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Food is one of the best parts of traveling. I mean, did you really go to Italy if you didn’t try the pasta or New York City if you didn’t eat a bagel? Here’s how I save money on food when I travel.
How to Save Money on Food while Traveling
Eating out every meal, especially when traveling frequently, can quickly get expensive. In 2022, I visited 4 countries and 14 states. That’s a LOT of travel! During each trip, I had to prioritize my spending. The secret: living like a local, not just a tourist.
1. Make reservations at high-demand first.
If you want to visit a few Michelin-star restaurants, you may have to book several months in advance. My friend and I missed out on Hell’s Kitchen reservations in Vegas the first time I visited. (I ended up eating there later but was kinda disappointed, especially considering the high price point and the 2-month wait.)
2. Write down any must-haves.
When I visited New York City, I knew I wanted to try all the foods that NYC does better than LA. I wanted to try pizza, bagels, Mediterranean, dim sum, and Italian. When I travel, these are my priorities. I try not to eat out just to eat out. Meals I eat out usually have a purpose: I’m spending quality time with a friend, I can’t get the food in LA, or I really want to try something.
3. Eat out for breakfast and lunch.
Generally speaking, breakfast and lunch are cheaper than dinner. They also usually have smaller portions.
4. Split meals.
I love splitting meals with friends. This way, we can try more foods as we eat our way through a new city.
5. Visit a grocery store on the first day.
On the first day of a longer trip, I try to hit up a grocery store and grab snacks, fruits, and instant breakfast foods (instant oatmeal, frozen meals, or ramen). When I’m being hosted, I pack ramen in my bag and eat that for breakfast to tide me over for a bit.
6. Avoid eating at chains when traveling.
I try to avoid all chain restaurants (at least chains I could eat at home) when I’m traveling. In many instances, packing your own food or running into the grocery store and grabbing a pre-made sandwich is often cheaper. I don’t eat out every day in LA so I try not eat out 3 meals a day when traveling.
7. Shop at farmer’s markets.
If you’re able to, support local and grab food from a farmer’s market. In-season fruit can sometimes be cheaper than alternatives.
8. Use a reusable water bottle.
I hate paying for water! Grab a purifying water bottle, like the self-cleaning Larq bottle, to easily save money on water.
9. Avoid touristy areas.
By walking a few blocks off the beaten path, you can often find places a lot cheaper than in the hot tourist areas. For example, on the coast of Manhattan Beach, CA, the food is quite expensive. Go about 10 minutes inland, and you can find options that are significantly cheaper.
10. See what locals recommend.
If you’re staying with HerHost, ask your host what they recommend. Usually they can point you to the hidden gems that aren’t advertised on all the “most popular” sites.
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