You search the internet for the best deals on flights and accommodation when planning a trip. So don’t throw all your financial worries to the wind once you’re on vacation – especially when it comes to putting food in your mouth.
It can be easy to overspend on food when you are away from home. You have to eat, and food seems more expensive when you travel. But with some advanced planning and creative thinking, there are ways to cut your vacation food costs.
10 tips to save money on food while traveling
This tip will help you enjoy your vacation without worrying about overspending.
1. Snack Pack
Bring snacks from home so you don’t have to buy expensive airport fare or get stuck paying convenience store prices for snacks on a road trip. Arcade mix, granola, crackers and applesauce are all good for travel.
If you’re visiting attractions like amusement parks or a zoo, check their rules for outdoor dining. For example, Disney World guests can bring snacks and food that does not require heating.
2. Bring a water bottle
Nobody wants to pay $5 for 16 ounces. Water bottle. But tourist spots benefit from the lack of other options to quench your thirst. Take an empty water bottle with you and fill it at the water fountain, a fast food restaurant, or straight from the tap. You may even come across filtered water filling stations. A reusable filtered water bottle is a good investment if you don’t have access to filtered water.
3. Go grocery shopping
If you are staying somewhere that has access to the kitchen, go grocery shopping and cook rather than eating out with every meal. Or if you’re driving to your destination, bring non-perishable groceries from home or pack a cooler with ice for things that need to be kept cold.
Even if you don’t have a full kitchen, there’s plenty you can do with a small refrigerator and microwave. Cereals, oatmeal, muffins, fruit, and yogurt are easy breakfast options. You can make sandwiches for lunch for a fraction of the cost of having one of the deli. While you’re grocery shopping, don’t forget to buy snacks.
4. Choose lunch over dinner
If you want to taste food in a high-class restaurant, go to lunch when prices are often cheaper. Once you’ve had your nice meal of the day, choose a cheaper option for dinner, such as a quick-service restaurant or sandwiches in your hotel room.
5. Find discounts
Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer deals on dining — plus discounts on entertainment, shopping, and more. Travel brochures or restaurant guides in the hotel lobby or visitor center may include coupons for dining out as well. You can buy discounted restaurant gift cards on sites like Restaurant.com or Raise.com.
Many chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesday will give you free food or a percentage of your bill by signing up as a new eClub member or rewards program.
If you’re on vacation to celebrate your birthday, take advantage of free birthday gifts and discounts.
6. Order appetizers as a meal
Appetizers usually cost less than a full meal but can be filling. Check menu prices. You may find that you can order a side dish or a home salad along with your appetizer and still spend less than you would for a main dish.
7. Ask for water
When dining out, choose water instead of soft drinks, alcohol, or other expensive drinks to lower the cost of your food bill. Filling up on water before and during your meal may reduce the likelihood of ordering an expensive dessert. Or you may be too full to finish your meal and end up with leftovers to eat later. Plus, it’s easy to get dehydrated while traveling, especially if you do a lot of outdoor activities. Use mealtime as an opportunity to hydrate.
8. Take advantage of happy hour specials
Plan to eat within happy hour to save money on food and drink. Some establishments offer happy hour in the early evening while others prepare their specials for patrons late at night. Others only have deals on certain days of the week. Check individual restaurants for details.
9. Research food choices in advance
As you plan your trip, check out restaurants, bars, and other eateries near where you’re staying and where you’ll visit. Look at the menu prices to see if the offerings fall within your budget. Sites like Yelp can help you filter out expensive sites and direct you to the best sites in unfamiliar cities.
10. Eat free food and drinks
Enjoy free cookies, coffee and continental breakfast at your hotel. Drink all free samples on winery or brewery tours. If old friends or relatives live near your travel destination, greet them with their offer to come over for dinner. Free food is best for budget travelers.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.