Top 5 Food Hacks for Affordable Travel 

Couple taking picture on vacation.

Eating at restaurants, grabbing a quick bite at a local fast food staple, and even popping into a Wawa or 7/11 for a snack equates to doling out more money than anyone accounted for. What happens when you take those spending habits on a trip? The longer the trip, the poorer the wallet health. Thankfully, we’ve compiled a list to break down the best food hacks for affordable dining. From bringing a refillable water bottle to assembling stacks of sandwiches, we have a handy dandy guide for even the most avid foodie travelers. 

1. Refillable Water Bottle

Water should be free. However, stores and amusement parks continue to sell bottled beverages for a hefty profit. For example, say you’ve ventured over to Florida for a trip to Walt Disney World, and you forgot the most important item (besides sunscreen and sunglasses): water. Your children beg you for a sip of water, their thirst growing by the second. Since you’ve forgotten the containers to hold the fountain water, you cave, turning to any shop or food vendor selling a natural drink just shy of $4. During a scorching day with a family of four, the water bill could run up to $50 during the first half. 

Instead of sweating through an expensive water bottle receipt, bring a refillable water bottle on the trip. Most places possess some kind of water filtration system, allowing individuals to stock up on their H2O before their lengthy day in the sun. If a location does not appear to have a water refill station, ask a worker to fill up the bottle. 

2. Snack Bag

Are you guilty of submitting to hunger pangs an hour before a flight takes off? Say you’re stuck in the airport, wandering around the terminal, hoping to pass the time, yet people watching the same crowd thrice over will bore anyone. You attempt to fight that rampant, increasing hunger, but you must give in to your craving. After perusing the entire designated terminal twice, you peek into a cute sandwich shop, hoping to snag a bag of affordable chips and a refreshing drink. Ten dollars and twenty minutes later (let’s not forget about the extreme lines accruing at airport eateries), you’ve acquired a subpar lemonade and a single-serving bag of barbeque chips. Feelings may waver about the lost Hamilton ten-piecer, but hey, at least you satiated that hunger. 

To combat wasting money on airport food, always bring a snack bag. Opt for a sweet option, a savory option, a mix of both, and a high-protein snack. An ideal snack bag for me includes M&M’s, clementines, apple slices, a peanut butter container, mints, jerky, granola bars, and fruit snacks.

Providing an array of options leads to less disappointment when stuck at an airport gate, on a bus, on an overnight trip, or anywhere where you’ll want snack options. Drinks tend to prove more complicated to lug around because TSA fosters a strict 3-1-1 rule for liquids. Still, you may bring empty water bottles, fill up the container after passing through security, and add a powdered drink packet for a tasty libation.

3. Local Markets/ Street Food

Remember this rule whenever exploring a new place: Tourist traps–aka expensive restaurants—don’t cater to locals. You won’t find a local family spending all their money on dinner on the touristy street when they prefer to dine at the community’s favorite restaurant in their neighborhood for half the price. Tourist-trap restaurants also advertise a ton of menu options to appeal to the masses. Local restaurants stick to a category of food since the staff understands their customer base. 

When searching for local favorites, pay attention to crowds. Is a line wrapping around the outside of a restaurant, or does the wait time appear normal for a sit-down scenario? Restaurant staff most likely gear spaces with higher crowds and congested dining spaces toward tourists. What kind of food is on the menu? Does it appear authentic or a cheap offshoot? The latter points to the tourist-geared restaurant. Another great way to find affordable local food is at street markets. Locals shop for groceries and eat meals at markets and along the street. Street markets offer ample choices for picky and unfussy eaters. 

4. Splurge on Lunch

Many places serve similar lunch and dinner menus. The lunch portions are smaller, and the dishes are cheaper, yet globetrotters who swear by the lunch splurge idea save hundreds of dollars compared to people who opt for a fine-dining dinner experience.

After ordering and eating a lunch portion, take the remaining food home or order another dish for dinner. If you aren’t super hungry on a particular afternoon, split a meal with a co-traveler to conserve funds. 

5. Rent a Room With a Kitchenette

Jetsetters become so enraptured by the idea of arriving at the destination they forget to check the amenities included in the lodging situation. A kitchenette is one of the best assets in an Airbnb or a hotel room. A kitchenette is a small kitchen with storage options like a fridge, cabinets, and cooking appliances like microwaves and, in some spaces, ovens, stoves, or hot plates. With a kitchenette, guests utilize their counter space and cooking appliances to make quick meals for their intended travel time. 

Head over to the grocery store or local farmer’s market for an affordable shopping trip full of local favorites and test out new dishes. Or resort to your family’s favorites and keep cooking those special dishes to remind everyone of their home while far away from said space. If a kitchenette has no stove, stick to sandwiches, salads, cereals, cold soups, or anything that tastes good sans heat. Other traveler methods include storing leftovers from restaurants or the included breakfasts in the fridge or freezer for later consumption. 

Start Saving Now

It’s never too late to save money for a travel fund. Even if that trip seems eons away, you won’t have to spend a whole paycheck on food based on these tips. Which of these foolproof methods for saving money while eating on vacation will you turn to? 

11 Life-Changing Ideas About Money to Build Wealth

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Image Credit: Liubomyr Vorona and iStock

According to a recent Lending Tree survey, most Americans (58%) don’t have a designated emergency fund, and only 40% could cover an unexpected $1,000 expense. So, what’s keeping them from creating a rainy-day fund?

Nearly half blame the cost of living, 34% report their lack of budget, and just 24% say they have a low-paying job or don’t feel the need. Among those saving, only 20% are taking advantage of a high-yield savings account.

Gabrielle Reeder
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