Just because you’re traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on experiencing the local cuisine.
Food memories are frequently the most lasting memories of any trip. The buttery flavor of a very flaky croissant from Paris, the way hot chocolate from Italy melts in your mouth, the tastiest Indian daal you’ve ever had—memories made with food are the most cherished.
Tasting new cuisines is a significant reason why so many tourists like traveling the world. Yet, eating healthy when traveling on a budget is not always easy. The trick may be to act more like a local and less like a tourist. However, there’s more to it than that.
While many might suggest otherwise, eating healthy on a budget when traveling is most certainly possible. You just have to be smart when it comes to making food choices. Whether traveling for work or pleasure, it’s important to keep some of your habits on track.
Oftentimes that can be quite a challenge, but fear not, in this article you’ll find 21 tips for eating healthy on a budget when traveling.
A hotel minifridge isn’t a kitchen. No matter if you’re traveling alone, with a significant other, or with a group of friends, make sure to check out sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. Try to find accommodations with a kitchen so that you can cook yourself a healthy, budget-friendly meal whenever you need one.
Free breakfast is a popular hotel feature. You can most certainly have a free continental breakfast even at a run-down roadside motel. So, when traveling, do your research. You need to find out which hotels offer free breakfast. Since that’s the most important meal of the day, you certainly don’t want to ignore it just to save some money.
Most hotels will say they provide free breakfast, but make sure to call ahead and find out before booking it.
You can expect to pay substantially more at the airport for any meal, whether it’s a fancy sit-down restaurant or quick grab-and-go.
Not eating at the airport is a simple method to save money. However, that’s difficult when you’ve had a long trip. Instead, eat before going to the airport and pack snacks to prepare your body for arrival.
If you’re flying, plan to visit the grocery shop when you arrive. If you’re driving, shop the day before.
Planning is key to any shopping trip. Examine your plan and decide:
- When you intend to cook alone
- How many days and nights will you have a kitchen?
- Expected snacking level
- Your beverage needs
Ultimately, by determining these above-mentioned points, you can decide what items you can buy to prepare yourself a healthy meal. When grocery shopping, consider plant-based vegan products to stay on budget and have a quick healthy meal.
When traveling, having a refillable water bottle can save you money. Many travelers rely on this approach because you will most certainly find a source where you can fill your water bottle.
However, this approach may have downsides. In places where public water isn’t potable or readily available, you’ll need to buy bottled water. Just remember to save and reuse the bottle.
Hunger can hit you no matter where you are. That’s why you should pack healthy, shelf-stable snacks for the whole trip. Think dried fruit, mixed nuts, sugar-free peanut butter, granola bars, and whole-grain crackers.
On long vacations, cargo capacity may be an issue. Wait until after your flight if you don’t want to have limited space in your luggage. Additionally, snack boxes and tubes are easy to transport on a road trip.
Realistically, you won’t make every meal in your hotel kitchen, and living on snacks is not a healthy choice. So, when you do decide to eat at a restaurant, avoid blatantly touristy places when dining away from your accommodation or rental.
If you’re trying to save money, avoid tourist traps altogether, or at least travel off main commercial streets. In terms of value, the best lunches frequently involve local cuisine in undiscovered neighborhoods.
Depending on where you’re going, you can find a handful of street food options. However, a good rule of thumb is to see how many locals visit the location. Ultimately, it will give you an idea as to which street food vendor is legit and worth the try.
Street food is cheaper than restaurant cuisine. Yet, while street food may be less expensive, you’re going to have to do some research to ensure you make healthy food choices.
Look for daily bargains and social coupons at tempting eateries before you go. A good Groupon offer can cut your bill by 40% or 50%, depending on the vendor’s generosity.
Try industry-specific coupon sites like Restaurant.com. But keep in mind that it’s no fun arguing with a restaurant that flatly refuses to honor Restaurant.com coupons. If unsure, call ahead.
Yelp is a go-to restaurant finder. Google Maps also works in a pinch, and its built-in mapping tool is useful for exploring a new place.
Both Yelp and Google Maps allow users to filter out pricey restaurants. Add quick star ratings and (usually) accurate menu facts, and give you all you need to make an informed, cost-conscious lunch or dinner decision.
Lunch and brunch are usually cheaper than dinner. If you want to try out new eateries, limit yourself to one each day, and make it a noon lunch. Rather than dinner, go to your favorite restaurant for lunch. If you’re looking to travel on a budget, keep in mind that lunch menus usually have lower rates, but for slightly smaller servings, than supper menus.
When traveling, the best way to stay on budget yet enjoy healthy meals is to ask the locals. No one is going to give you better insight when it comes to food than locals. Word of mouth is a very effective strategy to eat on a budget while traveling. This is because you can find out which restaurants offer the best deals from those who know the area. Ultimately, allows you to eat healthy while being on a budget.
The notion that great dining necessitates exquisite cuisine and pricey wine is “old school.” To have a fantastic supper, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. In short, you just need to rethink your definition of fine dining, and you’ll find yourself enjoying healthy meals while on a budget.
Cafes are preferable to more formal establishments. Cafés often have less expensive cuisine than higher-end establishments. Going the café route will let you dine on a budget while you’re on the road.
Eat lightly and generously. Another effective approach to save money on meals while traveling is to get an appetizer instead of an entree or to share one entree between two individuals.
Get a taste of some home food that isn’t taxed. You won’t have to pay any taxes or service costs if you join a dining program that is peer-to-peer like Traveling Spoon, or if you’re welcomed to a newfound local friend’s home.
Some occasions call for unique experiences. If you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary, you probably want to plan a lavish supper. It could be much more memorable as the culinary highlight of your vacation – not just another nice meal out.
If you plan to treat yourself or the person you’re traveling with, notify restaurant staff of your celebration. It might get you a free dessert or drink.
You don’t have to skimp or sacrifice new experiences in the name of frugality. Nor do you have to master urban foraging before visiting a new city. You just need to be at the right place at the right time to find free or cheap food. Shop around for deals, look for specials that are meant to bring diners in, and stay off the beaten path where heavy tourist traffic can mean increased prices.
Restaurant reward schemes are valuable for frugal travelers. This is especially true in North America, where you are more likely to run into participating chains.
Join any restaurant loyalty program you can, even if you don’t eat there often. You’ll get freebies through email, push notification, or mail. You might also be eligible for a standing discount.
If you belong to organizations like AAA or AARP, you may also be eligible for discounts. However, those deals may not operate outside the US or Canada.
You don’t have to do away with the second beer or glass of wine at dinner, but your budget will thank you.
If you’d like to indulge on your trip, go to pre-dinner happy hours or wind down after you’ve left the restaurant. Store-bought alcohol is often cheaper than alcohol served in restaurants and bars. When you arrive, pick up some liquor at the local bodega or grocery.
Additionally, you can even avoid pre-dinner happy hours by simply preparing yourself something much healthier to drink at home. For example, bringing a delicious MATCHA DNA Certified Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder on your trip will ensure you enjoy a nice cup of tea that is nutritious and satisfying.
Another secret to eating on a budget while traveling is having an attitude of adventure and flexibility. In addition to asking locals for meal recommendations and investigating nearby restaurants, keep an open mind and a willingness to explore and opportunities will present themselves to you.