How to Save on Meals While Traveling

BaggedLunch_mainTransportation and accommodations aren’t the only travel expenses that can bite you in the budget — you also need to feed yourself and your travel companions.  Some people can comfortably get by on one meal a day, but most of us require more substantial nourishment than that on a daily basis.  To make sure your dining charges don’t consume other portions of your road resources, check out our tips on how to save on meals while you’re traveling.

Make Your Own

Eating out is a quick, easy way to blow through your travel reserves.  If you want to save money, prepare your own meals as much as possible.  Pick up ingredients at local farmers’ markets or grocers, which often offer lower prices than supermarket chains.  If your destination is famous for a certain type of produce or food (e.g., apples, tomatoes, cheese), buy that in bulk; foodstuffs that are available in great quantities tend to be less expensive.  It helps if you stay at a hotel that offers in-room microwaves, mini-fridges, and coffee makers.  Ask the front desk to empty the refrigerator beforehand (hotel prices on fridge goodies can be outrageous), then stock it with affordable favorites and easy-to-prepare dishes.

TravelMeals_HappyHourFind a Good Happy Hour

Please note that we do not condone excessive alcohol use; in fact, we applaud those states that have laws prohibiting special prices or other promotions that might encourage irresponsible drinking.  Beyond that, going easy on alcoholic drinks is one of the best things you can do for your travel funds.  However, restaurants and taverns nationwide offer free food during specific hours; just search for “happy hour + free food” in whatever city you’re visiting to find places to sate your hunger very affordably.

Reward Yourself

You shouldn’t be miserly all the time, particularly if you’re on vacation.  Schedule regular treats:  Go light on a series of meals so you can splurge on a delicious dinner.  For instance, you might limit yourself (and your family) to fruit and coffee for two straight breakfasts, followed by sandwiches, a big bag of chips, and soda or water for lunch both days.  For dinner the first night, maybe share a large pizza.  Put the savings toward a big dinner the second night (and be sure to request doggy bags for your leftovers).

TravelMeals_DinnerOutPick the Right Restaurants

If you must dine out, you still have several ways to save:

  • Order an appetizer (or two) instead of a main course.
  • Skip desserts.
  • Split main courses, and/or turn doggy bags into next-day lunches.
  • Research the most affordable restaurants in the area (and get recommendations from residents or local papers).
  • Eat lunch, which is typically lower-priced than dinner.

Join Travel Plus

Travel Plus members enjoy a 10% discount on gift cards to popular restaurants (and other travel-related merchants) — plus 5% cash back on airline, hotel, and rental-car reservations, in addition to cash-back rebates on all sorts of travel perks.  When you join Travel Plus, you can save on all your travel needs.

Travel Tips: How to Pack Light

packinglight_mainAs much as we all like to daydream about the freedom of the open road, real travel isn’t exactly free.  Indeed, transportation costs seem to rise every year.  Air travel in particular has gotten more expensive over the past four years, and so have baggage fees and other related costs.  In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines collected almost $900 million in checked-bag fees in the second quarter of 2014 alone.  Travelers don’t have any control over airfare rates, but to help you avoid paying anything at all in baggage fees, we offer the following tips on how to pack light when you travel.

Think Small

The first step to packing light is deciding to use — and stick with — a small bag.  The most common allowable carry-on size is approximately 9″ x 22″ x 14″, but the exact dimensions differ from airline to airline, so be sure to check with your carrier before selecting and packing your bag.

Think Tightpackinglight_packing

Savvy travelers swear by the rolled-clothes packing technique, because it decreases the space needed for wearables.  It can also add wrinkles, though; if certain pieces of clothing need to be pristine, fold and place them at the bottom, then layer the rolled clothes on top of them.

Think Differently

People often pack for worse-case scenarios, adding all sorts of “just in case” items that aren’t ultimately needed.  Turn that attitude around, and expect the best.  Eliminate any and all superfluous pieces — that third pair of shoes, those two extra books, the heavy sweater you’ve always carried as protection against an unexpected cold snap in summertime Florida.  Weather forecasting has improved significantly over the last century; check the forecast for your destination, and pack accordingly.

Think Ahead

The world isn’t as fragmented as it used to be.  Chances are, you’ll find your favorite soap, shampoo, or even pair of socks wherever you go — especially if you’re staying in the United States.  To save room in your bag for more valuable and/or necessary pieces, leave out the brand-name toiletries and various other items that you can buy (in travel size) once you land.

packinglight_airportThink Footloose

If you want to save on travel, plan to walk instead of paying for ground transportation.  Beware, though:  Airports keep growing bigger and bigger, so you’ll be carrying your luggage greater distances than ever before.  Take your cargo for a stroll right after packing it to make sure you can tote it for extended periods.  If it fails the comfort test, shed more weight (and/or pick a better bag).

Think Travel Plus

If you really want to save on travel, be sure to make your reservations through Travel Plus.  On top of earning 5% cash back on airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals, you’ll also enjoy rebates on dozens of travel costs, including in-flight perks, hotel extras, and rental-car gear — plus rebates on Wi-Fi fees practically anywhere you go.  When you join Travel Plus, you can save on all your travel needs.