Travel Smart and Eat on the Cheap
By Holly McElwee
I love summertime travel but I cringe at the cost of eating while vacationing. Here’s how my family and I travel smart and eat on the cheap when we vacation.
1. Breakfast included. My favorite hotels are the ones who include breakfast in the price of the stay. These breakfasts are usually in the form of a breakfast bar, which means my family can eat as much as they want. One of our best strategies is to eat a large breakfast, which then pushes lunch back to later in the day. If we eat a late lunch, then we also eat a later dinner. Most restaurants charge more money at dinnertime, so we try to make dinner our smallest meal of the day.
2. Breakfast in the hotel room. An alternative strategy to the one I just mentioned is to eat breakfast in the hotel room. If our hotel doesn’t include breakfast and we don’t want to eat breakfast at a restaurant, then we purchase a few easy breakfast items from a local grocery store and eat in our hotel room before heading out for the day. This doesn’t set us up for a smaller lunch or dinner strategy I mentioned above, but it does save money on a pricey breakfast. Most hotel rooms have mini-fridges these days and some even have microwaves, so it’s easy to do a simple breakfast in the hotel room. We also eat in stages so that some family members eat while others get ready in the bathroom. This kills two birds with one stone.
3. Pack a picnic lunch. Ninety-five percent of the time there’s access to a grocery store when we’re traveling. We pick up some easy sandwich items, and make at least one meal a day into a picnic. It’s fun when a scenic or unusual spot is chosen for the meal. Anyone can eat at a regular picnic table, so we look beyond the norm to make the picnic different and scenic. We carry a picnic blanket with us on most trips so that we can just sit down in any spot and have lunch. I admit, though, that we have also spent several picnics eating in our car, so be ready for anything with this strategy.
4. Leave the tourist zones. If possible, we leave the tourist zones. Generally, prices there are high and gimmicks run deep. Beware of coupon offers…their main purpose is to get diners in the door. I like to find out where the locals eat, and then follow them there. The experience is more authentic.
5. Use websites for advice. My favorite traveling website is Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com ). Packed with user reviews, it’s reliable for sharing information with travelers regarding restaurants. I’ve never visited a bad restaurant that had high reviews on Trip Advisor. I’ve got the free app downloaded on my smartphone so I have access wherever I go.
6. Avoid alcohol. For some folks this is a tough one, but nothing drives up the price of a meal like an alcoholic beverage. If drinks are a must, try to hold out for a significant meal for the special beverage. Purchase alcohol at a grocery and then store it in the hotel room’s mini-fridge. This isn’t the same as having a drink with dinner, but it saves a significant amount of money.
7. Investigate Meal Plans. In some instances, resorts or amusement parks will offer meal plans. These can be a good deal, depending on the family, what they like to eat, how much they like to eat, and whether or not the group plans to stay onsite for the entire trip. Investigate each plan fully before making a decision about whether or not this works for your family. In many cases, meal plans are a great deal, but do the homework first.
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