Cost of Living

5 Cheap Travel Tips: Saving on Meals

It’s a big beautiful, evolving world and nothing thrills us more than being somewhere for the first time together. Why, oh why, can’t magic carpets or teleporters really exist? Delta, do you need a spokes-couple? No… just saying, have passport, will travel.

Seeing as we’re both pursuing artistic fields and as my Mom puts it “honey, I made you smart not rich” we often travel thrifty, very thrifty.

Five Tips to Save on Travel Meals

1. Pop Your Cork in Private

When you buy wine at a restaurant you’re paying a hefty markup of around 3 times what you pay in a wine store.  If you figure your overpaying by at least $20 – $30 a bottle and you multiply that by each dinner on your trip… we’re talking about saving enough in one week to add another night to your trip.

What are you going to do, skip a romantic glass of red while you’re on vacation… not us! We just hold on to that moment till we’re back in the privacy and comfort of our room. Siri is surprisingly helpful when you ask “Siri, where is the nearest wine store?” I also recommend packing shatter proof wine glasses like these from DuraClear, just in case your room provides nothing but paper coffee cups.

2. Breakfast in Bed

Before I leave home, I make sure our breakfasts are taken care of. Coffee in the room plus homemade granola, breakfast bars or cookies that I bring with us generally do the trick to get out the door fast and fed.

“What! Crapy hotel coffee” you say. Well no, we bring that with us too. An AeroPress Coffee Maker is made of lightweight yet sturdy stuff that’s perfect for travel. At about $29, this little investment saves you from my Italian in-laws call dirty sock water (aka typical American drip coffee makers).

3. Flip Lunch and Dinner Around

As a couple prioritizing travel, we learned early on eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out, left us feeling ill from all the fat, salt and hefty tabs. For our financial and physical health we only eat out at most, one meal a day while traveling.

If like us, fast food is simply not an option, I’m guessing you too have looked at a bill and thought, “Wow what did we just eat/drink?”

When in a great food city, full of restaurants you want you’ve read about, try going out for lunch as your biggest meal of the day. Restaurants are less crowded and the menu options are just, well cheaper.

Our Portland trip proved this theory true time and time again with lunch at Little Bird being my favorite example. Award winning food for a fraction of the price is served at lunch with no wait or reservation.

After a full day of exploring and a big lunch, we’re usually tired enough that the idea of relaxing with small snacks and some wine back in our AirBNB for dinner, somehow seems perfectly romantic. Plus those balcony or rooftop apéritifs, classic.

4. Book AirBNB‘s With Kitchens

If you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to go for it. Staying in a place with even a few minimal cooking options, which an overwhelming number of AirBNB’s do have, you can save a bundle over a week.

Just think how much you can spend on breakfast, lunch and dinner out in one day $100 – $150 easy if you add any beer or wine to your bills. That’s a lot of groceries! I say, get to know the food scene like a local by visiting cheese shops, bakeries, wine shops and yes even the local Whole Foods.

5. Shuck it Yourself: Get Seafood to Go

Is it just us, or when you’re traveling does the indulgence of a good seafood meal call to you too? On really good fresh seafood restaurants, there is usually a really big markup. Craving Lobster, ask a dockside market if they will steam it for you. Chances are good, like in Martha’s Vineyard the answer is yes. They will steam, crack and even hand over your lobster, caught that day, with drawn butter. Then it’s just up to you to find that perfect rock on the beach and bring your bottle of wine with you.

If you ever find yourself in Wine Country in California and have enough time to swing into Tomales Bay, which I highly recommend, chances are you’re going to start thinking about oysters for lunch.

You COULD wait for an hour or two to score a table at the amazing Hog Island Oyster Company which really is always a great idea, totally worth it. But at $30 for a dozen oysters… plus, you know once you’re there, you really should try the famed BBQ Oysters ($13 for 4) plus 2 beers and your lunch just ran you over $60 after tip.

Again, totally worth it, but if you’re on a budget a better idea, get the same exact oysters for about $1 each at Hog Island to go counter.  Skip the wait, grab your bag of bivalves and go to a bayside cliff all your own. You’ll get twice the oysters for half the price without the wait (or sunburn) and you get the added bonus of the fun of shucking them yourself in front of an amazing view. It’s what the locals do, I’ve seen the remnants of many burned out makeshift BBQ oyster pits beside slurped out shells all over the bay.

There are plenty of other ways to save on travel but when it comes to meals, these are the five tricks that saved us the most. Cooking meals to save money on vacation is certainly not a new idea. I’m predicting between American’s growing interest in what goes into the food they eat and the rise in AirBNB’s the retro concept of cooking on vacation will make a comeback. I say Cheers to that!

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