Save Thousands While Traveling: 25 Ways to Use Hot Water
Life on the road can be hectic, to say the least. Staying nourished and healthy while traveling for business, dealing with your daily commute, booking a romantic cabin getaway, or even taking a family vacation can take serious planning. It’s hard to be prepared for every emergency, however, particularly when space is limited for lunch items and vacation snacks. That’s where having a healthy list of hot water strategies up your sleeve can save you thousands of dollars per year compared to the cost of high-priced resort food, restaurant dinners on your lunch hour, or room service on yet another extended business trip.
This free resource is available at hot water stations in the work place, from the hotel coffee bar, and via your hotel room’s microwave or coffee maker. It can also be prepared on a one-burner camping stove with a small pan, or in a hot pot plugged into your van’s electrical outlet. Here’s how you can put it to use on business trips, ski getaways, family vacations, and more. (See also: 6 Ways My Family Scores Free Travel With Credit Cards)
1. Sore Throat Solution
Heading out on any sort of travel adventure, business related or otherwise, leaves you at risk for catching a variety of cold and flu viruses. Once they’ve caught up with you, a sore throat won’t be far behind. This lemon and honey water idea from the Savvy Vegetarian can easily be accomplished for free using supplies from your hotel’s morning breakfast bar. Business travelers who make their living on the speaking circuit should find this tip particularly helpful, as will daily commuters with access to a hot water dispenser in the staff lounge.
2. Hot Chocolate
Who doesn’t love a warm, chocolaty treat while they’re on the road? Packing envelopes of hot chocolate mix will give you something to look forward to in the hotel room at the end of a long day. If you’re really feeling indulgent, hit the liquor store for a bottle of butterscotch schnapps and create candy-bar flavored cocktails while you catch up on the day’s news.
Even if you don’t have time to tuck in a few packets of your favorite flavor, there are always plenty of tea bag options in the priority pass lounges and hotel hospitality bars that you can take advantage of for a free herbal spa break. When my husband and I travel home during the colder months, we always stop at the same Hampton Inn in South Portland before heading north on the highway. They have a coffee, tea, and cookie bar going at all hours, and we always fix ourselves a couple of hot cinnamon-apple teas to enjoy by the fireplace while we wait our turn to check in. It’s a simple, no-cost treat that warms us up, and since they have an array of options, we usually take two or three packets back to the room to enjoy there as well.
Seasoned road warriors turn to ramen recipes while traveling for fast and frugal comfort food. They can be created easily in the hotel room using either the coffee maker or the microwave, and they provide a workable solution when you need something to take away the hunger pains in a hurry. Depending on the brand you choose or whether or not you use the seasoning packet, it’s even possible to enjoy vegan ramen from the road.
When the nasties get the better of me, Theraflu is my go-to beverage to help me sleep things off. It’s particularly helpful to use while traveling, because the powdered hot drink envelopes pack easily into the side pockets of business totes, messenger bags, and rolling carry-on luggage. Tip — it’s been my experience that this stuff will put you to sleep with lightning speed, so you definitely don’t want to mix it up until you are literally standing beside the bed in your hotel room. (Others may have powdered OTC beverage medicines that they favor instead. This is just the one that I’ve been using since before I left home, and the one I feel most comfortable with. I am not a doctor, and this by no means constitutes medical advice. It’s just my personally preferred product.)
6. Miso Paste
I actually got this idea from Ms. Alicia Silverstone herself. I was watching a Google Talk she gave when promoting her cookbook and someone was asking her about vegan travel. Her response was to carry resealable envelopes of miso paste. Using a spoonful at a time mixed with hot water, according to Silverstone, was what she used to create an on-the-fly soup that would perk her up and keep her nourished between meals.
If you’re like me and sometimes have trouble eating a hearty breakfast in the morning, then consider just having some fruit with an English muffin and peanut butter while carrying a couple of the oatmeal packets back to your room to have for lunch or even instead of seasoned rice as an in-your-room dinner side. I’m certainly not suggesting you be a dining dunce and waltz off with the lion’s share of the available supply. But considering some people are able to wolf down as much as they would at an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet before 7:00 a.m., it isn’t that much of a stretch to take a few minor items back to your room if all you ate over coffee and the news was a banana.
This can also work if you’ve had a late night the evening before and can’t get down for breakfast until five minutes before it ends. In that case, enjoy a small hot item in the company of others, and take back items (like oatmeal) that can be prepared with hot water later in your room. My husband and I use this trick all the time when we wake up late and also happen to be traveling with the dog. Her separation anxiety makes it nearly impossible to leave her alone in the room, which means we need to grab breakfast tag-team style.
8. Indian Food
Recently at Costco, I noticed that bulk boxes of Tasty Bite treats were available. One kind was even vegan and came in an envelope that could easily be added to hot water in a bowl and prepared in the microwave. I’ve also seen envelopes of precooked lentils from the same company at my nearest Super Target. There are certainly other ethnic foods available in mix-and-eat formats as well. I point to Indian food specifically in this piece because it’s so hearty and full of fun flavors that with help you forget you’re being frugal. Tuck a few envelopes into your luggage for emergency supplies on your next road trip.
9. Noodle Dishes
Packets of flavored instant noodles have been a favorite of the backpacking crowd for years, but they can easily do double duty for family or business travel. I’m not saying the sodium count in these things is the healthiest, but to get you over the hump when your schedule doesn’t allow a restaurant stop, there are certainly worse things you could be eating. Mix in some chopped frozen broccoli from the grocery store before you heat things up to keep the veggies flowing and toss in a bit of ready-to-eat salmon (also from an envelope), and you’ve got a decent, fast meal that’s cheaper than takeout and just as fast.
10. Seasoned Rice
This is available in tube-shaped packs in a variety of flavors, usually in the ethnic food aisle of your grocery store. Saffron flavored, red beans and rice, and even black bean and rice combos can all be prepared with a microwave and hot water when you’re hitting the hotel circuit. Paired with simple greens and a few salad add-ins, this isn’t a bad way to go for frugal food on the fly.
11. Soup Packets
There are too many brands to list really, but suffice it to say these pack just as easily as anything else you’ll find. If you are traveling by vehicle and your hotel is near a grocery store, grab some scallions or Bacos to use as soup garnishes and perhaps pick up a package of dinner rolls for dunking. This is perfect for when you want something warm and filling, but aren’t up for a heavy meal.
Bouillon cubes are available in chicken, beef, and veggie flavors and mix easily with hot water in an insulated paper cup available for free from the hotel. Crumble up a few seaweed snacks for a bit of extra nutrition, and chances are it’ll hold you over for long enough to come up a workable food plan that won’t sink you major bucks. Sometimes it’s just about having a little something to get you by for a bit so you don’t overindulge at the nearest fast-food restaurant you find.
Prepared in a flash with hot water, couscous is great for traveling whether you’re hitting the hiking trail or a business-class hotel room. Toss in a few extras like dried cranberries, and you’ve got a rockin’ side dish at your disposal. Frozen peas can provide a veggie component and some slivered almonds can pack a protein punch, if finding those items happens to be convenient.
14. Multigrain Hot Cereal
Bringing along a package of this stuff can keep you powered for hours, and it only takes some hot water to get the ball rolling. Tack on an apple for a snack, and you’ll easily be set until you get back to your room later in the day.
15. Cream of Wheat
Less hearty but still easily prepared with access to hot water, cream of wheat is a simple breakfast you can dress up with raisins or a side of orange wedges. If you’re packing a one-burner stove for that family road trip, this can make a great late-morning breakfast when you pull off the highway at the rest stop to let Rover have a romp.
16. Frozen Vegetables
With a bit of water in the bottom of your travel bowl for steaming, microwaving frozen vegetables from Costco or the local grocery store is an easy way to get a healthy dinner side on the travel table. Pick up some grilled chicken strips and potato salad from the deli, and you’re good to go. If you’re traveling as a family, one parent can get the kids to the pool to start working off energy while one of you hits the store and comes back to get grooving with dinner. They’ll sleep like babies (which means so will you), and you’ll feel better knowing they have had a healthy meal instead of another round of French fries.
17. Mac and Cheese
You’ll need to carry along an envelope of powdered milk and a stick of margarine to pull this off, but with those extras, a collection of macaroni and cheese dinners and a hot pot, you can easily use the hot water from your vacation rental (or heat it up in the hot pot if you’re operating from the back of a mini van) to create a budget-friendly vacation dinner side. If you’re cooking for kids and need something simpler, try mixing in some chopped frozen broccoli and sliced hot dogs for a travel casserole that doesn’t require an oven.
18. Instant Potatoes
You’ll likely need to include a bit of margarine again, but combining hot water with instant potatoes just might be the solution when you need something to accompany the chicken fingers and three-bean salad you picked up at the grocery deli.
When the kitchen facilities at your hotel suite are primitively stocked, polenta is easy enough to whip up with cornmeal, hot water, and basic seasonings. Pair it with a green salad, some spicy vegetarian sausage, and a bottle of affordable wine for a simple, romantic dinner for two. If you’re trying to accomplish a classy dating experience on a budget, affordable menus such as this one prepared with your accommodation’s kitchen facilities provide an excellent way to do that.
20. Hot Buttered Rum
This tip is definitely for those who are able to unfurl at their vacation rental for a while. It’s an elegant, relaxing drink to have available. Dating on a dime doesn’t have to be a drag, and simple strategies like this one will help sweeten the experience.
21. Instant Coffee Latte
Looking for a way to dress up instant coffee on the road? Add hot water and some holiday eggnog or soy milk along with your sweetener of choice and prepare in the hotel microwave. You’ll have an acceptable, albeit froth-free, coffee beverage that’s easily accomplished with the most basic hotel amenities and a quick stop at the store.
22. Peanut Sauce
If you’re looking something to pair with the crudités you brought along for healthy road trip snacks, consider whipping up a simple peanut sauce using peanut butter, hot water, soy sauce, and crushed red pepper flakes. You can use the blender in your vacation rental, or bring along your magic bullet to whip up a fresh batch for your next tailgating menu.
23. Vegan “Cheese” Sauce
If your idea of affordable dating includes camping, then this recipe for vegan cheese sauce mix from Trail Cooking might be just the ticket to pulling off a winning meal in the wilderness. It’s easily prepared in advance and whisked with hot water on site to use as a topping for your campfire-baked potatoes or a batch of vegan nachos.
Pack your favorite envelope mix and a miniature whisk to whip up a batch of gravy in a small pot over your one-burner camping stove. Perfect with grilled pork chops and Polynesian foil packets, gravy can also be served to dress up fast-roasting fingerling potatoes or grilled portabella caps.
25. Loosen Up
Don’t forget that hot water can be your biggest ally when trying to open stubborn jars of pasta sauce, pesto, salsa, and other bottled travel food treats that can occasionally be difficult to access. Running the jar top under hot water for a few moments has helped my cause on more than one occasion.
As free travel resources go, this one can clearly go the distance on the money-saving front. While tap water can save you money as well, it’s nice to feel so armed on the meal and beverage front with hot items, since that’s where so many travel dollars tend to go out the window.