When people estimate the cost of their upcoming trip, almost everyone undershoots the true cost. This is because it’s all too easy to overlook those tinier expenses, such as food. Therefore, purposeful strategies to reduce spending during meals can make affordable travel much, much easier. Below are strategies I’ve found successful:
1) Be strategic when picking your accommodations. Obviously, any hotel or B&B that includes breakfast in the overall cost of the room will spare you from having to spend additional money on the “most important meal of the day.” However, Air BNBs ultimately offer the most ways to save money on food. Finding accommodations that include a fridge, microwave, stove, etc. provide the opportunity to safely store leftovers, as well as prepare “home cooked” meals yourself.
2) Grocery shop. Building off of the above talking point, grocery shopping is a must for individuals hoping to save money during their vacation. Preparing full meals for yourself is a great way to prevent eating out. However, the real trick is to buy plenty of snacks for yourself. This way, if you find yourself hungry while in a touristy area with insultingly inflated prices, you can reach for your snack bar rather than paying for a $5.00 muffin.
Even if you aren’t able to stay anywhere in which you’re granted the luxury of a refrigerator and ways to prepare food, grocery shopping isn’t out of the question. In almost all locations, one of the most enjoyable experiences a traveler can have is to browse a farmer’s market and then having a picnic in a pleasant green space.
3) Carry a refillable water bottle and fill it whenever possible. This money-saving travel tip is pretty self-explanatory. The one caveat is that, if you’re unsure about the quality of the drinking water where you’re traveling, consider bringing a water decontamination kit or pills.
4) Look for deals when eating out. Of course you’ll want to eat out during your travels, and I certainly would encourage you to explore the local cuisine. One way to shave a few bucks off the price without sacrificing quality would be to dine when there are reduced prices. Many eateries offer special lunch, happy hour, or late-night menus, all with reduced prices.
5) If possible, eat where the locals eat. How many times have you looked a price on a menu, were temporarily taken aback by the price, and thought to yourself “what the hell, I’m on vacation.” Restaurants in tourist-heavy areas count on this and drive up the prices. If you go to these restaurants, it’s also unlikely that you’ll be eating the best cuisine either. After all, restaurants that cater specifically to vacationers are less concerned about repeat-visits, meaning that taste is less important than bells and whistles. Of course there are plenty of exceptions to this. However, it’s worth getting the restaurant recommendations of locals, as well as wandering a few blocks away from the tourist hotbed.
On a similar note, observe how the locals drink. Do they go to the bars for their liquor or do they find an alternative? For example, in Denmark, beer is so pricey that locals like to buy alcohol from the store and then sit on the stoops of Nyhavn Harbor to people watch.
6) Be aware of restaurant etiquette and “hidden” costs. Did you know that, in Portugal, restaurants will sometimes lay out small dishes without you asking, only to charge you when you take a nibble? In Spain, eating at a table costs more than eating standing up at a ledge. Plus, tipping in Iceland isn’t considered mandatory. Not knowing insights like this could lead to you spending more money on meals than you would otherwise, so make sure to do your research prior to traveling.
I’m a large advocate of treating oneself to the occasionally nice meal while traveling. However, by being selective and smart with how you spend your money, you should be able to save your money and eat your cake, too.