We all need to eat, but we also know food is a major expense during travel. If you’re like me, you want to savor the local cuisine and enjoy that part of the culture. Just because you have a budget however, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy every bite of that perfectly flaky, buttery French croissant. You should splurge here and there, after all, you’re on vacation!
With a little planning and know-how, you can save money on food while traveling, eat well and enjoy the local cuisine. Whether planning a road trip or flying to another country on vacation, check out these tips to help you get the most culinary bang for your buck.
Choose Lodging Strategically
- If you choose a hotel, choose one that includes a complimentary breakfast. Take note as to whether it is a “continental” or “complimentary” breakfast, as that determines the type of food you will be offered. Grab a few extras to take back to your room for a snack later.
- Choose accommodations that offer a half or full kitchen. This way, you can save money by cooking your own food or simply stock up on items for making sandwiches, salads, breakfast items or other quick meals.
- Even hotels with a mini-fridge and coffee maker can save you money while traveling. You can stock the fridge with milk for cereal, oatmeal, yogurt and other small items for the quick meal before going out or for a late night snack.
When You Eat Out
- Choose lunch instead of dinner. Lunch is always cheaper, whether stopping by the local street vendor or trying an interesting restaurant.
- When you decide to eat out, ask a local (instead of the concierge). Locals always know the best eats for the best prices, and more often than not, the best representation of local cuisine. The concierge may only suggest higher priced, popular locations nearby.
- Cut your bill in half by sharing a meal. Most meal portions are enough for two anyway. Or, dine on appetizers if you want to eat light.
- If you are traveling with the kids, search out spots that offer free meals for children.
- If you plan to go out and have a drink or two, find a place that offers free food during happy hour. A great way to save a few dollars while enjoying your favorite beverage.
- Utilize online restaurant booking sites such as Open Table and restaurant discounts like Living Social. Online coupons, restaurant discounts, and frequent diner clubs are other ways to save a buck eating out.
Visit Local Markets
- Stock up on snacks from the grocery store or a local farmers market instead of grabbing more expensive items when the mood strikes. You’ll save money and it will probably be more nutritious.
- Plan a picnic or grill out with foods from the local market or deli. You may even have left-overs!
- On a road trip, always pack a cooler for snacks and drinks on the go.
Pack Snacks and Stay Hydrated
- Purchasing drinks all day can get expensive. Take a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated while traveling. Be sure to seek out safe drinking water, or purchase a water bottle with a filter. Consider buying a gallon of filtered water from the store and keep that at your hotel or cabin for fill-ups.
- Stop into local bakeries later in the afternoon. Some sell half-price items you can bag for the next day.
- Always have a stash of snacks at the ready. Trail mix, protein bars, nuts and other healthy snacks can help fill the gap between major meals and help you to eat lighter when you go out.
Food memories last a long time and are a big part of the travel experience. So employ these tips to save money on food while traveling, but don’t forget to treat yourself and enjoy that occasional dessert or local delicacy. Eating on a budget while traveling can be a challenge, but you can do it with a bit of planning. As our Italian friends would say, “Mangia tutti”!
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