Transportation 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.
Find 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.
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).
Pick 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.