One of the easiest ways to blow the budget while on vacation is by dining out for every meal. Here are nine ways we try to keep food costs down when traveling.
- Pack a lunch to eat on the way to your destination. Since we usually leave on our trips right after breakfast, I pack sandwiches or other lunch items, along with drinks, in a small cooler. Not only is it cheaper and healthier than stopping for fast food, but we can either eat in the car as we drive or stop at a rest area along the way for a picnic.
- Book a hotel that offers a complimentary breakfast. Many hotels now have a free buffet breakfast for guests. They typically serve bagels, muffins, danishes, cereal and fruit although some have hot items such as pancakes, waffles, eggs or biscuits. Alternatively, if you have a condo with a small kitchen, it’s very easy to grab a few items at the grocery store to have on hand for eating breakfast in your room.
- As much as possible, avoid eating at amusement parks. We try to plan our time so that we eat a meal before we go in and after we leave. Sometimes, if we’re spending most of the day at the park, we have to eat lunch there, but we try to divide a meal between us and eat at one of the less expensive places.
- Eat the big meal of the day at lunchtime when restaurant menu items are often cheaper than at dinnertime.
- Look in travel guides for discount coupons for local eateries. We usually scour the hotel lobby and any welcome centers for brochures or magazines that contain coupons.
- Research the area where you will be staying and search online for printable coupons that are accepted at national or regional chain restaurants. I currently have in my purse coupons for Ruby Tuesday, Chilis and a couple of other eateries that are likely to be near a hotel.
- Bring snacks and drinks from home to have in your car and hotel room. Use the in-room refrigerator to keep drinks cold and the in-room microwave for popcorn or to heat other snacks.
- Call the restaurant at which you wish to dine and ask if they have early bird or other specials available. Especially in touristy areas, restaurants may discount entrée prices if you eat earlier or later than the average guest.
- If you think portion sizes at a restaurant may be large, have children (or yourself and your spouse) split a meal. You can always order more (or dessert!) if you are still hungry.
By following these tips, you can enjoy your vacation and head home with money still in your pocket! Please share any ideas you have for saving money on meals while vacationing.