Honestly, part of the best thing about travel is the ability to try new, delicious foods. But, if you’re travelling somewhere that’s not known for its culinary scene, or you’re spending a lot of time (and money) to even get to your dream destination, you likely are spending a good wad of cash on pretty sub par airport or gas station food just to even get where you’re going!
If that’s you, and you’re hoping to cut costs while you travel so you can spend money on the meals that matter, read on.
First, pack a reusable water bottle
For whatever reason, after September 11th, many of us got so used to not being able to bring water bottles through security, we also somehow turned our backs on empty water bottles too. One of my favorite resusable water bottle is actually flask-like and the size of a small paperback novel, and I’ve even had a bag like, collapsible bottle in the past. It’s small, completely deflates when not in use, and easily saves me $3-6 per day of travel.
Plus, one of the easiest ways to get sick from airport germs is to be dehydrated. So, fill ‘er up!
Next, think through your lackluster meals
What meals are you most uninspired about? These are the meals that you can save the most cash on. Places like the bus stop, the airport terminal, or, if you’re driving, the hours in between cities with nothing but McDonald’s to keep you company–none of this food is good, but it adds up if you don’t plan.
There are some cases where you might not be able to keep persishables on you for long, but if travel allows, you can bring a packed lunch. For something that needs more shelf life before it gets soggy consider bringing dehydrated food like Top Ramen or a powder for a protein shake.
For breakfast, oatmeal can be made in a hotel room with a coffee maker, or the go with the help of a barista and a free cup of hot water. There’s also Top Ramen, sans hot water, which already comes in its own receptacle which holds up pretty well in a suitcase. If you want something a bit more upscale, consider making your own custom soup kits in a ziploc ahead of time.
Of Course, Snacks Are Important
You may not have a fridge in your car, in your carry-on, or in your hotel room. So you’ll need some snacks that get you going in between meals and can take a beating from travel in your bag. Things that keep really well without refrigeration are crackers, dried meats, dried or dehydrated fruits, nuts and veggies like carrots or snap peas. Of course, there’s always good ol’ PB&J. Charcuterie boards are totally trendy right now, and luckily yours will be ¼ the price of that you find at the convenience store, and probably better for you.
Most people seem to forget that they can pack just about any snack they enjoy at home, in their suitcase. Granola bars, trail mix, fruit leathers and meal replacement or protein shakes can be thrown in a bag easily. A bonus of packing your own snacks is that your luggage will have more room for souvenirs should you be inclined, later in the trip- and you save money for said souvenirs.
Related: When You Eat Matters
How To Save On Drinks
The barista at the airport will be your new bestie if you show up with not only a Top Ramen, but your own tea bags or instant coffee! If you’re staying at a hotel room, bring some tea bags with you for an afternoon pick-me-up, since plenty of hotels in the U.S. don’t offer tea. Long story short, just add hot water.
Other fun things to pack are water additives like Nuun or Mio can also be easy on the go. Nuun tabs are often used by athletes, but since they don’t contain water, they’re carry on-friendly and can dress up the water in your reusable water bottle!
What about expensive booze?
You probably won’t want to bring along a two liter of diet coke, but you might find value in packing even a small bottle of booze (if you are so inclined!) to make a Jack and Coke in your room to pre-game with friends, versus going down to the hotel lobby to kick off the fun. If you’re traveling for a romantic getaway, packing a bottle of champagne will save you time and money depending on where you stay.
If you’re not checking a bag, you can always bring the smaller sized alcohol “nips” (A.K.A. the tiny bottles) to dress up your free in-flight beverage or use travel sized reusable shampoo bottles to fill from home to turn a coke into a cocktail.
I’m sure some folks might feel weird about this, but if you like to party on a budget and this is your 1,000th bachelorette party in one calendar year, you might have already tried this tactic to save yourself some cash!
How To Save On Dining Out
Chances are you’re going to want to do more than just eat PB&J’s in your room, so a quick tip is to time your meals. Expensive restaurants can be cheaper (and less crowded) if you dine with them for lunch instead of dinner. If you are having to grab dinner out, see if you can snag a happy hour special or cut costs by having your drinks first elsewhere somewhere cheaper. Final tip–if you can snag a Groupon (depending on where you go!) or can book a tour that includes food using travel rewards, you’ll save a ton! We got several free meals while in Paris by booking champagne/lunch tours and hotels on points that included meals. Everything was still yummy and it was cheap!
Want to read more from Shannyn? Check out the rest of her articles here.