Friday, April 8, 2011

Cooking in a hotel room - the result

Well, we tried it. It didn't go too badly. Here are the results:

First off, we got free breakfast, and it was a big one. We stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa on the Big Island, and booked through Costco Travel. I can highly recommend them. We purchased travel insurance also (for the first time ever) and it came in handy. We missed a flight due to weather. The airline does nothing in that case, so the insurance paid for a night in a hotel near LAX, plus dinner and breakfast. AND it reimbursed us for the missed night in Hawaii.

The booking included breakfast for two adults (kids under 5 are free, but Nick was so small they let him be free too) and the "Aloha pass" which included two drinks a day, access to the fitness center for 2, internet, reduced rentals on snorkel/kayak gear, and a free round of golf for 2 on the putting course per day. We used the drinks, and the internet, and I went to the fitness center once (I preferred that most of my exercise be hiking, walking, swimming). These things are generally "extra" at many hotels, so they ended up being worth money. Especially the internet and drinks. One drink per day per person is PLENTY.

Breakfast, when you travel, is key. It can help you save money and get through the day. It's something I consider when booking a hotel. You can eat a large breakfast and then get by with a small lunch, or just fruit and nuts. (Now, we did not actually do this, evidenced by coming back 5 lbs heavier.) Alternately, it's pretty easy to eat breakfast in your room if you have a fridge or not. Instant (or not instant) oatmeal can be made with a hot pot or hot water from the coffee pot. Fruit and yogurt are pretty easy too, with the oatmeal or without.

We ate lunches and dinners in the room too. I took a certain amount of food, and when it ran out, we ate out. We did supplement with outrageously priced food from the grocery store. Unless you are shopping at Costco, prices are insane in Hawaii. And you are only shopping at Costco if you have a full-sized fridge.

Here's what he ate in the room:
Costco roasted Chicken
Teriyaki, Miso, and Udon noodle bowls (Annie Chun's). Spouse did NOT like the Udon, but we all loved the Teriyaki and my son liked the miso.
Mixed fruit bowl, and some steamed edamame, both purchased at the grocery store yogurt
Macaroni and cheese from Trader Joe's, with mixed frozen veggies and chicken.
Cereal and milk (the only time my kid ever gets froot loops is on vacation)
TJ's coconut lime rice
TJ's indian packets of lentils, vegetables, and eggplant
TJ's curry tuna curry and green curry.

You see a lot of foil packets up there. And the rice was in a plastic package with no paper on the wrapping. Since there was no microwave, it was key to find things that you can make by either ADDING hot water or SOAKING in hot water. Many of the pre-cooked rice packages require the microwave or have paper labels, which precludes the soaking part. I took a hot pot with us ($19), and my handy microwave steamer. I boiled water in 2 minutes, poured it in the steamer, added a couple of packets, closed the lid, and came back 5 min later. I boiled more water, and then put the next packet right in the hot pot. I did not use the coffee pot for this, because I didn't have a coffee pot, it was a one-or 2-cup maker that puts the coffee directly into the mug. I didn't know that before I went.

The mac and cheese was pretty good and easy. I boiled the mac right in the hot pot, then added the frozen veggies at the end. I poured it all into the micro-steamer (which has holes in the lid), drained it, and then added the flavor packet and milk.

As I mentioned before, a couple of the noodle bowls were good, one was not. The Indian packets and rice worked well, because we've eaten them before and knew they were good. And the curry tuna - I really liked the spicier red one. The milder green was not as good. The green sauce was mild and tasty, but the tuna tasted too tuna-y.

What I would change next time:

In general, we prefer staying at condos to hotels. We are "do it yourselfers" on vacation, and like to be able to cook many of our own meals, and plan our own days. That said, the advantage to this hotel was its amenities, which makes it GREAT for kids. Four pools, water slides, a lagoon for snorkeling, a dolphin pool, a boat and train ride (you need it to get from one side of the hotel to the's that large...though we walked 80% of the time).

There was a lot of artwork along the way if you walk it. There's a camp for kids over 5. We did not use the golfing or the discount rentals (because they went from being "oh my god, you want $14 for 1/2 hour!!" to "oh my god, you want $7 for 1/2 hour!!") If we return to this island, it will be a tossup between staying at this hotel or getting a condo. Maybe we'll do 1/2 and 1/2 - spend part of the time on the Hilo side, which is way closer to the volcano. I would definitely take a hot pot, and mac and cheese, and the teriyaki bowls, and the indian packets. I would still buy a chicken. We would probably buy bread and eat a lot of sandwiches instead of eating as much hot food.

The thing that I feel like I really missed out on was vegetables, because they are atrociously expensive. When we did eat out, I searched for salads. At the nicer restaurants, that was pretty easy, but some of the other restaurants, it was very hard to find vegetables (which is pretty typical for the US).


Wendy said...

A traveler after my own heart! We take the same approach to cooking/eating when we travel. It's great to know that the Costco travel service is good. My husband (who is afraid of flying...) wants to go to Hawaii and what you shared is EXACTLY what we'd need to know. Not that we're planning a trip any time soon, but when and if we do, this is the kind of information that is important. Thanks!!

Dan.Eliot said...

As an advocate for fitness I tend to hear many excuses from people on why they are not dieting. One of the lamest of these is the old “I just don’t have time to cook healthy food”. While lack of time is a very valid reason to not want to cook every day for dinner and lunch, this does not completely excuse the lack of trying. There are many ways to eat healthy without having to use more than a microwave. Learn more:

Healthy cooking tips

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing this! it does remind me when i did not have my kitchen. have a good night marcia!