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Readers Respond: How do you keep your vacation food costs down?

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Food can take a big bite out of a vacation budget. Tell us what you do to keep the food costs down. Share Your Tip

Vacation Meal Savers

You are not always hungry enough to eat out or just want a quick snack while on vacation. If driving our own car we pack a small cooler with milk, juices, water, and sandwich supplies. Then I pack soft cooler (I found this way doesn't squish the food like a travel bag does) with cereal, bread, small snack bags (or make them with little baggies), coffee, tea and anything else we may want to snack on or drink. I also bring a small coffee maker, and/or hot water/soup maker. With these items we can have breakfast in the room while we are getting ready. This save on money and time getting ready to go waste time at breakfast. We also make sandwiches, snacks and drinks and pack them in a backpack with one of the ice packs for our lunch. This way we don't have to spend money/time looking for and eating someplace. We just sit and relax whenever we want to eat. This leaves eating out for dinner. Remember... Wherever you eat is what you make of it.
—Frugal.Fun

Vacation food savings

Firstly, I always look for a hotel that offers breakfast in the price of the room. For 2 people, that alone is a value of $20.00 per day. I also seek out hotels with in room ref. we stock the fridge from a local market on day 1. Fruits, cheese bread, lunch staples, at a cost of about $40.00 that is a savings of about $20.00 over lunches out for a 3 day stay. We treat ourselves to a "nice" dinner one night. The other two are taken at "family style" eateries, and we try to get in for the "early bird" at a cost of $65.00 for one night and $25.00 for the other two. We have a great time and never feel like we are not enjoying our vacation. By cutting a few corners on food, for our typical vacation of 3 days, we see a savings of approximately $160.00.
—Guest Marsha

Various ways 2 save money on trips

3 major things... mini microwave, mini fridge, food steamer, Peculator coffee pot, and an electric skillet. Map your way to grocery stores NOT IN TOURISTY AREAS. Bus schedules help. Get a TracFone to call on, even long distance, since the rates are better than hotel's... and if you get lost. Rent Bikes, when possible. If you do this... research with a map before you go. Bring a "Laundry Pod" to do your wash (google it).... if extended stays... then drip dry... and mini hand steam... Saves a bundle! Also find a Dollar Tree store if in US or Canada. Stock up there, where sizes are smaller and cheaper.
—Guest Mikel

Groupons

I tell my travel clients that a great way to save food on vacation and still go out to eat is to sign up for the Groupon.com coupons for that area a couple of months before you go. If you know where you are staying, then check the map locations of the places they are offering. Usually you can get 1/2 off or buy one and get one free on the deal. It may be a little out of the way than your normal places but be open to the adventures ahead!
—Guest Cyndy Nordyke

rice cooker

i always take a rice cooker with me. I have two kids, and they always want something warm for lunch.
—Guest jay

When flying

One of our carry-ons is full of food such as juice boxes, trail mix, instant coffee mixes and tea bags, oatmeal and cereal, granola bars, PB&J, crackers tuna and chicken salad....Breakfast is in our room with a larger lunch (same foods for dinner menu but cheaper during lunch times) and a light dinner such as PB&J sandwich or tuna and crackers. We also pack a small folding cooler in our luggage and fill it daily with hotel ice and keep milk, lunch meat and cheeses and other perishables in it.
—Guest Bizeegal

Hit The Grocery Stores

We enjoy going to the grocery store & checking out the deli, had the best picnic in Oslo that way. Grocery Stores are perfect places to get presents! Plus we like taking some of it home, and remembering the experience of our trip and sharing it with our friends and family. For example in New Orleans area they have Cafe De Monde & Beignet Mix at great prices. In Jamaica - Jerk Chicken seasonings, in Rome - pasta & Lavoza coffee, Amsterdam - french fries with Mayno, Barcelona - Saffron rice, Australia - meat pies & Tim Tam's! The grocery stores both here & abroad will give you the best deals for food and gifts. It is such a great culture learning experience, also.
—Guest Cyndy Nordyke

Pack & Dine

My wife and I have been traveling frugally for years without "feeling" like we've sacrificed any. Typically we will bring a cooler with us in the event we drove to our vacation location, pack a cooler, and bring homemade sandwiches and prepackaged snacks, juices and water. We'd eat primarily from the cooler for the entire trip and eat out at a nice restaurant once per day.
—Guest RonY

Lots of Ways to Save

We own timeshares. We eat dinner out, and have the leftovers for lunch the next day. We cook breakfast in our room. We rent a car, all the better to take ourselves to attractions, instead of paying for tours - and shop in a local supermarket (we consult their online ad at home - or take our laptop). We used to be stuck throwing out small jars of over-priced condiments, mayo, etc. - until we discovered minimus and other sites - where we can get really small sizes; might be more expensive per serving, but NO WASTE. We bring teabags and make our own iced tea. We bring our own fancy coffee, and skip Starbucks. We are BIG users of restaurant.com. We often find that there are Restaurant Weeks or similar offers going on. In Las Vegas, we eat OFF the Strip - and ALWAYS ask for the Specials that are NOT on the menu - you would not believe what great meals we have had, for next to nothing! We do not deprive ourselves of fun- we earned it - doing it frugally makes it sweeter!
—Guest Mamianka

Take the kitchen with you!

We have a dorm size refrigerator and a small microwave that we pack with us just for those occasions when the room does not have them... we have also packed a coffee pot and toaster before, and will do it again. Throw in a power strip and you are good to go! And if you are worried about space... we usually travel in my Sebring convertible!
—Guest Bigdouga

Before We Leave

In addition to booking a hotel with a free or reduced breakfast, we also try to bring prepared meals with us. Things like pasta salad, spaghetti, beef stew etc. can be made with little effort even the day before leaving home. We'll store it in tupperware containers and toss it in the cooler. This allows us the opportunity to enjoy two or three really good meals while on vacation, rather than eating out all of the time at fast food joints. Also, since we live in a very rural community that offers no home delivery service of any kind, we take advantage of being away from home and opt to have pizza or chinese delivered in. That's really a treat for us!!
—better2ndtime

Jorden

We buy one big entree, one salad or antipasti, a nice bottle of wine and some candles. In our room, we share what we bought, sip our wine sitting in candlelight by an open window for the view. Better than a restaurant anyday. More cosy and intimate too and far less costly.
—Guest Kamron1

Saving on Vacation

One of the first things we do is to save for our vacation. If we know that we want to go on vacation in the summer we start planning the year before! We pinch money out of our checks $20.00 a paycheck and we discuss what we are willing to forgo for the vacation. For example we may not get a lot at Christmas or other holidays if we really want to get away in the summertime! We opt for camping near the beach. Since none of us really are that much into attraction theme parks or group tours we would rather be camping, fishing and hiking! We also take a few days away at a hotel where we take a room with a kitchen. We once stayed at a hotel with a kitchen and they had grills by the pool. We found a Save-A-Lot Store and got steaks at a great price. We grilled steaks and swam in the pool and watched HBO (we don't have that at home) We went sight seeing and had a great time!!!
—Guest mamma

keeping it cheap

Last summer we went on a trip to Washington DC. Before we left, we stocked up on juice boxes for the kids and a case of bottled water for the adults. It was 2 and 2, so that was plenty. We also took snack crackers, and other stuff the kids like to snack on, a small cooler and napkins. When we were walking around the Smithsonian museums, we were able to grab a snack when we needed it and the backpack and messenger bag we took also gave us a place to stash free souvenirs, like pamphlets and booklets. For fun we let the kids take 2 disposable cameras along to take their own pick, and just in case they didn't do so well, we took pics of most everything with our digitals. Oh, and we took full advantage of our continental breakfast from the hotel. And each grabbed an apple on the way out for later. We also made it a point to eat at places the locals ate, even if it was a fast food place. It was a great memory for the kids and didn't break the bank.
—Guest peanutmom

Hospital Food

The idea of eating at the hospital is great, but like everything else prices have really gone up. I work in a hospital and were it not for my employee discount, it would be much cheaper to bring or eat out. Entree and 2 vegetables is $6.25, with bread, dessert and beverage the price is just a tad under $10.00 for a non-employee at my suburban facility. Recent visits to other facilities revealed similar prices. The advantage of hospital eating is (usually) a much larger variety of choices. But in my area most facilities also require paid parking on the grounds. :-(
—Guest ed1claudia

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How do you keep your vacation food costs down?

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