes, so always have room for food stuff - plus room to bring home some foreign treasures.

2010 Apr 7
Jojo, that is really neat. I love the idea of converting a toiletry bag into a kitchen to go. I am interested to know what spice you normally find essential? Also, have you attempted to bring liquid? Vinegars for example?

2010 Apr 7
The containers in the vitamin containers are only enough to hold about 1-1/2 tb of each herb. I bring usually: oregano, thyme, smoked paprika, smoked salt, tarragon, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder. I have brought small sample sized bottles of hot sauce, maple syrup and a 3oz bottle of white wine vinegar. Since I pack the kitchen-to-go bag, along with my knife, it's never been a problem. I've been doing this since about 2003.

Many times when traveling, we find what we need. However, sometimes, you may want to make a certain recipe and don't want to buy a whole bag of something for only a tablespoon. If you have to though, it's always fun bringing home the rest. I brought home a small box of Greek oregano that was wonderful - still have a little bit left!

2010 Apr 7
Could you upload a picture of those vitamin containers? The idea of having a culinary James Bond kit is really appealing, I might even bring it to the in-laws ;) shhhh....

2010 Apr 7
We have self catered many times and it does save a lot of money. It means that we can splurge on some really nice meals while travelling and still stay within our budget. I usually pick a few simple dishes to make and bring the spices from home (funny - I also use a toiletry kit). I usually bring a home-made pancake mix and some maple syrup for at least one breakfast. The times I have forgotten to pack my knife I have really missed it. We use the kitchen to make breakfast, make picnics for some lunches and make a few dinners. Renting apartments often works out to be less expensive than hotels even before you factor in the savings on food - your travel dollar goes farther so you can travel more. I guess it really depends on how you like to travel, but I suggest you try it to see if you like it and if you don't the restaraunts are still there.

On a side note - what you take really depends on where you are going. When we went to the Bahamas we took a suitcase full of food - anything we needed that wasn't fresh - because everything is expensive and hard to come by there. When I travelled to France I did not pack a thing.

2010 Apr 8
KMD - you are absolutely right. What you bring depends on where you are going. This is where your trip research comes in handy ;-) I even now pack a small cutting board - I know, a tad obsessive LOL

I tend to bring things that will enhance local ingredients. Culinary James Bond kit - I like that!

2010 Apr 8
Those vitamin containers are a great idea Jojo! I actually brought spices too on my trip, but in ziplocks..and I found that the static made the herbs stick to the bag. Your idea is much better.. I also brought with me some balsamic vinegar and truffle oil. I kept mini jars from mustards and jams and put plastic film on the jar before screwing the lid on. I also put the jars in a ziplock just in case they broke in my suitcase...

Next trip, I will bring more spices, a cheap cutting board that I will leave there, my knife, and some disposable/reusable "tupperware". Oh and my stainless steel coffee tumbler.. I really missed it while there, they only had tiny dainty little cups...

2010 Apr 9
we often rent places with kitchens. i like to eat out for dinner, but it is very nice to have a kitchen for first breakfast ;)

we make some coffee, eat something light and then head out. we generally keep a supply of cheese and crackers, and often bring back or buy dessert during the day to have late at night with a nightcap before bed.

i use vacations as my vacation from the kitchen, but we once had tummy troubles while travelling and being able to eat in was really good.

if you do plan on renting a place with kitchen, find out if they have a coffee or espresso machine. you can buy a decent stove top espresso machine to take with you. i am a morning coffee addict, so the thought of having to wait a few hours between wake-up and my first cup is scary.

my parents travel with the kitchen in a bag set-up. my mom also packs in a garlic press or her rasp. they do breakfast and a light dinner in their accomodations and splurge on lunch.

also to note, if you are travelling in europe, the big meal is often lunch, and dinner doesn't happen until very late in the evening. if this is a problem with your eating schedule (you get hungry before 9pm), then you will really appreciate the kitchen.

2010 Apr 9
Ditto hipfunkyfun. Last trip to Florida, we stayed at places that at least had fridge and microwave and it saved a lot of effort, and a little money on breakfast, and lazy lunch. Cheese, milk, bread, cereal were all enjoyed. Not sure I'd want to explain to border guys what all these pill boxes had in them "No, really sir, it IS JUST oregano!"

2010 Apr 9
LOL PIO - luckily I have never had a problem. Even when bringing back an 8 oz bag of oregano from Mexico ten years ago! :-) Thankfully the sniffer dogs can tell the difference...

2010 Apr 13
we always try to get a place with a kitchen--especially in Britain where the the big breakfasts are mostly meat and at least half of our group can be vegetarian. Midnight snacks, breakfast and the the odd market meal pays for itself well over-no matter where you are travelling.

2010 Apr 14
Thanks for the input everyone, Im heading to Croatia in two weeks for my SO's HLTA, I cant wait to try this and report back.

2010 Apr 16
Hi Yan,

Your post prompted me to register for this forum. I've browsed it on and off for a while, usually to find come good local sources!

We always try to get a place with a kitchen because we like the flexibility and not being obliged to have find a place to eat if we don't feel like it or time is tight with things to do. We get to use the local food supplies, which even if not in an exotic location usually have some different variety. When the kids were small, just the low hassle relaxed breakfast made it worth it.

Last fall we went to the Big Island of Hawaii and we had great fun at few different farmer's markets. It was great to have the kitchen there.