Well, it's technically Wednesday night but since tomorrow is our anniversary I'm not going to be online at all!
Next in the series is all about food! What to eat?
This is a great area in which to save money. You can blow a lot of cash by eating out while on vacation, but I have some great tips to help you keep the costs to a minimum!
- You don't have to eat out for every meal. How easy is that one? Seriously, there are alternatives. If we are in a condo, we almost always eat breakfast in the room, often lunch and even a few dinners. I pack easy foods from home if we are driving or make a stop at the grocery when we arrive if we fly. I also always pick up a case of water, pop, etc. as this will really cut your costs. It can be fun to eat out on the patio with the kids after a full day of sightseeing. Or sandwiches on the beach, or after dinner drinks looking out over the ocean, etc.
- When you do eat out, ask the locals. My family is not a fan of chains. Oh, they have their place in life, but when I'm on vacation I want to eat something from that area. I'm not picky about going to a "dive" either. We usually ask a few people throughout the trip for recommendations. Maybe ask someone you run into at the grocery store, or run into a video store if you are near a college campus. Even ask your waiter at a place you are eating at and enjoy. We always make sure and ask specifically for something local, good and not a chain. What's so funny is many times we'll get told "Chili's, Olive Garden, etc." What part of not a chain didn't they understand? Don't get discouraged if you don't get good answers every time you ask. I'd say for every four people we ask, we actually take the recommendation of one. But that one can be a good one - some of our best were the $7.50 (for both of us) Mexican restaurant in a trailer (yes, really) in San Antonio, or the wonderful Tapas place in Saint Louis . . . yum!
- Do some research ahead of time. If you love to eat out (like I do), do a little research ahead of time. I usually check out http://www.frommers.com/, go to http://www.citysearch.com/ and maybe do a general search on the location and then see what I can find in the way of restaurants.
- Split a meal or order less food. Unless you plan on taking your leftovers back to the condo (which can be a good idea), don't order the full nine yards. For my family of four, we usually order one entree and either an appetizer, side dish or one kids meal. We typically don't have leftovers and our bill is half the price. My philosophy is that if we are still hungry, we can always order more food. Guess what? In the fifteen years we've been doing this, we have never ordered more food - not once..
- Look for happy hours, early bird specials or kids eat free nights. Most restaurants in a touristy area have at least one of these options. This can save you a considerable amount of money. A great example was our recent trip to Las Vegas. One of our favorite restaurants there is a tapas place with great Sangria. From 4 - 6 a huge selection of tapas and all their sangrias were half price.
- Don't be afraid to use coupons. You use them at home, why not on vacation? Some great sources are http://www.restaurant.com/ and http://www.entertainmentbook.com/If we are going to be someplace for a week I will sometimes order the entertainment book for the region. We have found some terrific new places this way and I always get my money's worth. When we leave I either give it to someone there, or put it on freecycle when I get home.
We often make a game out of saving money on food - while still eating well. You know the show Rachael Ray's $40 a day? My husband and I often will keep track of what we spend and try to keep it at $40 a day for the two of us - then we'll joke about how we beat her at her own game - we're dorks, I know . . . but it does go to show that you can save a lot of money on food and still really enjoy your trip!