Food costs can take a big bite out of your vacation budget. Dining at hotel restaurants and even cozy roadside eateries can be expensive. For just a four-day trip in the United States, the cost of food and alcohol can set you back $155, according to ValuePenguin, a financial data website. And, for a 12-day overseas vacation, the cost jumps to $520 for food and alcohol. And, that doesn't factor in how much it will cost you for transportation, lodging, and entertainment.
Those last three costs are generally fixed, meaning you'll need to spend money to get to where you're going, rent a place to stay—though there are ways to save on hotel costs and find deals on airline tickets—and see a few shows and museums. But, you can certainly save on food costs. Read on to discover seven ways to minimize the impact on your budget.
Use Coupons and Gift Certificates
Don't leave home without those coupons. You can cut your food expenses considerably by purchasing an Entertainment Book for the area that you'll be visiting, or by picking up discounted restaurant gift certificates from Restaurant.com. All it takes is a little forethought to save.
Get Your Order to Go
Most hotel rooms and vacation rentals come with a folder of takeout menus. Sift through the folder until you've found something that looks tasty and affordable; then place an order, and skip out on the cost of drinks and a tip.
Does the hotel you've booked offer a free continental breakfast? If so, that's one meal a day that you've got covered. How about cocktails, coffee, or an afternoon snack? Find out what's included in the price of your room; then, take advantage of any and all food freebies.
Those tourist hotspots that seem pricey to you also seem pricey to the locals. Talk to the clerk at the hotel desk, and find out where she likes to go for cheap eats. Then, enjoy an affordable night out minus the vacation crowd.
Eat Out at Lunch
Skip the pricey entrees and long wait times by eating out at lunch instead of dinner. Lots of establishments offer lunch specials to bring in business during the slower part of the day. And, If you've had a big breakfast—hopefully for free—at the hotel, lunch can be a snack that will cost only a few dollars.
Snack foods purchased from vending machines and convenience stores receive a hefty markup before they reach you. Avoid this expense entirely by bringing along your own snacks from home or stocking up at a grocery store once you arrive at your destination. If you're flying, pack snacks for your flight, such as fresh bananas, oranges, tangerines, grapes, and apples. Remember to check Transportation Security Administration rules as to what foods are allowed on planes before you go.
Eating out three meals a day is fun, but pricey. Hang onto a little money for souvenirs and sunscreen by eating some of your meals in your room. It's amazing what you can accomplish with a minifridge and a kitchenette.