Despite many trips camping with my family as a child or the multitude of outdoor excursions I have done when I was in the army (years and years ago), I have never been a fan of “roughing it.” A city girl, tried and true, I prefer the little luxuries in life like good food, great wine, and the ability to shower daily and use a toilet that flushes. Thankfully, there are places that offer a chance to experience the great outdoors, without requiring complete immersion into all that is rustic. There is a place my family stays once a year that fits the bill in South Lake Tahoe. With a large extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, we are able to rent several cabins right next to each other – all with electricity and indoor plumbing. Even though we’re close enough to stores and restaurants, it’s nice to be able to have a great cup of coffee and a snack without having to leave our little sanctuary. A serve-yourself coffee and snack bar is a must if vacationing with a big group. It enables everyone to have a bite to eat and something good to drink, without you having to get up every five seconds to get it for them. Here’s how I made my coffee bar:
- Coffee thermos (mine holds about 2 liters of coffee – this is an absolute must!
- Separate thermos for hot water – and tea bags next to it.
- Coffee creamer that does not need to be refrigerated (either powdered or individually wrapped, or both)
- Fun syrups and sauces to flavor the coffee.
- Liqueurs – I used Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlua, but amaretto and Grand Marnier would also be great.
- To Go hot coffee cups with lids.
- Sugar. You could also add artificial sweeteners.
- Stir stix.
- Fun snack to go with the coffee.
In addition to the coffee and donuts, I also wanted to have a variety of snacks (both healthy and not-so-healthy) so people could help themselves whenever they got hungry. Even though it can be slightly more expensive, I highly recommend that all the snacks you offer be individually wrapped. There is nothing more unappetizing than seeing a young child with questionably clean hands helping themselves to a giant bag of Doritos. I guarantee you, I won’t be eating from that bag. Having snacks individually wrapped enables each person to have their own, contaminant-free snack. Here are the individually wrapped snacks I offered:
- A variety of chips. Nothing says fun like having decisions to make like, “Should I have Funyuns, Cheetos, or Chili Cheese Fritos?”
- Protein bars. I get the chewy granola bars that have 10 grams of protein per bar, and are dipped in chocolate. These are great because sometimes it’s hard to get protein in your 3-year-old when they’re busy playing with their cousins, but because these have the chocolate on them, they will eat them because they think they are eating a candy bar.
- Almonds in 100-calorie snack packs. Perfectly healthy and even the most weight-conscious people (who don’t have nut allergies) will be able to indulge.
- Juice boxes. Try to find the ones with the least amount of sugar. There is nothing worse than four little girls hopped up on Capri Sun.
I also include do-it-yourself breakfast items so everyone who wakes up early or late can have something good to eat. I keep these in plain site under the table that the coffee bar is on. Here’s what I include:
- An assortment of individually wrapped cereals. Even though these are usually filled with sugar, they are so nostalgic of when I was growing up, there is no way my glamping trip would be complete without them.
- A variety of individual instant oatmeal packs.
- Individually wrapped pastries. I like Svenhard’s Danish Pastries.
To ensure that your vacation stays vacation (meaning you are not constantly getting up to get something for someone), it’s great to also lay out all the things anyone would need in order to eat or drink. Here’s what I included on my snack bar table:
- Paper plates
- Paper bowls
- Plastic forks, knives, and spoons
- Plastic cups. Make sure you also bring Sharpie pens so people can write their name on their cup.
Last but not least, it is very worth it to buy a large jug of water for people to drink. Although not pictured (I had this in the living room part of the cabin, instead of the sun room), this water was incredibly important. In addition to helping us all stay hydrated without having multiple plastic bottles to recycle, it enabled us to have delicious coffee. Not bad for something that costs about $4. After you set up your coffee and snack bar, everyone will always have something good to eat and drink, and you will be able to kick back and enjoy your vacation completely unfettered.