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Food & Drink

5 Ingredients for the Perfect Vacation Meal

We recently asked readers on our Facebook page to tell us — in five words or less — what their perfect vacation meal would look like. The responses poured in (and made our mouths water). As we read through them, a few common themes emerged. Together, they form the perfect recipe for a delicious dining experience on the road.

1. Ambience

For many readers, the surroundings and overall vibe are more important than the food itself. Chris Holman sings the praises of “fine wine w/ [an] amazing view,” while Edward Gramauskas paints a vivid picture: “Venice, cozy back street restaurant.”

2. Favorite Foods

What’s a perfect meal without a few favorite dishes? Elissa Leibowitz Poma wants to dig into a “piping hot pizza in Italy,” while Lawson Pride orders up a “margarita and spicy cheese nachos,” and Vicki Sharples drools over a “lobster roll in Bar Harbor!”

3. Forget the Food — Where’s the Drink?

Many readers require a little tipple with their dream meal, including Lavida Rei, who responds, “Ice cold beer and protein.” Casandra McClellan lists the ever-popular combo of “bread, cheese, olives, wine!” while Deb Scott is a bit more single-minded: “Champagne, champagne, champagne, champagne, champagne.” Cheers!

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4. Local Flavor

To paraphrase the classic book title, wherever you go, there you eat — and many of our readers declare that the perfect vacation meal must feature a local specialty. “The country’s native cuisine” is a must for Bridget Uittenbogaard, while Bea Dahlen puts it this way: “local fare cooked with love.”

5. And Most Importantly…

Eats and ambience aside, several readers noted that the best part of a meal on the road is that you don’t have to slave over your own stove. The ideal meal, says Betty Meyer? “Cooked by someone else.”

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What’s your idea of the perfect vacation meal?

By Sarah Schlichter

Deputy Executive Editor Sarah Schlichter's idea of a perfect trip includes spotting exotic animals, hiking through pristine landscapes, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, and soaking up as much art as she can. She often attempts to recreate recipes from her international travels after she gets home (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires—no humans or animals were harmed).

Sarah joined the SmarterTravel team in 2017 after more than a decade at the helm of IndependentTraveler.com. Sarah's practical travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Budget Travel, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A journal. Even years later, reading my notes from a trip can bring back incredibly vivid memories."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Road tripping and hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia."

Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya Stark"

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle. I get restless on long flights and like to be able to move around without disturbing anyone else."

Email Sarah at sschlichter@smartertravel.com.

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