One of the most expensive aspects of being on vacation can be the food and drink. At home you may go out for a meal once or twice a week, but when you’re traveling it’s usually 3 meals a day (plus snacks) in restaurants which can get EXPENSIVE (especially in big cities). Here are a few ways you can save money.
- Plan ahead
When planning your trip, research the area you will be staying in. Check out the restaurants to see the price of the entrees and kids’ meals. Also see if there is anything special going on at the time you will be there, like Restaurant Week, where a 3-course meal with wine will cost around $20, or a Lobsterfest, Oktoberfest and so on. I love looking for Groupons, Entertainment coupon books and more before I go.
Also when you book your hotel, try to choose a room with a refrigerator and microwave. Plan to shop for the basics when you get there, such as milk and cereal, if you have small children. Stock up on snacks too. Bring reusable water bottles and water purification tablets if you are going overseas.
- Choose where you stay wisely
Some accomodations can include meals. For example, many of the motel chains offer a free hot breakfast. Eat well in the morning and that can tide you over for many hours.
A LOT of chain hotels offer a hot breakfast where you can also make your own sandwiches from the toast, bacon, egg and so on, which you can wrap up and take with you for lunch. Most places won’t mind, but just don’t be too obvious about it. In this case, all you would then have to worry about would be dinner and snacks.
Our favorite New Hampshire spot, the Stonehurst Manor offers gourmet breakfast and dinners (as well as cocktail hour) included in the price of the room as do some B&B’s and resorts. Be sure not to miss out and make the most of each meal.
- Eat out on the weeknights, not the weekends
There are often special deals on certain weekdays to entice more people to come out to dine, so make the most of them.
- Enjoy a big lunch and a light dinner
The lunch menu is often the same food, but far cheaper. We’ve been known to have a very late lunch and then just have cheese and crackers for dinner.
- Go for happy hour and early bird specials
You don’t have to be old to enjoy an early bird special, and these usually offer the best value. And don’t be shy about asking for a doggie bag. If the portions are really large, avoid the temptation to overeat by taking one third to one half of the food and putting it on your bread plate, and asking them to pack up the rest. You will save money and calories too!
- Look for buffets
They will usually charge you per person no matter what the age of your children, but buffets are a great way to taste everything, and you can take some food away if you are not too obvious about it – like chicken fingers, sliced meats and rolls and so on that will be great for lunch the next day. This option is not for me, because I don’t eat enough at one meal to make the most of a buffet (plus I’m a little embarassed to take food, I feel like I’m stealing), but if you’re okay with it…it’s an option.
- Pack well
Head to a warehouse store and buy granola bars or other snacks in bulk. Bring a reusable water bottle for each person. Have nuts on hand. Buy bread and a jar of peanut butter. The sandwiches will hold up well no matter what the weather.
Have a backpack to carry the snacks and water in. Bring a Thermos and fill it up each morning with coffee at the hotel. Bring a Tupperware for storing leftovers from buffets, or from your doggie bags.
- Ask the locals
The hotel staff or people who live in the area will usually know what’s good, at a good price. You can end up discovering some fantastic meals for great prices. I’ve had the best meals going to local haunts.
- Steer clear of drinks on the menu
It is important to stay hydrated, so be sure to drink the water at the table. If you do have to have a drink, steer clear of fancy cocktails, and go for beer or wine. Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you have to keep costs down. Order one soda and divide it into the water glasses. You will get the taste without all the sugar and calories.