If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that eating on vacation is one of my favorite things to do. I love food and eating new and different things. You can learn a lot from a place from what they put on their tables. That said, it's hard to travel on a budget when you want to eat every hour. Believe it or not, I do have some self-control when it comes to dining out. Of course, there are times when I don't and I have money-saving tips for those times, too.
Bring your own snacks
Eating on vacation starts before you even leave the house. I always bring my own snacks for the airplane so I don't have to pay for those crappy "snack boxes" onboard. It's not so much that they are expensive, though if you travel with several people they can add up quickly, but they aren't filling or healthy at all. Before we departed for the airport, I put together a snack box of my own that I made from scratch: plum bread, granola bars, blackberry brownies, pizza croissants and parmesan chips. (Some of these will be included in my travel cookbook that I'm working on.)
Seems like a lot probably, but I had a very long flight ahead of me and figured anything we didn't eat onboard we would eat when we got there. I also tossed a bag of microwaveable oatmeal packets for some mornings in my carry-on. If we had both bought snacks on each flight that day (short flight to BC and long flight to London), we would have spent $12 each. We made sure to pack snacks on the rest of our flights as well, but since they were bought, I will not include them in my savings. Luckily, our international flights included regular meals.
Total Cost: $0 - made from pantry items
Savings: $24 -- more if you want something more exciting than a box of "cheese" and crackers.
Eat breakfast at "home"
We rarely go out for breakfast. We don't like to get up an hour earlier than we have to and see no point in paying money for eggs and toast. Generally, we hit up the nearest grocery store when we arrive and pick up bread, eggs, butter, milk, cereal and fruit. We did go out to breakfast a few times while we were gone, but for the most part we ate our oatmeal and pear bread and pastries we picked up. When we were at Disneyland, our hotel included a breakfast buffet each morning, so we didn't have to worry about finding food those three days.
Total Cost: Approximately $30 for oatmeal and food from the grocery store.
Savings: $270 (assuming we average $30 per meal for the 9 days we didn't eat out)
As much as we enjoy eating out, there were times when we were hungry but not hungry enough to eat a whole entree ourselves. First, this saves money, and second, it frees us up to have dessert if we want it. There is no such thing as a to-go box in many other countries, unless you order your food as takeaway. If you have leftovers, that's just too bad. Either eat it or leave it.
Total cost: $20 per meal
Savings: $120 (based on 6 shared meals)
Go to tea
The other day I blogged about why I love afternoon tea and it's even better when it's half or more off. We were only able to get to two afternoon teas while in London, but both were purchased using daily deal sites, so we saved even more. Having afternoon tea is like having both a late lunch and an early dinner at the same time. I love it!
Total cost: $85
Savings: $113 (If you add $40 per dinner that we didn't have to eat, we saved an extra $80)
Use daily deal sites
Daily deal sites are some of the best ways to save at home and away. We use Groupon all the time, but this time I also used Groupon UK, KGBDeals and Amazon Local UK. I was able to use it not only for food, but activities as well (which we'll talk about soon). Because of our limited time and wanting to eat at a few specific places, we only purchased two daily deals for meals, including one for lunch on a yacht and one for a medieval feast that included themed food and entertainment. Fun!
Total cost: $126
Savings: $198 (it's awesome when you save more than you spent!)
I'm sure we saved more somewhere else, but these were the big ones. And even though the total may not seem huge, you can see that I saved more on food than accommodations. Woot!
What are your fave ways to save on food when you travel?