We all need to eat, but we also know food is a major expense during travel. If you’re like many travelers, 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 eat well, enjoy the local cuisine, and save money on food while traveling. 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's a “continental” or “complimentary” breakfast, as that determines the type of food you'll be offered. Grab a few extra items 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, 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 a quick meal before going out or for a late-night snack.
When you eat out
- Choose lunch instead of dinner. Whether you stop by a local street vendor or try an interesting restaurant, lunch is always cheaper,
- 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're 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. This is a great way to save a few dollars while enjoying your favorite beverage.
- Utilize online restaurant booking sites such as Open Table and restaurant discount sites 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 your meal will probably be more nutritious.
- Plan a picnic or grill out with foods from the local market or deli. You may even have leftovers.
- 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.
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