It’s tasty, but expensive.
When you travel, eating out exposes you to some of the most amazing food you’ll ever eat – especially if you’re traveling in a foreign country. But, that food bill can get out of control. So, here’s how to reign it in and stay within your budget.
Eat For Free
No, you don’t need to eat out of the dumpster to eat free. You can actually get a lot of good food just by getting up in the morning and eating in the lobby area of your hotel. You see, most hotels serve free food for breakfast. They do this because it’s a competitive advantage to do so. Many years ago, breakfasts at hotels didn’t exist or they were paid-for meals.
Today, you expect to get at least a continental breakfast.
Some hotels offer a full breakfast that includes bacon, eggs, and biscuits and gravy. If you can score this kind of morning meal, do it. And, load up on fatty and high-protein meals. Why? Because these are going to be the most filling. It should keep you satiated throughout the day.
And, that leads to the second tip to save money on food while traveling.
Eat Just One Paid-For Meal
If you can eat just one meal a day, go for it. If you can’t at least only pay for one meal. If you’re eating a big breakfast, you can skip lunch and eat a modest dinner. And, if you ate a high-protein breakfast, you don’t need to worry about eating a protein-rich dinner, so you can load up on cheap carbs and healthy snacks. Stocking the fridge with items that can be quickly packed for a picnic lunch can help cut your food costs and allows for flexibility in eating on the road.
If you’re eating a dinner meal as you main meal, eat early. Early bird specials or late lunches are ideal because these menus tend to offer lighter meals and meals that are cheaper than dinner meals.
If you can, try to scout out where seniors dine in, because those restaurants will often have discounted lunch and early bird specials.
You will probably have to dine in to get those specials, but it will save you a lot of money.
Don’t Eat With Tourists
Touristy places are “hot spots” for out of towners, but they’re also expensive. So, if you can help it, avoid these places. They’ll crater your wallet and you’ll end up overpaying and not getting enough food to eat.
They’re also notoriously generic in terms of food selection. If you like “comfort food” this might be OK, but if you want cheap eats and to experience the local culture, it’s a bad idea.
Another thing to think about: Restaurants that are located in or near touristy places tend to be expensive because they don’t get repeat business. They people coming in for one meal and then leaving. But, the farther away you get from those spots, the more likely you are to find “normal” restaurants with normal prices.
Don’t Eat In The Hotel
This is one of the worst places to eat because the food here will be way overpriced. Outside of the free breakfast, hotel restaurants tend to be a bad deal. They’re playing up the fact that they have a captive audience, so they will always charge more than a local restaurant or diner.
Eat With Locals
One of the best ways to get good food cheaply is to eat with locals. This is especially true in foreign countries, where people may not have a lot of money. Local food vendors, street vendors, and small family-owned restaurants have to cater to a local crowd that may come every day but not have much money to spend every day on food.
And, local street vendors can be some of the cheapest food places you’ll ever find. That’s because they don’t really have any overhead to pay. It’s just the food stand and the food, plus a small markup.
You will have to be adventurous when you choose to eat local, but it can be well worth it. If you’re traveling outside of your home country, make sure that you stay away from vendors who are selling meat or dairy products. The quality isn’t always the greatest, and you really don’t know what you’re getting – especially if the culture isn’t based around eating meat.
For example, many areas in India and other countries are vegetarian in nature. The locals don’t eat a lot of meat. So, you shouldn’t either. Vendors might stock meat, but that’s only because they’re trying to appeal to travelers.