One of the best parts of travelling (for me!) is trying out the local cuisine. Planning in advance can help you stay on budget and allow you to make great dining choices while away. Here’s how I save money on food while travelling, but still experience the local specialties.
1. Book a hotel that provides breakfast: If we are staying in a hotel, we try to find one that provides breakfast. As long as the hotel price doesn’t increase dramatically to include breakfast it can be worth it.
Alternative: If the hotel doesn’t provide breakfast, or it is too expensive, we will find a café or fast food place to pick up something quick and inexpensive. If we are staying at a vacation rental, we will do grocery shopping and get breakfast items that are quick, healthy and inexpensive – like fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, bread, and peanut butter.
2. Pack your own lunch: Depending where we are, we will usually try to stop by a grocery store and get supplies to make a packed lunch/picnic. We found this to be very successful in Italy, Ireland, Greece. Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Hawaii.
Alternative: Look for less expensive cafes to have a light lunch and supplement with packed snacks (see below!).
3. Research dinner options in advance: If we are staying in a hotel, we usually go out for dinner. Before we head out I like to check TripAdvisor for the top-rated restaurants and cafes in the area and we try to eat at a few of these places (and then I review them too!). However, in Italy, Greece and England, our favourite restaurants were off the beaten path – and far less expensive than the restaurants near main attractions. This meant we could “splurge” but at a fraction of the cost.
Alternative: When we are staying in a vacation rental, I will try to cook a few dinners that are healthy and inexpensive. Or, if we are in a hotel and have to get all of our meals, we will sometimes go to the ready-made or hot food section of a grocery store to pick up something healthier and less expensive.
4. Happy hour: This category should really be called beer, wine and gelato. We often stop for an adult beverage or ice cream when we are travelling, because hey – we’re on vacation! In the USA we’ve found that many places have a “happy hour” in off-peak hours to generate business. You can usually get discounted drinks and appetizers. We took advantage of this often in Hawaii – where food and drinks can be quite pricey. We also found this in a few places in Italy and Greece (though it wasn’t called happy hour!).
Alternative: You can also get great snacks at fruit stands or general stores instead of fast food places. Sometimes we will stock up at a grocery store so we have healthier snack options throughout our trip.
5. Pack items from home: I like to pack plastic cutlery, Ziploc bags and I’ve been known to pack granola bars, mixed nuts, and peanut butter. In future, I might even bring paper plates because it makes picnic lunches and healthy snacks easier to prepare on vacation.
Overall, you can have control when it comes to expenses on your holiday. If you want to save a few bucks, give these tips a try. If not – you do you!
If you have even more budget-conscious food tips, please share them in the comment section below.
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