Our money saving focus for April is cheap travel, a subject we’ve learned a lot about over the years. Since 2012, we’ve road-tripped, cruised, taken an overnight bus, and jetted off to a number of interesting places, and once there, we’ve camped, couchsurfed, and sometimes stayed in 4-star hotels for next to nothing. If there’s a way to travel on a dime, we’re always on the lookout for it.
Not long ago I read a Facebook post about the expense of travel, specifically how much it costs to eat when you’re on vacation. I read the post to Angie and within one minute we had listed at least a half dozen ways to save money on meals. Here are some of our favorite ways to eat cheap while traveling.
Learn to love sandwiches
I am the self-proclaimed Queen of the Peanut Butter Sandwich. Everywhere I go, especially when I’m going to be gone over lunch, a peanut butter sandwich goes along. We take them on planes. We take them on buses. We even took a jar of peanut butter to Hawaii. If you’re not a fan of peanut butter, no worries. The flavor of the sandwich doesn’t even matter. By having something on hand to eat, the temptation to stop for fast food is lessened. And besides, if you do stop at McDonald’s what is it that you buy again?? Right…a sandwich! Bringing your own saves a step…and a buck!
Once we decide on our destination, I always search Groupon, Living Social, and the Entertainment Book online for meal deals in that area. When we visited Seattle a few years ago, all but one of our meals was purchased this way. On average, we save the equivalent of one meal by buying in advance, effectively cutting our food expense in half. Eating this way requires a bit of forethought and planning though. It’s important to map the area so you’re not driving 100 miles out of the way to save $8 on a burrito.
Book a room with a microwave and fridge
When possible, we like to stay in vacation rentals that offer a full kitchen. This is the one sure fire way to save the most money on dining while traveling. When a vacation home is not an option though, I always look for hotel rooms that have a microwave and refrigerator. Nowadays you can microwave just about anything and having your own beverages in the fridge is so much cheaper than the vending machine. We’re not big on eating convenience foods (ie. TV dinners) so we cook a few things ahead of time, freeze them, and toss them into the microwave.
Bring along a cooking instrument
My friend Sue takes a crock pot with her on vacation. Her friend Belinda takes an electric skillet. I haven’t tried either yet but we did bring along a hot plate, a sauce pan, and a coffee pot when we visited Louisiana and the FL panhandle last year. With just a few simple ingredients, we were able to have home cooked meals in our hotel room. Our normal array of tagalong cooking instruments tends to be a bit lower on the gadget spectrum though. We almost always bring beverage containers (for water and coffee), a butter knife, forks, a sandwich box, and plates (real ones, not the paper kind!).
Find a hotel that offers free breakfast
There’s nothing worse than heading off for a day of sightseeing on an empty stomach. The first hour of the day is spent trying to find breakfast in a place that you’ve never been before and I’ve seen more than my share of days ruined by this often frustrating quest. So free breakfast is the first thing I look for now under a hotel’s amenities. Hot tub is second, but that’s a different story. The selection of breakfast foods isn’t all that important to me. I’m good with cereal and coffee. And if you’re really ambitious, that free breakfast can also turn into a free lunch. Just make yourself a peanut butter sandwich to go.
What are some of the ways you save money on meals when traveling?