May 17, 2011

Tip of the day—Vacation Planning Tips, Part 4

Today, as we continue to plan for vacations, we’ll focus on the food.  This will be a fairly large part of your budget, and so you’ll want to find as many ways to save as you can.  Like I mentioned yesterday, finding deals on group buying sites, searching for coupons online, and earning points for gift cards to restaurants will help lower your expenditures.  The tips below should also help:

Pack food.  We pack a bag full of foods that can handle the heat of the car.  Things like crackers, chips, trail mix, gum, suckers, banana chips, and granola bars are perfect.  We add some drinks to a small cooler and make sure we have water in the car in case of emergency.  Drinks at a convenience store can cost $2 each, or if you buy them at the grocery and pack your own, you’ll pay a fraction of that.  We usually pack dried fruit instead of fresh because there is less mess and it can handle being jostled around in the car.  We also try and pack at least one meal for our car trip.

Eat regional and seasonal foods.  There is nothing better than buying shrimp right off of the boat that was netted that same morning.  It is so much sweeter and so much cheaper than what you’ll find away from the coast.  Find out what the area in which you are traveling is known for and try and eat that.  Chances are it will be less expensive than other choices. 

Visit local farmers markets.  Buy your fresh fruit or veggies straight from the farmer instead of going to the grocery store.

Go to the grocery instead of the restaurant.  Many grocery stores offer delis where you can buy a delicious meal for much less than a restaurant. 

Opt for a hotel with a kitchen or rent out a house or condo.  When we traveled to Destin a few years ago, we opted for renting a condo and doing much of our own cooking.  We did a little cost benefit analysis and realized that the savings on our meals would negate the extra we paid for the condo.  Plus, it is a little hard to cook blue crab in a microwave at the Holiday Inn!

Have bigger meals in the daytime.  Breakfast and lunch will be less expensive meals than supper at most restaurants.  Fill up earlier in the day and have a simple snack for supper.

Take advantage of freebies.  Whenever your hotel offers a free breakfast, use it!  If you can’t eat right then, ask about a to-go box to pack for your trip.  Many are happy to provide them for you.  Fill your cooler up with ice from the hotel ice machine rather than buying it at the convenience store.  Fill up your mug with the coffee brewed in your room instead of stopping at Starbucks.

Go for the usual savings.  Split meals, drink water, eat vegetarian—use all of those tricks for saving money at restaurants.

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