Travel costs can add up fast. Flights, renting a car, putting gas in the car, lodging and all those souvenirs the kids have to have can make for an expensive vacation. But one area where it’s easy to save? Food! Looking to travel on a budget? Here are five ideas for how to save money on food while traveling.
1. Split entrees.
When you’re traveling, you can’t really hang on to a doggy bag with your food (we tried and the dog literally ate it while we went down and explored the beach; even if your dog isn’t traveling with you, getting back to the hotel quickly to store your food in the fridge can be a real drag). Our solution for eating out is to split our entrees and ask for side salads all around. Keep in mind that the restaurant may charge for halving a meal, so just ask for an extra plate.
2. Cut out soda and shakes.
We have a rule on car trips: No sodas or milkshakes of any kind. Not that I don’t allow my kids treats, but passing on the soda not only keeps our restaurant bills trimmer, we’ve noticed another benefit: our kids don’t complain about tummy aches. Chocolate milkshakes are a surefire recipe for tummy issues for one of my kids, couple that with long drives and a packed schedule, and you’ve got a potential car clean-up and no one likes getting sick on vacation.
3. Book a room with a kitchenette.
Some hotels now offer family suites complete with a kitchenette (even an in-room microwave can go along way). Instead of eating out, grab some supplies from the grocery store to make sandwiches or deli wraps in your hotel room. On our last getaway, I brought along packets of Kraft Easy Mac macaroni and cheese for my kids. I pared our simple meal with fresh fruit from a stand we’d found along the road. Then, we ate our little feast in our hotel room, on the beds, while watching a movie. My kids loved it and it saved us a bundle – plus, no tipping required!
4. Pack protein foods.
Forget sweet, empty snacks that will keep your kids asking for more and permanently on a sugar high. Instead, opt for protein-based snacks that will keep their tummies satisfied longer. I carry trail mix packets and peanut butter crackers in my purse and in the car I fill up our cooler with yogurt, string cheese and multigrain crackers. I’ve also found when it comes to giving kids something sweet; a lollipop lasts a lot longer than chewy candies (about 20 miles more!).
5. Make lunch your main meal.
We often flip-flop our meals on vacation. We sit down for a larger lunch and then keep dinner simpler. Filling up mid-day gives the kids energy to keep going and it breaks up a full schedule with a little food R&R. Lunches often offer cheaper fare than dinnertime entrees. When dinner does role around, we sometimes order appetizers in lieu of full meals. Appetizers are faster to pick-up on the go and there’s always plenty to choose from.
Have any additional tips to add? What works well for your family? Comment below and tell us!
This post was originally published in 2010 and has been updated for 2016.