The Easiest Ways to Travel on a Food Budget - Fuel For The Sole Travel, Outdoor & Adventure (2024)

We all want to travel and we all want to save money. You do not have to choose between the two. Use our best tips on how to maintain a food budget while on vacation.

And you can trust my credentials because I am a budget junky.

Ever since I was a child, I have been frugal. It definitely runs in my family so I come by it honestly. I tend to get a bit obsessed with finding the free or cheapest option for anything I am doing – at home or on vacation.

With a little extra effort, you can always find something cheaper than the most convenient and obvious alternative.

The cheap part of me shines when I am traveling. I strive to limit our budget and find ways to stick within it. Of course, it’s essential to research affordable flights and hotels – but once you are at your destination, food and drink will take up a huge chunk of your travel budget.

The problem is this – food is a huge part of travel. When we travel we want to experience the local cuisine, convenient options are constantly tempting us and we tend to be a little lazy and want to relax. This all equals money!

But there are easy ways to enjoy yourself and stick to your travel food budget at the same time. Check out some of our favourite ways to keep a food budget while traveling. Try a few of these tips on your next trip and you will find a big difference in the amount you spend.

We are curious – how do you save money when you are on vacation? Do you find the biggest money saving tricks are on flights, hotels, food or activities? Let us know in the comments below!

Want more tips on budget travel? Check out our budget series:

  • ‘Things to do for Free While Traveling’
  • ‘How to Travel the World for Free’
  • ‘How to Find Budget Accommodation Anywhere’

Save Money on Your Food Budget by Cooking and Buying Groceries

I mention this a lot in our posts because I think it’s the easiest way to save money while traveling. The absolute cheapest way to eat on holiday is to continue cooking your own meals. By avoiding restaurants you can save thousands on your travel food budget.

Read How to Travel the World for Freeand Why you Should Consider Camper Travelfor more on cooking for yourself while traveling and how to save money in other ways.


First things first, you’ll need a kitchen. This is why we tend to stick to home rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO when we travel. If you plan to stay in a hotel, check to see if any rooms offer a suite or mini kitchen before booking. Even hostels usually have a communal kitchen you can use. And if you are traveling by car, consider packing a camp kitchen or take a camper or RV so you have a kitchen wherever you go.

If you are lucky enough to have a full kitchen, try to cook as many meals as you can. Buy groceries for the week and choose quick cooking options like eggs, cereals, oatmeals, sandwich materials, pre-cooked meats, pre-cut veggies, and salad kits. This way you won’t spend all your vacation time in the kitchen.

Even if your accommodation has no kitchen at all, you will likely have a mini fridge and a coffee maker. Pro tip: You can usually request a mini fridge free of charge at your hotel. Stock your fridge with simple items like milk (for cereal), sandwich materials and snacks. Utilize your coffee maker to make hot water for quick cook meals like instant ramen soups and oatmeal.

A great tip that we always live by is to pack our own snacks. If we are taking a road trip or touring the city for the day, we pack lots of snack options for healthy food on the go. You will inevitably get hungry while touring around and packing food to go will help you avoid all those expensive temptations out there.

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Use Websites and Budget Apps to Find Food and Meal Deals

We are big Tripadvisor fan. If we do plan to go to a restaurant while on vacation, we always utilize this app. First, we check the ratings of the restaurant to ensure we are spending our money on a quality establishment. Secondly, we take advantage of their filters. You can filter your restaurant search for a particular neighbourhood, meal time, cuisine – and most importantly – price. Check off ‘cheap eats‘ to find the most affordable restaurants in your area.

Discount sites like Groupon,LivingSocialandRestaurant.comare other fabulous resources. These budget websites will find tons of options for deals on restaurants in your area. It is very common to find discounts for 50% to 70% off the regular rate. A common deal would be something like ‘$15 for $30 worth of food’ – you pay $15 and can order $30 worth of food off their menu. You need to sign up for these sites (free!) in order to use them. After that, it is a very simple process. Purchase your deal and show up to the restaurant. You can print out your coupon or simply show from your phone.

We also search for local food apps to save money on our food budget. There are great apps out there to help you find happy hour deals and daily food deals near you. ‘Happy Hour Finder’ will locate where you are and show you all the local food and drink deals. However, for more up to date information, check to see if the specific city you are in has its own app. For example, Vancouver has its own amazing app for all restaurant deals called ‘BrewHound’. Hawaii has it’s own called ‘Hawaii Happy Hours‘. Reykjavik has ‘Appy Hour’. Paris has ‘HappyBill’.

Don’t be a fool, andtravel like a pro!Travel can be exhausting, overwhelming and stressful – so make sure you bring along the right gear! Check out our carefully curated Travel Resources page for the best travel gadgets, outdoors gear and helpful apps. In the meantime, here are our Top 5 Travel Gear Must-Haves:

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Restaurant Hacks and Finding Cheap Meal Deals

At some point in your trip, you are going to want to eat at a local restaurant. Stay smart when eating out and you can still stick to your food budget.

Check out local markets. First of all, this is a great activity to do for any trip. You can really get an idea for the local culture in a market. You will usually find great deals on food here. There are many options so everyone in your group will be satisfied. Choose between a small snack or a large meal. Find the city’s most authentic cuisine. Pick up unique food items for cooking at your hotel or vacation rental.

Street food and food trucks. These small restaurants will always be cheaper than a meal at a restaurant. They do not have the overhead a restaurant has so they are able to charge less. You will also find much more unique food options and meet some interesting people. In places like Latin America and Southeast Asia, street food will only cost you a few dollars a meal.

Look for a hotel that offers free breakfast. Many hotels offer breakfast with accommodation and they are usually the same price as a hotel that doesn’t offer breakfast. Try to eat a substantial breakfast at your hotel and maybe you won’t need to bother with lunch. Also, grab some extra fruit, yogurt, bagels and pastries from the breakfast buffet to keep you fueled throughout the day.

Look for restaurants with a ‘kid’s eat free‘ deal. Why pay for your kid’s meals if you don’t have to? Many large restaurant chains offer this either daily or on a specific day of the week. Some restaurants who offer this are IHOP, Denny’s, Bob Evans, Steak ‘n Shake, Ruby Tuesday, TGI Fridays, Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chick-fil-A, Lone Star, and Pizza Hut.

If there is a restaurant you really want to try on your vacation, go during lunch or at happy hour rather than at dinner when prices are highest.

A simple tip to save money at a restaurant is to order apps or split one entrée between two people.

Avoid tourist restaurants. If the restaurant is located on a popular street or there is someone outside asking you to come in, this place will likely be expensive. Stick to smaller, local or family run businesses off the beaten path for cheaper and more authentic food.

Look for buffets. You can find really inexpensive buffets, especially for brunch and lunch. If you have a family, a buffet can feed everyone for very little.

Talk to locals. They will give you the best recommendations that won’t be found through your concierge or online.

Are you planning your next vacation? Let us help make your next trip go smoothly with our travel planning posts:

  • ‘Travel Planning Resources: How to Learn About Your Destination’
  • ’10 Essential Items you Need for Long Travel Days’
  • ‘How to Stay Safe While Traveling: 30 Tips That Could Save Your Life’
  • ‘How to Save Money Every Day so You Can Travel More’
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Tips on Saving Money on Drinks

When touring around or eating out, drinks can add up quickly and take a huge chunk out of your food budget – not worth it! Use these simple hacks to save money on you travel budget;

  • Always carry your own refillable water bottle to refill as you need. You’ll save quite a bit by avoiding bottled waters and drinks while on the go.
  • When you are eating out, just order water. A pop or coffee will be between $2.50 to $3.50 a person. And these costs increase when you add tax and tip on top of it. Beverages are where restaurants make a lot of their money – don’t fall for it!
  • Coffee – avoid the $6 coffee at the cafe. Make your own coffee in your hotel before you leave for the day (or grab one free from the lobby).
  • Alcohol – an inevitable part of traveling that will cost you a huge amount. Stick to your budget by using some of these tips: find a happy hour deal that will likely split the cost of drinks in half; check out breweries and wineries for free tastings; enjoy some co*cktails in your hotel room before going out for the night; bring along a flask if you will be out for the evening; find a lovely park and bring a bottle of wine to enjoy (this is actually legal in most countries outside of North America, can you believe it?!).

Do you have any tips that help you save money in your food budget while traveling? Let us know in the comments below!

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The Easiest Ways to Travel on a Food Budget - Fuel For The Sole Travel, Outdoor & Adventure (2024)
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