A Cheapskate Guide to Travelling: Food


Check out an earlier related article: A cheapskates guide to travelling – Transportation. 

Travelling is one of the best ways for us to relax and unwind from the hustle and bustle of the daily urban life. Not only is it exciting to be in trips, we can also discover something new about ourselves, about other countries, other cultures or just renewing our earlier experiences.  In fact, doing travels is so exhilarating for me that I made a career out of it, being a travel agent for several years now. What I found in my vast experience is the financial reality of it all, both the challenges and the workarounds to make the trip extravagant on the moments but inexpensive on the price.

A simple bike ride can be a rich experience


Previously, I shared with  you some of the ways you can actually cut on the costs for transportation which would initially take a large part of the travel budget. I have mentioned a variety of tips you can follow so you can find means to make room for more expenditures. Similarly important in the budget is your allocation for food. Yes, we are going to talk about FOOD! Just imagine the gorgeously hearty Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding of England bringing royalty in to your mouth. Picture yourself satisfying in the spice and aroma of that Indian curry. And when it is time to go home, visualize that steaming hot Pho Ga soup of Vietnam calming your soul after a tiring day of wandering. All of these sound too satisfying right? Simply put, food is something that you should not take for granted whenever you do your travels.


Food is a vital part of travel

The bigger question now arises, how do you enjoy this necessity when you are on a tight budget? Actually, there are many approaches for you to save on your food budget while also savoring on the flavors of the places you or your family visits. So come near, and listen closely as this cheapskate guide will take you to mouthwatering goodness- for less. Are you ready?


Never Go Wrong with Good Meal Planning

One of the most important things to note of in any of your travels is that you should plan everything. By everything, I mean even the food that you are going to eat. Although it is more exciting to be spontaneous at times, good planning can slash your expenditures in a big percentage. Your food budget will be a challenge for you personally, as more often than not you will be encouraged to try out food in your proximity. Not planning your meals will cause you to splurge- this is not what we intend to do in this guide.


While acknowledging the importance of preparation is the first step, the more important phase is the actual planning. Take note of the number of days you will spend on your travel, the time you will reach your destination and the time you will leave. By noting your time of arrival and leaving, you will have a gauge on the number of times you will eat during the duration. Makes a lot of sense right? While you’re at it, make sure that you are well aware of your food allowance. This is for you to predict how much each eating will cost you.


It may also be good to check the proximity of your travel area. Make a research on the availability of restaurants, supermarkets, local food kiosks or fast food chains. This will make you informed on the number of choices you have when you are already there. If you are kind of worried about your overall allowance, do not worry too much. Food allocation is usually the most flexible one as you have a variety of options in eating your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breathe, relax, and plan ahead!


Save a lot, Pack Snacks

Although you would likely prefer to dine in at local restaurants to experience local cuisine, having packed snacks can aid your stomach when hunger calls at unpredictable times. The reality is that you can’t always expect that local food will satisfy your hungry stomach. At times, you will feel unsatisfied as your taste buds need to take time to familiarize with the new flavors and spices. This is the point where you grab something that you are accustomed to, like snacks.

Usually, snacks in supermarkets or in local vending machines are sold in markup price. The amount you would have spent on these snacks will be cut less if you prepared something to chow down for the trip. The convenience of packed snacks doesn’t end there. In fact, when you feel that you are short in the budget that day, you would not feel worried knowing that you have something to nibble on to. On another note, bringing a refillable water jug or container may reap you some good benefits as you don’t have to buy another bottle when you want a drink.


It may be true that snacks are added loads to your baggage, but it provides more ease than inconvenience when you are actually at your travel destination. Besides, it is never wrong to take something to bite on in your road trip!


Free Meals on Good Deals

Another integral part in your travel planning is the accommodation where you take lodging for the length of your stay. Choosing wisely on your lodging is a main factor which can dictate whether your trip is a success or not. Hotel and transient house owners acknowledge this fact. That is why most of them offer promotional deals where you can get more than just a room with a bed. In these times of vigorous advertising, hotel managements are actively participating in deals where you can get free meals during your stay as a form of encouragement. As a money-smart consumer, this is a HUGE slash in the food budget.


Numerous hotels often offer free continental breakfasts for their guests to attract more people to stay in. You can check out deals at Groupon or Booking.com and spot hotels at your travel destination. I suggest that you take advantage in these deals because not only you keep the money for the one free meal; you get to adjust your entire food allowance budget to make the best out of the other meals in the day. That means more chances to try fancier local cuisine!


Although these are free meals, you should make the best out of it still. Plate in something rich in protein and fiber, and some carbs to start your day with energy and avoid getting hungry fast. It may also be best to inquire about local tourist spots where you can spend the day, or even better, affordable local food hubs where you can eat for your other meals. And remember; ask for coupons if there are any!


Opt for a Room with a Kitchen

In line with the previous tip, you should stay in at a room that has a kitchen and a fridge. This makes it more manageable to prepare your snacks, or even prepare your whole food for the day. Whether it’s an apartment, transient house or a hotel, it can drastically change your food allowance as you only have to shop for ingredients in the local supermarket.


Although it might cost more than the usual room with bed lodging, it is optimal if you are staying with somebody else like your friends or family. Not only do you have the chance to bond with them while cooking and preparing, you can also try out preparing the place’s local cuisine. You can opt to test out new spices that are only available in the location, as well as some other ingredients. Isn’t that more exciting?


The accessibility of a kitchen in a room is also a major factor why you should chose a room like this. You don’t have to rush in at a restaurant or food hub in order to satiate your hunger since you can always prepare food on demand. Besides, who said that you have to eat out to enjoy?


Coupons are Magic

You may have watched it on TV or have heard it a couple of times already, but having coupons at hand can definitely cut your expenses drastically. More and more restaurants and companies are offering promos to engage customers in this advertisement-driven market, and you are more than entitled to take advantage of every bit of it. Coupons bring magic into your tight budget, as you can avail high-quality food for only a little amount.


Couponing isn’t exactly a new type of thing nowadays. In fact, many people are taking a lot of measures to combine multiple deals at once. In that way, they can save a higher amount. That smart thinking can be applied similarly to your food budgeting. You can always check out newspapers where coupons can be cut out of. In the more digital case, you can always check out websites such as Yelpdeals, Valpak or Groupon to get the best deals in the market today. Or if you have a preferred restaurant in mind, you may check out Restaurant.com for discounted gift certificates that you can use to pay for your meals!


But first, you should check the availability of the shops there or what restaurants are present in the place where you are going (from the planning we talked about). It may be best to order a guidebook to your travel destination where you can see more detailed information. Often times, they give you some interesting discount coupons that you can use when you get there.


Don’t forget your Membership Cards!

When the times call for extreme budgeting measures, you are required to do all you can to maximize the amount you have for the duration of your trip. At least that is what I’ve learned from my experience. Couponing is one way to get around that financial loophole. Another approach is by utilizing your membership cards.


Membership cards often give you discounts on selected shops or restaurants available in your travel place. Senior Citizen cards, student identification, military or police ID, professional cards or even bank cards can lessen your financial load while eating out or buying groceries. Although not all restaurants or shops offer these discounts, you won’t lose anything if you inquired right?


Lunch Time is Save Time

The usual time travellers eat out is during dinner. With good reasons, considering the fact that you can appreciate the local vibe at its best when the sky is dark and the candles are lit. It is a picturesque moment having dinner at a new restaurant, in an unfamiliar place. Add wine in the equation and it is sure that you will have a dreamy night’s sleep. However, the other side of the coin during these momentous times is the financial implications to a traveller’s budget. This is why for a money-wise traveller; eating out shouldn’t always be at dinner.


Skipping dinner would cut a lot of cost in your food budget simply because dinner time food is more expensive compared to food for breakfast or lunch. Entrées and wines cost a lot since most restaurants add service charges likely at dinner time. In addition to that, the line goes a long way for all restaurants because most people eat out during this time. Considering lunch time eat-outs may just save you from both the financial and physical hassle.


Mid-day meals offer the same luxury of eating dinner, without the relatively higher prices and the crowd. In fact, many food hubs and restaurants offer lunch time promo meals where the actual price is slashed down to a minimum fee. This is because restaurants want more customers during this off-peak time, thus preparing promotional deals to encourage customers. If you want to savor the delicacy without hurting the budget, eat at lunch time.


Blend In to Spend Less

There are moments that you really crave for the local cuisine that you can’t just be satisfied with packed snacks or prepared food. This happens to me a lot of times especially if I am already familiar with the place and the local cuisine it has to offer. My suggestion for you starters, who do not want to spend a lot, is to go where the locals come to eat. This makes a lot of sense because locals are familiar with the all the corners in the location. That spans tourist spots, fancy places and places where you just come to eat inexpensively. Try to mingle or befriend some people in the area and ask them where to go.


You can also try to ask about local delicacies and where to find them. If you are feeling a little more interested about their local cuisine, try inquiring about recipes and ingredients. This will make it more exciting for you to you prepare your own food, especially if you have a room with a kitchen, as mentioned previously.


Talking to locals doesn’t always mean walking up to somebody and asking frankly where to eat. You can ask the hotel concierge nicely for recommendations, the staff or even the taxi driver for sweet spots in town. By doing so, you will have many inputs in your head and a variety of places to go to whenever you are feeling adventurous. You won’t know, you might just find yourself a hidden gem of a place!


Sharing a Meal means Saving a Bill

If you are travelling with a partner, friends or family and want to save up some cash for other things, then there is no shame in trying to share food with them. Restaurants offer meals that are good for a number of people, group meals which can accommodate for every member of the party. This can actually take off a lot from the bill compared to having each of your travel companions order individual meals.


Unfortunately, some food hubs do not offer meals that are good for many people. In these times, you should ask if they have meals which are served in large portions. Inquire if they can split the portion into a number of servings for you to share with your mates. Sharing is caring anyways, so again, don’t feel ashamed.


Free Refills are Good Deals

Some of you may feel most comfortable eating meals with some fine wine or ice cold beer on the side. The refreshment it brings is incomparable, and often times the craving is unbearable. If you need to clear the palette or just end the night with a bang on a short budget, try out local alcoholic drinks. Not only is it relatively cheaper than the ones you are accustomed to, you also have a chance to have a taste of their own product. At times, draft beers are offered with free refills until you just can’t get enough!


Worse comes to worst, when there are no refills available and all options on the menu seem too pricey, chose a glass of wine or a bottle that you prefer. Afterwards, stick to water (which should come free of charge). Search online if there are other local bars which offer promotional offers. Tomorrow is new day!


A Free Meal is always a Happy meal

Travelling with other people means also accounting for their meal budget. Going with friends is one thing, but going with family during a trip is both exciting and challenging because you have more financial constraints especially with the preferences each of them have. This is where it gets tricky as you need to find ways to fit in the budget that you have. Luckily, you can always scope up for restaurants which offer free meals for senior citizens or kids.


More and more restaurants today are offering discounts or free meals for adults and very young children and this should be take advantage of especially if the family is on a tight budget. An important thing to remember is to check the guidelines and regulations in the restaurant. Be sure on the specific time and dates when they can avail of the said promo.


Let the Server know that it’s a Special Day

In conjunction with the previous tip, another thing that you should try to do is to casually mentioning to the server that today is a special day. That accounts for anniversaries, a child’s graduation or being there on the first time. You might just find yourself scoring some desert or even a free meal! Another trick that you can do is signing up to Birthday Clubs.


Several eateries automatically give you a free meal on your birthday when you sign up for their fan club or newsletter, others have a separate birthday club that you need to sign up for. Either way, make sure you sign up for all the birthday food freebies that you’re entitled to.


Travelling is one of the best ways to explore new places, experience new feelings and get in touch with your inner self. Food is another pathway from which you can discover. From spices, to new flavors and new aromas, a place’s local cuisine is part of its identity. This is why it is essential that when you travel, you don’t forget to savor the feelings, and remember it on your taste buds. Nonetheless, the reality is that travelling comes with monetary implications. If you are aspiring to be a traveller on a tight budget, you might consider trying a few of my tips and let me know if it worked for you. I hope to hear from you. Until my next writing!


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