There’s no question that food is a major line item in any vacation budget. While airfare and hotel costs can be fairly rigid, the cost of food while on vacation is very flexible. By simply planning ahead, you can save 50% or more on food expenses while on vacation. Take a look at these seven ways to save money and stay on budget (and none of them involve asking someone not to eat).
1) Look for “Free Breakfast” Deals: The last two summers I’ve taken my older girls to New York City and we stayed at the Hampton Inn both times. I love their free breakfasts, and so do my kids. We fill up and we’re ready to take on the day. Plus, I put apples and bananas in my purse for a mid-morning snack. Just be smart and make sure the nightly rate is still a good deal compared to a hotel without free breakfast.
2) Ask for a Fridge: If you’re staying in a hotel, remember that not all rooms come with a refrigerator, so make sure to ask for one. This is ideal for saving milk for cereal or bottled waters to take with you as you tour around each day.
3) Fill a Suitcase with Food: Yes, if you’re planning to stay in a hotel, pack an entire suitcase with food. I’m talking about breakfast cereals, granola bars, juice boxes, cookies, anything that won’t break into a million pieces in transit. Also, pack Wet Ones, paper plates and plastic utensils. Even if you paid $50 in airline bag fees, you’d still probably spend much more if you went out for breakfast and snacks.
4) Make Lunch the Biggest Meal of the Day: If you can, eat lunch later in the afternoon. Not only will you avoid crowds, but by the time dinner comes around you can have a small snack or dessert and feel quite satisfied. You’ll save money and feel better going to bed not quite so full.
5) Look for “Kids Eat Free” Mobile Apps: There are several websites and mobile apps that will tell you which restaurants around you offer “kids eat free” deals and on which nights. The mobile apps often have GPS to help you find a restaurant just around the corner. Two free apps to check out are Kids Meal Deals and Out to Eat with Kids.
6) Buy Coupon Booklets: Every city has an Entertainment Book, and inside each one you’ll find loads of coupons, including many buy-one-get-one-free coupons, for local restaurants. Order one online for the city you want to visit, and then look for more coupons at Entertainment.com and on their mobile app. Another one to check out for coupons is Enjoy the City, which also has coupon booklets for multiple destinations, including Orlando, Chicago and Los Angeles.
7) Hit Daily Deal Sites: If you know you’re going to Washington, DC on vacation, for example, sign up with Groupon, LivingSocial and other daily deal sites that specialize in discounts on local activities and restaurants. When I went to Ft. Lauderdale last year, I bought a Groupon good for half-off at a local pizza joint. Also, look for single city deal sites, like The Capitol Deal, which only operates in DC.
When you travel with your family on vacation, what are some of your best tips for saving money on food? Leave me some of your ideas in the comments section below.
Photo Credit: Charm and Poise