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Eating for Less on Vacation
When you travel, there are many things over which you have no control: gas prices, airline tickets, hotel rates, the cost of admission to attractions. But you do have some control over what you spend on food. And spending less on food can make your vacation more affordable.
Some things are obvious: Don’t dine every night at a five-star restaurant. Don’t buy bottled water when you can bring your own water bottle. Don’t ever, ever eat anything from a hotel mini-fridge. But there are other things you can do to keep costs down:
Bring your own. If this is a driving vacation, bring along a cooler for drinks, fruit and sandwiches. You can pack the cooler before you leave, then refill it as you travel. This not only saves you money, but also gives you more control over what you eat – which can be especially helpful if you have dietary concerns or are traveling with kids.
If you are flying, bring your own food for the plane. You will save a ton of money over buying food in the airport. Just remember that you cannot bring liquids through security. However, you can bring an empty water bottle and then fill it at a fountain.
In general, choose food that is easy to eat and not messy. Think sandwiches rather than spaghetti, bananas rather than watermelon, Twizzlers rather than chocolate bars. Bring any utensils you need. And don’t forget cleanup items such as napkins, wet-wipes and sealable bags for garbage.
Choose hotels that serve breakfast. Eating breakfast at a restaurant is expensive and time-consuming. Look for hotels that include complimentary hot breakfasts. These usually give you options such as scrambled eggs, waffles, cereal, bagels, juice and fruit. You can fuel up and get back on the road or sightseeing in a hurry. And take an extra apple or box of cereal for when you get hungry midmorning.
Other tips include:
However, remember that an important part of travel is experiencing what life is like in another place. Don’t always eat at big chain restaurants; try local eateries or markets. You can ask at your hotel for suggestions, or just search around online. In addition to expanding your experience, you might even save money.
- Split restaurant meals. Restaurant meals are often larger than one person can – or should – finish. So ask if you can split your meal with a traveling companion or if you can take what you don’t eat. Then put it in your cooler or hotel refrigerator, and eat it later.
- Use what you have in your room. Even hotels that don’t provide free breakfast usually have a coffeemaker in the room. So pack some packets of instant oatmeal, heat the water in the coffeemaker and – voila! – breakfast.
- Bargain-hunt. Look for dining coupons in restaurants at your destinations. You can check online at daily deal sites such as Groupon or use one of several apps for your smartphone or tablet. Do an online search of bargain restaurants at your destination. If you are a member of AAA or AARP, ask whether the restaurant gives you a discount if you show your card.
- If you are staying in one place for a while, look for accommodations with a kitchen. Of course, you did not go on vacation to cook. But being able to make breakfast or the occasional quick meal, as well as having a variety of snacks available, can save you time and money.
- Hit the supermarkets. When you need to restock your travel foods, go to a supermarket rather than a convenience store. And don’t forget to sign up for the free frequent shopper card.
- Have food delivered to your hotel room. It probably is no more expensive to have pizza delivered than it would be to go out for pizza. And after a long day of travel or sightseeing, it can be very nice not to have to go out.