Obviously I love food, and I love eating food. I also, of course, consider eating local food to be one of the best parts of traveling. You know what I DON’T love? Spending $20 on awful sandwiches at the airport, all because I was desperate for food and hadn’t planned ahead. Yes, it happens, but sometimes it doesn’t have to. Here are a few ways to Save Money on Food While Traveling.
1. pack your own food
When driving: Bring snacks! Pack a lunch! When we go on road trips (even short ones) I usually bring a bag with fruit, power bars, and bottled water. For longer road trips: Bring a few small meals that pack well (I’m looking at you, peanut butter sandwich!). I also like to stick some tea bags in my purse – you can find free hot water lots of places.
When flying: Obviously your packing options are a lot more limited when flying, but you can still pack protein bars and nuts. If your airline miraculously passes out food (don’t expect this to happen on American-based airlines), hold on to those pre-packaged cookies or pretzels if you don’t want them right away.
2. Go to the market / grocery store
In the U.S.A.: If you’re traveling within the U.S., you know what to expect at the grocery store. Go pick up some food that doesn’t need cooked for a meal or two, or grab some snacks. Just remember, you’re on vacation, so have fun! Try getting food you haven’t tried before, or get some crusty bread, cheese, and fruit for a quick picnic!
International Travel: If you’re traveling outside the U.S., going to the market can be one of the best ways to see more about the place you’re visiting. There’s at least two kinds of markets you’ll run into- gorgeous ones with fruit, meat, bread, desserts etc. out on display, and less attractive ones that look pretty much like grocery stores here in the U.S. Go to both. The first kind are amazing- you’ll want to buy food and take photos and wander around looking at all the foods you can’t find easily at home. The second kind- well it’s a grocery store. This is where the locals probably buy most of their food. It’s going to have better prices. For example, the husband and I thought we were doing great finding 24 ounce bottled water for 1 euro at these touristy gift shops in Florence, until we went into a grocery store and realized they sell 1 LITER bottles for about 30 cents. Sold.
3. Read Reviews
You know what’s sad? Wasting money, time, and calories on food that’s not very good. I’m not recommending planning out every meal, but restaurant review websites like Yelp and Trip Advisor can help you find restaurants with good reviews that are nearby, open, and in your price range.
Bonus: Eating in airports
Newsflash: Airport food is expensive!! And it’s usually not good. Plus, each airport has different options, and even the familiar chain options will cost more than they would outside the airport. Usually. There are a few exceptions- in my experience, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Einstein Bros. Bagels tend to have the same (or very similar) prices as their non-airport counterparts.
If you find yourself hungry in an airport, usually the airport website will have a map with the food options. Look the map up on your smart-phone. If the airport is small and doesn’t have a food map, chances are the food will all be clustered together. Take a few minutes to see what your options are. If you’re not crunched for time, and the restaurants all look horrible, take a few minutes to look through the food at airport gift shops. You might be surprised and find interesting local snacks or wine that can fill you up. This may also be time to break into the food you packed before you left home. Sometimes, however, the food scene in airports will be bleak, and you’ll end up paying for overpriced bland food. This is okay. Make up for it with your next meal, and enjoy your travels.
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