Eating cheap when you’re on vacation doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There are many ways to get great meals for less, even when you’re traveling. So, if you can manage to save a few bucks on food, it means you’ll have more money to spend doing cool stuff. And, most importantly, making great memories with your family.
With the help of many expert family travel writers, I have compiled this wonderful list of 11 ideas for eating cheap in order to save you a few dollars on food during your next family vacation. Don’t forget to check out the other articles in our Planning a Family Vacation series.
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Every parent knows that having snacks within a moments grasp is a vital part of proper parenting, but on vacation this is even more so. Why, you might ask. Well, let me share my reasoning with you. Having snacks means saving money. Because our family spends a lot of time in the car, driving from campground to campground, having snacks on hand means we don’t have to stop and eat somewhere. This is where the saving money part comes in.
Anytime we can prevent having to stop for food it means we don’t have to buy anything or even get out of the car. Some of my favorite car snacks include: granola bars, grapes, berries, dried fruit, trail mix, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and applesauce drinks. These are all fairly healthy, easy to eat on-the-go snacks that we all enjoy. However, we also keep an old coffee can full of candy with us. It comes in handy on those long driving days.
Get it Family Style
Getting a family style meal is a wonderful idea for eating cheap. Yamy at Gofamgo tells us “when traveling with a large party, one of our money-saving strategies is to look for a restaurant that serves family-style meals. The meals often come in large servings on platters.” In other words, you order an entree or two and they bring it out in large servings. The meals usually come with several sides and maybe even a bread and desert.
Ask the Locals
While you’re on vacation you’re probably going to want to get at least one good meal at a restaurant. Deb at World Wise Kid says “we typically have one big, hot, sit down meal in a nice restaurant or cafe each day.” But, says Deb, “we are selective about where this main meal will be. We ask for opinions from locals about family-friendly, non-touristy places. Ones that use fresh, regional ingredients and offer vegetarian options.” The locals are great for finding the less “touristy” places, which are usually better for eating cheap.
Kris at Gadsventure tells us to “try to eat local style food. For example, Nasi Goreng is so much cheaper than a hamburger in Bali!” By eating what the locals eat and where the locals eat, you will truly experience a place. Not to mention save some money.
Eating Cheap at ‘Home’
Kirsty, at World For A Girl, is a British family travel blogger currently living in sunny Malaysia. She reveals that “many of the things we do for convenience actually save us money in the long run.” Two birds with one stone, I like it!
“For example,” says Kirsty, “we always try to book self-catering accommodations. We find it a struggle eating every meal out with young, energetic, and noisy kids. Eating breakfast at ‘home’ not only saves us money, but the children always wake up starving and want to eat straight away. Likewise, after a busy day sightseeing, a simple sandwich with some salad makes a relaxing and easy supper.”
Bring a Picnic
Shannan at Captivating Compass blogs about learning on location using the world as your textbook. She shares her advice on eating cheap when you’re on the go. “On days out, plan on bringing lunch with you or stopping at a market to buy local cheese, bread, fruit and chocolate. This makes for a fun European style picnic lunch. Plan ahead by making sure you have a bottle opener and cutlery in your backpack. Find the perfect view overlooking a canal, countryside, or beach. Then, pamper yourself (and the rest of the family), by trying a fancy coffee or local drink before the next family travel adventure.”
“Pack one meal,” instructs Regina at Full Time Field Trip. “We are always ready for a picnic. Whether it’s hardy sandwiches or carb loaded pasta, we can eat lunch (or dinner) on the go anywhere.” Regina is the creator and author of fulltimefieldtrip.com, a family travel blog. She is a travel writer specializing in budget travel, family travel, and parenting.
“Sign up for the newsletters of restaurants you might visit,” is an awesome idea from Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders. “You are often sent vouchers to use for a free starter or dessert” as a result, she reveals. Just make sure you do this right before your trip because “the vouchers tend to have short use by dates.” I am always cool with getting free stuff! Plus, you can always unsubscribe after your trip.
Eating Cheap at the Airport
“Airport snacks can be pricey!” I’m sure we’d all agree with Shannon. Shannon Elizabeth is the creator and voice behind Grab My Passport, a family-focused travel blog. “We always pack Ziploc bags full of snacks to munch on while waiting around the airport, and for on the plane too,” shares Shannon. This definitely sounds like eating cheap to me.
Another great tip from Shannon is to “bring refillable water bottles” She says to “just dump them out before going through security checkpoints and refill them once you get into the terminal.” Because we all know that even water is expensive in the airport!
Pack Your Backpack
Melissa at Disabled Disney loves to go to Disneyland for her family vacation. However, we all know how expensive that magical place can be. Melissa shares some great advice on eating cheap when you visit Disneyland or similarly, other theme park venues. “One of the best ways to save money is by NOT purchasing food in the parks!” But how would you eat, you might ask Melissa. “Disneyland allows you to bring in food,” she tells us.
“So we will bring in backpacks with snacks.” For example, she brings things like “sandwiches such as peanut butter and jelly, soda, bottled water, and basically anything we like to eat!” We love when we can bring our hydration packs into places we visit too Melissa. It’s a great way to save money. Of course, you are on vacation, so it’s OK to “budget for a small meal or snack in the theme park,” says Melissa. “Because their food is really yummy” and it’s all part of the experience.
“Use a coupon app, we like Groupon and Restaurants.com,” says Tiffany at Mommy And Me Travels. Because as a result, you are going “to save money on meals that you are going to eat out anyway. You can find deals like 25 percent off your bill or a free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entree. This will save you a significant amount of money on those “fancy” dinner outs.”
Regina shares her expertise on using coupons for eating cheap. “Coupons are global,” she tells us. “Look for discounts at Groupon, Living Social, tourist boards, those cheesy travel brochures in rest stops, and local blogs. They can connect you to all types of meal deals. Even in Thailand, we found a Taco Tuesday with half-price tacos.” Who knew they have Taco Tuesday even in Thailand?
Share a Plate
“Always have the kids share an entree,” recommends Annette at Tips From A Typical Mom. “Most places give you way too big of a serving for just one person.” However, Annette has teenagers, so she explains that, “this works for our younger kids. But for our teenage boys, we always make them order something that will keep them full for a long time.”
“Share meals. We often buy only three or four big meals for our family of six and it’s heaps for us,” says Kris. Yamy shares with us that “in the USA, the serving sizes of meals are often good for two servings. If we don’t end up sharing, we pack the leftovers to go for a later meal in the day.” So, in short, you’re getting two meals for the price of one.
Grocery Stores Are Great For Eating Cheap
“One of our first stops at our destination is always the grocery store,” says Sarah. Sarah is a published writer, positive parenting educator, wellness advocate, and world traveler. She invites you to join her adventures at https://www.dandelion-seeds.com. “We make a list of our favorite meals from home. Then, we make the easiest ones while we’re traveling. This means that we can reserve the bulk of our time for adventures outside the kitchen. I come up with a meal plan and shopping list for the week. I buy only what we need,” Sarah tells us. “The more diligent I am about doing this, the more money we save and the more impromptu ice cream we can have as a result!” Sounds great Sarah, we all know that ice cream is a fun, cheap, not to mention delicious, way to do something special when you’re on vacation.
Hopefully these 11 ideas for eating cheap will help you get some great (cheap) meals while enjoying your next family vacation. On the other hand, make sure you take care of the most important part of your vacation, making awesome memories! Share your eating cheap tips with us in the comments. And as always, thanks for reading!