How to Save Money on Food While Traveling
We travel almost constantly with our kids because of my husband’s job, so I’ve learned a ton about how to save money on food while traveling over the years. With just a little preparation, you can drastically cut your food costs and save a ton!
Saving money on food is a big passion of mine because your food budget is the one expense you can control almost completely.
Use these tips the next time you travel to spend as little as possible on food!
Related: Budget Family Vacations
How to Choose a Hotel for Your Family
Always compare costs, but look for hotels that offer complimentary breakfast THEN read the reviews online. We’ve stayed at sad Howard Johnson’s before that offer white bread and stale muffins (seriously) as their breakfast, so always check out the reviews before booking.
I book every single trip we make on Ebates free app so I get money back at the end of the quarter. I can use this money on future trips or Christmas presents.
One tip is to see if you’re allowed to take food back to your room. If so, you can save a ton of stress by corralling your young kids in your hotel room
Eat at Restaurants for Lunch, Not Dinner
If you’re going to go to restaurants while you’re traveling, visit hotspots for lunch instead of dinner.
Especially when you’re traveling with a family, taking advantage of lunch specials will minimize your bill.
Make going out to eat an experience instead of just a way to conquer your hunger. We all have to eat but we don’t have to spend $50+ on every meal.
Even going through a drive thru line can cost $30 and break the bank.
Look for a Hotel Room with a Kitchen
Seriously, they exist.
We’ve stayed at Candlewood Suites, Residence Inn, and Towne Place hotels that have had full kitchens with the exception of an oven.
Always remember to check Air Bnb! When we travel for pleasure, it’s our first choice.
You can make anything you would buy at a restaurant for less money and way healthier.
Always check to see if the price difference for a suite room offsets what you would’ve spent going out to eat.
This always varies for us.
Sometimes it makes sense to get the more expensive room because we can still save money over the course of the trip by cooking in the room.
Other times, the rooms with a kitchen are WAY more expensive and we’d save money by eating out 2 meals a day.
Bring Kitchen Appliances With You
It’s a good idea to call ahead to see if there is some kind of hotel policy against this, but I always travel with 3 kitchen appliances…because I’m crazy and need to save money on our meals.
I bring my Instant Pot with us on literally every trip.
I pack my most used spices inside to keep everything contained. It has paid for itself about 30 times over by now.
We bought a single burner cooktop when we were out of town and our Residence Inn room had a cooktop that was seriously pathetic at heating food.
Then the craziest one of them all – we bought a small toaster oven to travel with.
I know it sounds crazy, and it is, but we can make small homemade pizzas, sandwiches, baked pasta dishes, casseroles…basically all of our family’s favorite meals in this tiny thing.
It doesn’t take up as much room as you’d think and I can pack a few of our cooking items inside to make it even more storage space efficient.
Grocery Shop to Save Money on Food on Vacation
This one makes the most sense if you have a kitchen, but even if you book a regular room with a microwave and pack a single burner cooktop with a small pan, grocery shopping will save you tons of money.
I’m writing this to you from a hotel room (no surprise there) and I made grilled cheese sandwiches and steamed broccoli on our little stove top for dinner.
For our family of 5, we have saved thousands using this method.
Yes, I know it sounds a little over the top, but if saving money on food while traveling means you can afford to take even one more trip each year, isn’t it worth it?
Split Your Meals
There are two ways to do this and if you have young children, you NEED to give this a try.
If you do have to eat out for dinner, split your meal with someone else at the table to drastically cut down your food bill.
Otherwise, ask for half of your meal to go and you automatically have lunch or dinner for the following day!
Our toddler sons eat like birds some days and eat my husband and I under the table other days.
We always buy them a meal to split and then order more food or an additional appetizer if absolutely necessary.
How to Save the Most Money at Restaurants
- Just a few quick tips that save us money each time we go to a restaurant:
- Skip the appetizers
- Or order an appetizer as a meal
- Order water to drink – soft drinks ALWAYS have a huge mark up
- Don’t order alcohol – again, HUGE markup
- Pack away half of your meal for another meal to stretch your dollar furthest
- Only eat at restaurants during lunchtime specials
- ALWAYS look for “Kids Eat Free” deals and take advantage of those!
Cheap Snack Foods
When you have young kids, you probably always have snacks on you anyway, but it bears repeating.
Keep snack foods with you at all times!
If the entire family is snacking on trail mix and fruit bars all day, you’re far less likely to have one of those moments of weakness where the whole family is hungry and cranky.
When hangry toddlers and spouses strike, you’ll throw your budget out the window just to calm the chaos and make everyone happy again.
Don’t let it get to that point!
Snack while you travel and plan your meals ahead of time!
I know, the last thing my husband and I want to talk about is dinner when we’ve just finished lunch, but trust me, the sooner you make your meal plans for the day, the better.
How do you save money on food when you travel? What tips do you have for other parents who need to eat on a budget? Let me know in the comments!