Eating out for every meal while you travel can take out a huge chunk from your budget. And there’s no denying that it’s tough to find affordable meals when you’re on the road or hanging out in the airport pre-flight! But with a little planning it is possible to stay on a food budget during your travels this holiday season (or any season).
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Check out local grocery stores
The good news is, there are grocery stores everywhere. That includes grocery shopping in (or on your way to) your destination. If you want to save on food, go about it as you would at home. If you’re unfamiliar with an area just ask around! Depending on your lodgings, you can also request a refrigerator in your hotel room to keep anything that you’ve purchased that might go bad. If you’re traveling on the road and have space to add a cooler, you can keep perishables fresh there.
Scout out lodging with a kitchen
Buying your own food is great. Cooking your own food is even better. Air BnB as well as other apartment renting services can set you up with all the amenities of home and are usually less expensive than even the cheapest hotel. The added bonus of staying somewhere with easy access to a kitchen is your ability to make meals where you lodge. That can save you hundreds on a trip. Purchase the you’ll need for your stay – but don’t overbuy. You won’t need to stock up on a rainbow of spices if you’re only lodging for a night.
Take advantage of perks where you can
Online tools like Yelp Deals, Groupon and TravelZoo can also clue you into meal deals and discounts. They’re particularly convenient because you can change your city easily, letting you scope out a destinations deals even before you get there. There are tons of special deals and these freebies and discounts can help cut costs.
Pack your own meals
The number one way to save money as you travel is to pack your own snacks and meals. While feasible for most people on a short journey, it can be daunting for anyone facing a long trip. What you’re looking for when you pack your travel-friendly meals is something that’s easy to carry, doesn’t require too much fussiness to eat and can stand in for a satisfying sit-down meal. That rules out some options (have you ever tried to pack a DIY sushi kit?) but gives solid guidelines for other more travel friendly meals. Depending on the length of your trip, you’ll want to take care as to how long ingredients will keep.
If you are going to eat on the go, make a meal of it
Even though it’s a great money saver, it’s not always realistic to pack a full set of snacks and meals for a trip. If you do decide to spend money on food as you travel try to make it a full, satisfying meal. I can’t tell you how many 10 dollar Pringles and peanut M&Ms meals I’ve concocted in my travels. Lets just say enough to remember with a shudder.
If you’re going to buy food, don’t hack together a something made up of individual snack items. A bag of chips, and a coffee, with a scoop of yogurt and a piece of fruit can end up costing more than a heartier and more satisfying meal. While it might seem cheaper when you look at the lower prices of each individual item, it also adds up quickly. Ideally, you’re looking for best value (nutritional and price) which isn’t generally found in the snack section alone.
Bring a reusable water bottle
I know that water isn’t actually in the food category, but it’s definitely something that can cost (or save) you money. Continually buying water bottles at airports or rest stops will cost you big bucks over a trip. A bottle of small water at San Francisco Airport costs a whopping a 3.75! Multiply that by a few and you’re looking at big (and unnecessary) spending.