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Food on Vacation: Fun with Fewer Funds | Blue Palate

Food on Vacation: Fun with Fewer Funds

by Lindsay Sauve on December 9, 2009 · 0 comments

image credit: Aubrey Arenas

image credit: Aubrey Arenas

Traveling on a tight budget can be tricky, especially in winter months when camping isn’t an easy option for those light on gear. After the costs of airfare or gas, hotel, and sightseeing add up, often there’s little leftover for fine wining and dining.

The gastronomic experience in a new city or town is as important to many as the museums, events, sports, shopping or hiking. Also, part of being on vacation is a holiday from the kitchen and monotony of everyday cooking. How do we eat well on the road and have money leftover to buy groceries when we get home?

Having taken many trips with limited funding, I’ve devised a few strategies for sticking to a budget and enjoying the culinary aspects of tourism.

  • Book a hotel room with a small kitchenette. Cook most meals, especially breakfast and lunch, and splurge on a couple of nice meals. Grocery shopping in a new city can be as fun as dining out!
  • Drink in your hotel room and save your money for meals. Alcohol can be the most expensive part of dining out. Buy a couple of your favorite bottles of wine or some cocktail makings and have a drink and appetizer (like some healthy nuts) on your balcony rather than the bar. At the restaurant, hold the alcohol or just order a glass instead of a whole bottle.
  • Research restaurants before you go. Often, if we are unfamiliar with a city, we find ourselves hungry, desperate and eating in over-priced, underwhelming tourist-trap restaurants recommended by the concierge. Read up on a city or town’s top-rated restaurants, which aren’t always the most expensive, especially in local entertainment guides or weeklies. Websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are useful too. (Read the customer reviews!)
  • Be adventurous. The fun of traveling to a new place is trying new cuisine, the best food is often the local food. Eat where the locals eat. Venture from the downtown. Visit an international neighborhood or a college campus. You’ll likely find yourself paying less and having a more intriguing experience than if you ate at the fancy bistro across the street from your hotel.
  • Splurge on one or two great meals. If you can’t have a vacation without visiting a five-star restaurant, pick one or two to visit for lunch (cheaper) or dinner, and eat frugally for the other meals.

Are you a seasoned budget traveler? Share your tips for vacation dining with fewer finds.

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