Eating Well While Traveling on a Budget
When you're traveling it can be difficult to find good food at reasonable prices especially if you happen to be staying in a big city that has an established food and restaurant culture. When you're faced with a budget, you want to try and maximize your enjoyment per buck. If you want to eat well and sample the local cuisine for a budget price, you'll need to do a little research to find that perfect restaurant that offers a balance between quality and price.
Obviously, if you’re staying at an all-inclusive, you won’t need to worry about this part, but many, many people need to consider where they’re going to feed their family and not break the bank.
First, check with your hotel or hostel and inquire whether breakfast is included in your stay. In Europe many hotels provide breakfast. If you're hotel does provide breakfast, don't skip it in favor for paying for food elsewhere. Remember the continental breakfast we had? Never pass up an amenity that’s included in your room rate. Hotel and hostel breakfasts are also a great way to get to know other guests. Another option for budget eating is to eat at a chain restaurant that you a familiar with, such as McDonald's, Burger King or Kentucky Fried Chicken. You can find a McDonald's about anywhere world-wide. While this isn’t recommended for every day, it is a good way to save a little money when you’re low for the day. After all, you can eat at McDonald’s at home! If you want to become familiar with the culture of the country you are visiting, eating at a fast food restaurant is not a good option.
You can also buy groceries and make your own food. If you have a kitchen or kitchenette, this is excellent for breakfasts and lunches. It’s much cheaper to pour a bowl of cereal for your little ones in your room instead of going down to the dining room where the cereal will be overpriced anyway. Pick up some cold cuts and bread and pack a lunch instead of buying the over-priced hot food at the theme park!
Eating one or two meals a day from a street vendor or take-out restaurant may also be a good way to still eat great, but save some money. Not only will you get a taste of local flavor and culture, but you will find the food is very good and reasonably priced! Being friendly with other guests in the hotel, the concierge and the locals, is another great way to discover good food that won't break the budget.
Ask a local if they know any good restaurants that aren't too expensive. They should be able to come up with a few good options for you. Make sure you indicate that you want to sample some local cooking. If you're going to splurge at an expensive restaurant, lunch is a good time to do so. You can often get the same famous food at a significantly lower cost. Since most health experts agree that eating the largest meal of the day in the afternoon is a good idea, you'll be doing more than your pocketbook a favor.
Almost every town has a local “Mom and Pop” diner that provides better than excellent home cooking for not a lot of money. We found one in Florida that offered up an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet for an affordable price per person and it had everything on it you could ever wish for at breakfast time! Another good way to find inexpensive restaurants is to always be looking for a good place to eat.
If you're out visiting a tourist site, stop by a few restaurants and read their menus which are usually posted in the window. Even if you are not hungry, you may decide to come back later.
You may have better luck with this technique when you are in an area of the city that is not your standard tourist destination. Eating in a sit-down full service restaurant is the most expensive dining option, so if you are really on a budget, you may want to limit the number of full service meals you eat.
But don’t forget to spoil yourself. When I was in Boston, I wanted a full-service lobster dinner with all the trimmings. I wanted to be pampered and enjoy a meal I wouldn’t get to have at home. I went to the restaurant best known for their delicious lobster which was also well-known for their high prices. That lobster ate up a large portion of my food budget, but as I ate that tasty lobster, I found it was more than worth the price I paid. If you're on a budget, you can still eat great during your travels; you just need to be aware of all your food options. Ask around with locals for recommendations. Make sure you know the price before you eat.
Most important of all, you should try new things. Stretch your boundaries and try something that you would never eat at home. After all isn't the reason you travel is to discover something different. If your hotel offers a “kids eat free” plan or discounted meals for your stay, take advantage of this as much as you can, but remember, you’re on vacation to experience your travel destination.
The point is to get outside your hotel and live! Before we get into specific vacation suggestions, we wanted to offer up some general tips and advice to get the maximum enjoyment value out of your family trip. It’s not a vacation unless it’s providing enjoyment – for everyone!