Being a Foodie on a Budget:
One of my favorite parts about traveling is exploring the food scene. Whether that means trying out fun restaurants, breweries, or cafes I love it all! If you’ve taken a vacation before then you know that all of your food purchases really add up. Trips are expensive enough without paying for 3 meals a day. Lucky for you I’ve got the best tips to eat cheap while traveling on your next vacation!
Inexpensive Food Options:
1. Go Grocery Shopping:
Okay, I know this isn’t the magical trick you were hoping for but it really cuts costs and it isn’t as boring as it sounds. Most places will have a grocery store locals swear by that you can’t find anywhere else, in Florida it’s Publix. Every place will have different regional foods to try too. Fun chip flavors, pastries, candies, bottled drinks… Do a little food haul to try food like you live there!
You can also do research to find local recipes and make a traditional meal at your home base if there is a kitchen! Don’t forget to pack some of the snacks you buy for your days out exploring. Trying to find a place to eat while you or a companion is hangry is the worst (and you don’t want anyone feeling faint)!
2. Find Cheap Restaurants:
My favorite way to find cheap restaurants is to search on Yelp and Google. Just type in what you are craving, like pizza or sushi, and filter for one “$” to get the inexpensive options. On Google maps you can just turn on your location and be as specific as “cheap chinese food” or as vague as “cheap food” and it will give you options in your area.
I love Yelp for finding more local spots and seeing people’s photos, reviews, and menu pics. I never go to places if they don’t have reviews (or if they have bad ones). You’d be surprised how many great food spots there are for under $10 a plate!
In addition to my individual searches I always cross reference to make sure I have accurate hours and locations for restaurants and coffee shops. I’ve found discrepancies in both sites/apps before so I like to double check. When in doubt, call them!
3. Happy Hour Hunt:
This is one of my favorite ways to eat cheap while traveling. When I go on trips I like to hit actual restaurants for lunch more often than dinner because many places have lunch specials and happy hours earlier in the day. I’ll go out for a real sit-down dinner maybe once a trip for the experience and save the “home” cooking and quick bites for dinner most other nights.
A lot of great restaurants have lunch specials but in general I’ve found that some of the best ones are at sushi places, local breweries (which can have great food and drinks!), and diners. You can usually look on Yelp for happy hour/lunch menus to see what the pricing is like. Lunch specials are usually smaller portioned but cheaper popular dishes and meals around 12-3. For happy hour a lot of locations will have drinks and apps for a great deal around 3-5 (times vary from place to place).
4. Try Street Food:
Repeat after me: Street food isn’t scary.
Seriously. I know the fear of food poisoning has been ingrained in our brain since childhood, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t be careful, but don’t be afraid to branch out. Food trucks have made a comeback! There are food truck events, food stands with quick snacks like roasted nuts and waffles. Especially if you are visiting a big city like NYC where there are vendors on every corner, keep an open mind. Even Orlando and Kissimmee have food truck events and local favorites that you can find on Instagram and Facebook. If you are still nervous but want to try one out, give the vendor a quick google search before you order, a lot of them are pretty official with reviews and everything.
5. Other Tips:
- If it’s a birthday trip, check what places have birthday freebies and discounts!
- Don’t sleep on local fast food, just like local grocery stores, most places have quick service or fast food places that only have locations in that region. You can eat cheap, local, and stay casual for those relaxed vacation days. For example in FL you can go into Publix for a pub sub, go to Tijuana Flats for tacos and cookie dough flautas, or drive through PDQ for a quick meal. Many fast food options are open pretty late too if you need fuel after a late night dancing!
- Check if restaurants have daily specials. Some places have different deals on certain weekdays, this is great if there is a bucket list place you really want to visit but you don’t want to pay full price. Think Taco Tuesdays or kids eat free on Thursdays.
- Some places will allow adults to order from the kids menu so if you aren’t super hungry it is a great option. Or if your whole party just wants something smaller get a variety of apps for the table!
So there you have it. My favorite tips to eat cheap while traveling. The key is to plan ahead and have good communication with your travel partners. If you can’t afford to spend a lot on the trip make sure you are all on the same page. Save that money for souvenirs or for your next trip!
Were there any tips or tricks I missed? Let me know your favorite one in the comments!