Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I feel like whoever designs most of these hotels and motels does not do so with the frum family in mind.
The non-Jews have no idea. They definitely do not travel with this same level of food. As far as I can tell, they just go out to eat 3 meals a day on vacation. I don’t know when they find time for day trips. They come into amusement parks and go, “Which mediocre restaurant should we eat at during the time that we should be doing the activities we paid to get in for?” Whereas we come in with not only complete meals that we can eat, say, during the sea-lion show, but also a washing cup.
“Sir, you can’t be scooping water out of the sea lion tank. You have to sit back down.”
“Uh huh. Nu.”
Some meals are pretty simple. Like lunch can be sandwiches. Except that all of a sudden no one likes sandwiches. You know this, because they told you once you got to the hotel.
The only issue is that some parks don’t allow you to bring in food because they want to sell you their chazerai.
“Well, I don’t want your chazerai. I want my chazerai. Mine is kosher.”
Amusement parks are the only places that do this. And restaurants. So you have to smuggle the food in, like you’re doing something illegal, and nowadays there’s security and dogs because apparently someone’s trying to take down the entire amusement-park industry with heimishe pretzels. And you’re in line, shoving baggies into your kids’ pockets and hoods and putting some under the baby, just so it won’t all get confiscated, and you’re thinking, “How do I explain kashrus to park security? They had to have heard this before. I can’t be the first frum person coming through here.”
Breakfast is easier. It’s cereal and milk eaten all over the hotel room perched on the edges of the beds with one leg horizontal.
“Stop jumping on the bed while your brother’s eating cereal!”
The hotel does provide you with 1 or 2 chairs, even though they clearly have beds for 4 people, so everyone basically eats breakfast in bed, which I have to say sounds a lot better than it is.
Some hotels also have a continental breakfast that they tout as a major amenity that you can run out to in the morning to see if they actually have anything you can take. Like on our most recent vacation, for example, we were able to take some hot cups! Because we entirely forgot to pack those. What even is a continental breakfast? Every breakfast is a continental breakfast, unless you eat it in the ocean.
So breakfast is easy. You just have to remember to bring along milks that you’ve frozen beforehand and hope they don’t thaw that first day in the car while they’re waiting for you to finish your day trip. The kids are complaining that they’re hot, and all you’re worried about is the milk in the car.
“Is it still yellow? Good.”
Jews are the only people in the world who travel with frozen milk.
And then you have to make sure your room has a fridge, or else you’re keeping your milk cold in a chain of ice buckets. And the hotel gives you this tiny dirah fridge that basically fits two yogurts and definitely has no room for all the drinks you need to refrigerate for the next day, and the freezer is a single shelf with a flap over it up near the part of the fridge where the cold air comes out, using the same science as how whatever’s in the back of your fridge at home sometimes freezes over.
And you look at the fridge, and you look at the amount of food you brought…
You have no idea how much you’re going to pack, and you don’t remember from year to year. You remember that for some reason last year you couldn’t get your trunk closed on the way home and you had to leave some spare Cholov Yisroel milk in the mini fridge for the next family, but you don’t remember why.
“Hey, someone left us milk!... Why is it yellow?”
But then you slowly figure out why. No one in your family can give you any kind of straight answer about what they’re going to eat on vacation, until they’re on vacation and they ask, “Why didn’t we pack this?”
Do the kids help pack the food? Sort of. Whoever was helping you pack decided you needed three plastic spoons but like 80 paper plates.
You have to try your hardest for economy of space. You can’t bring a container of coffee; you have to pack coffee grounds in a little baggie, and sugar in another little baggie, and—Wait, is this the sugar or the salt? No, it turns out you forgot salt, so you’re either buying an entire can of salt out in Yehupitz, or you’re going to keep an eye out in the amusement park for an eatery that has salt packets. And then if you want to be ehrlich, you’re going to go up to the counter in this treif place – but don’t worry because you’re wearing a cap – and convince them to sell you a salt packet. And they always have to get a manager, like you’re not speaking English.
“We don’t know how to charge for that.”
And then you say, “Ooh, are those packets of mayonnaise?”
No matter what you pack, when you get there, you will realize that there were things you didn’t pack. This is why the last five minutes of your drive, as you’re looking for the motel, you’re keeping an eye out for any useful supermarkets you’ve never heard of that you can inevitably run to in a few minutes. Or a Dollar General, which is a store concept you don’t fully understand. And because I have multiple boys, I’m also keeping my eyes open for an Urgent Care.
And then that first night of your trip, you run out to this store to buy the things nobody packed and also the things that someone did pack in a box that is currently sitting on your kitchen table at home. Oh, and most years we have to buy paper cups. The hotel provides you with three paper cups for a room of four people, and one of them is going to be kept near the sink as a washing cup. And thanks for putting all the cups in the bathroom, by the way. Do non-Jews just drink bathroom tap water, or what?
So you get to go explore a strange supermarket, which is something you avoid in real life. How do they arrange their merchandise? And you’re like, “Hey, there’s a kosher aisle!” The entire kosher section is about wide enough that two of you can’t stand side by side and look at it at the same time. This kosher aisle in middle of nowhere has: 1. Tradition soups, 2. Egg noodles, 3. Jarred gefilte fish. Basically, it’s everything that a non-observant Jewish mother living out in the sticks would need if her child ever walked in and announced that he or she was going to start keeping kosher. And also yahrtzeit candles for when the father has a heart attack about it.
And most of this food you buy ends up coming home with you. Those are your souvenirs from the trip.
“Look, it’s almonds from Pennsylvania!”
You know what amenity we do need? Maybe some kind of food prep area that is not inside the bathroom.
Because there’s nothing like cooking for your family in a hotel room to make you appreciate how efficient your kitchen is at home. Even if it’s not. At the very least, you get to work on counter-height surfaces. In a room that does not have bedding set up all over the floor between the actual beds. You have a travel range that you brought, but you forget how long it takes to heat things up on it until the point where you say, “Good enough.” And you’re constantly looking for usable surfaces and prepping food on a paper towel, and all your outlets are in weird places. This time, our only usable outlet required us to plug in our sandwich makers on the floor near the door. I had a kid down there taking care of that, because there was no way I could keep bending down, after sleeping on the motel bed for a night.
Anyway, we’d actually brought along three sandwich makers so we could get the cooking done faster. But I’d forgotten that you can’t plug 3 sandwich makers into one outlet. And I never asked beforehand how many outlets each room has for cooking. I don’t know how to ask that. And the last thing you want to do is short out the power in the entire motel.
And you have to keep walking back and forth and figure out where you put stuff down, stepping over messes because you have no established rules for your kids about where to put their things, and every surface is food items, and— WHY IS THE WATER STILL NOT BOILING? IT’S BEEN AN HOUR—oh, it’s not on. Wait, it is on. Why isn’t the light on? Is this low or high?
And your kids are jumping from one bed to the other, yelling, “We should live here!”
And then you have to wash everything in the bathroom sink with a tiny shampoo and a washcloth. Because you definitely forgot dishwashing stuff.