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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Food, Glorious Food...Around the World on a Budget 8.20.11

When you go on vacation you have to eat. It's not something you can just not do, like buying souvenirs. If you're anything like me, you greatly look forward to trying new foods and having people cook for you. The great thing about food is that, unlike airfare, it comes in a large range of prices, meaning you can save a bundle on your dining when you travel. I have ten awesome ways you can save even MORE, get to eat delicious foods and enjoy more of the culture of your destination. Just because you are trying to save money doesn’t mean that you have to eat fast food or sandwiches for every meal or can’t experience the best cuisine a place has to offer.

Chicken and waffles!

1. Ask the locals where they eat. Odds are, people who live where you’re traveling don’t eat at the fanciest restaurant in town. You know who eats there? Tourists and people celebrating their anniversaries. The “normal” people eat at affordable dining establishments that are also delicious and serve food from the local area. They are going to want to point you towards some of the city’s gems and impress you because, unlike hotel staff, they don’t get paid for recommending the crazy expensive steakhouse down the street.

2. Look forward to lunch. You probably aren’t always frugal. While on vacation, it’s okay to splurge sometimes. If that includes going to a top-rated restaurant that you know is spendy, make reservations for lunch instead of dinner. The food will be just as tasty, but cheaper than at dinnertime.
3. Split an entrée. Most restaurants serve you at least twice as much food as you can eat. Don’t be weighted down having to carry around leftovers or feel bad about food left on your plate. Share a main dish with your travel companion. Most hotels will split an entrée for no fee, but even if you have to pay for an extra plate, it only costs a few dollars, which is cheaper than paying for a whole other meal.  

A monte cristo is always totally filling
4. Order an appetizer for a meal. Most appetizers can be plenty to fill you up and can be as little as a third of the price of an entrée. This is also a great option for you if you like to try many different dishes. Order two to three for the same price as a meal.
5. Hit up the food carts. Food carts can offer 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.

Look at what you could make with farmers market ingredients
6. Shop the farmers market. There’s no better way to experience local cuisine and interacting with residents than a visit to the closest farmers market. You will find a variety of food, including meats, fruits, vegetables and cheeses. Purchase enough for lunch and enjoy the afternoon having a picnic in a nearby park.
7. 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. Make many of your own meals and save considerably. I don’t often like to spend money on eating breakfast out, so I love to buy new cereals and pastries I can enjoy in my room.

Free breakfast tastes delicious
8. 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.
9. Sign up for Groupon. 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.com for the destination of your next vacation (they cover many international locations as well as the United States) and eat for less! Want to know more about Groupon? See my post here.

Sliders are perfect for little ones
10. Don’t order off the kids’ menu. If you travel with children, you’ll notice that most 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.

While there are other ways to save on dining, these have proven to be the most useful for my travels and are my first suggestions to anyone asking how to cut costs on their trip. They are easy to do and will enable you to try a bigger variety of foods, too. You’ll experience more of the city and its people, giving you a greater vacation experience. 

(Most of this post originally posted on Cheap Like Me as a guest post. See it here)

Winner! I have two great giveaways happening. 

The first is for a Travelon Flat Out HangingToiletry bag stuffed with a bunch of awesome stuff: GoToobs courtesy of Human Gear, rinseless laundry detergent courtesy of SoakWash, a selection of LaFresh wipes, some travel sizes of men's Jack Black toiletries, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, Colgate Wisps, nail polish remover wipes, anti-bacterial wipes, sunblock, body wash, Man on the Move soap leaves and (not shown) 2 toothbrush sanitizers. What more could you ask for? Throw in some lip balm and your toothbrush and go! Enter here or click on the Current Giveaway tab at the top of the page.

The second giveaway is sponsored by Travelon. They have generously offered to send one of our readers their fantastic Pack-flat Backup Bag. It's an extra carry-on bag for your travels. Packs flat for your journey there and then unzips into a full carry-on bag that fits under the airplane seat for all the goodies you bought on your trip. Click here to enter.

Don't forget to join me on the awesome new Savvy Living Community sponsored by Ebates. Not only will you learn how to save money by better utilizing Ebates, but you will also be able to read Savvy blog posts and join in discussions and live chats with Savvy Leaders (like me!) to learn how to save money on all aspects of your life. With 16 bloggers who are experts on everything from travel to family life, you're sure to learn a lot of new information, find some great new blogs and even make some friends along the way. Join Ebates. 


  1. So...in Costa Rica, do you think it's best to eat at our resort or off site?

  2. Kristin, if your resort is not all-inclusive, I would definitely recommend venturing out to eat where more of the locals eat. The meals are surely to be more authentic and affordable. Check TripAdvisor if you want to plan a few meals out and need some recommendations from locals and travelers. They are always my first stop in planning such things.


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