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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dining On a Dime (Or At Least On a Budget)

When I travel, I’m almost always thinking about when and where we’re going to eat next. I want to eat my way through a city. It must be the combination of all the walking and the fresh air, or just the excitement of being in a completely new environment. I know it’s impractical. Not just because it’s unhealthy, but also because it’s totally unaffordable. If I did stop to eat a bunch during the day, I’d never get any sightseeing done either! If you’re like me and want to eat all day long, you’re going to need some tips on how to do it inexpensively, so at least you don’t go broke doing it. Here are just a few of the rules I follow to get the best bargains and keep my wallet from emptying out by the end of the first day.


budget travel dining

Bring snacks

Trick your stomach by bringing snacks with you in your bag each day. This way, if you’re tempted to nibble on something, you know you have them on you and are less likely to spend money on food you don’t really need.


Eat where the locals eat

Just by avoiding touristy areas, you can save a lot on your meals. When you’re out, ask a few people where they recommend. They aren’t going to tell you they prefer a chain restaurant over their favorite local pub. The food is likely more authentic than those that you can find right near tourist attractions, making it cheaper, because it’s local and not shipped in from a different country.



Make lunch your main meal

If you really want to try one of the “hip” restaurants by a celebrity chef, make reservations for lunch. The food will be just as good, but it’s usually much cheaper at lunch than at dinner.

Hit up the food carts

Food carts can have a huge variety of different local and international foods, but can be half the price of (or less) than dining at a sit-down restaurant. With this kind of savings, you can try fare from several carts with no regrets.

Rent a vacation home or stay in a hotel with a kitchen(ette)

This is my favorite way to stretch my food budget, because there are so many options. Renting can be a great value over hotel stays if you’ll be visiting for a week or more, plus it gives you the chance to check out the local grocery store. I am not a big breakfast person, so instead of eating out for that meal, I shop for new cereals and pastries that I can’t get at home. There’s never a better time to try new foods! 

Stay at a hotel that offers free breakfast

You don’t realize how much dining out can cost until you go on vacation. A reasonable breakfast can cost between $8-15 per person. If you multiply that by the number of people you’re traveling with and the number of days you’ll be staying, that number can be huge. If you find a hotel in your price range that offers free breakfast, you’ve hit a jackpot of savings.


Sign up for Groupon (or other daily deal sites)

Groupon.com is an amazing little site that offers daily deals on a wide assortment of things, not least of which is dining. Each day a new offer goes up at a big discount off the regular price. Dining certificates can be purchased quite often and many times I have gotten a half-off gift certificate to a new local restaurant or one just trying to bring in new customers. It works! Sign up at Groupon for the destination of your next vacation (they cover many international locations as well as the United States) and eat for less!


Don’t order off the kids’ menu

If you travel with children, you’ll notice that all kids’ menus seem to have the same small rotation of foods. Obviously, little ones don’t just live on hot dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets and PB&J sandwiches. Not only do they charge an outrageous amount for these “staples” that cost hardly anything to make, but they offer hardly any nutritional value and your kids are likely to eat only half of it before declaring they’re full. Instead, order a meal that you both will eat and share. This saves you money and might get them to eat a vegetable or two.

This is just a small list of things you can do to help stretch your food budget on your future trips, but they can save you quite a bit, as they have me and my family on our travels. Remember, the more money you save on meals, the more money you can spend on doing something else!

How do you sasve money on dining out when you travel?

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