By Dawna Matthews:
Traveling and experiencing a new city or country is something I am very passionate about. Traveling can be uplifting, educational, inspiring, and also expensive. Often, we save money for our holiday vacations — for transportation, places to stay, experiences. And food — one of the most substantial expenses when traveling. It can take a huge mouthful out of your overall travel budget. Though I absolutely adore eating and enjoying the ambiance of a local restaurant or cafe, I often save this type of experience for a few meals while I am traveling.
Here are some easy ways to have a fulfilling stay away from home, savor the local flavors, and keep some money for use in other parts of your trip.
1- Stay in Places with a Kitchen. My preference when traveling is an apartment or home available for vacationing people because they usually have a kitchen fully equipped with plates, cutlery, and anything you may need for cooking. There are also hotels with kitchenettes and extended stay options. These types of spaces allow for plenty of area to store your food and items for prepping meals. When searching for houses or apartments, I recommend homeaway.com or airbnb.com. Search via destination.
2- Cook Most Meals or Eat the Ones Provided where you stay. Some hotels serve breakfast, which can help with budgetary concerns. If the room or vacation home where you are staying has a kitchen, it’s budget savvy to prepare most meals there. I generally plan on cooking/prepping breakfast and lunch or dinner each day while traveling. If you have only a mini-fridge and small stove top, consider grains fruit, yogurt, mueslix and breads for breakfast; and sandwiches, cut fresh veggies and hummus, salads, as well as cheese or charcuterie plates for other meals. If you like to have drinks, go ahead and save a little bit by hosting your own happy hour and drinks with your dinner instead of buying drinks at a cafe or restaurant. Sometimes, in countries such as Spain or the Netherlands, you can find a happy hour with food included.
3- Explore the Destination through Markets and Local Shops. One of the most fun and interesting things I do when I visit a city is walk amongst the farmers’ markets or grocery stores and specialty shops such as a bakeries, and cheese or pasta shops. Try to have a meal plan and choose ingredients that are fresh and don’t require special tools (don’t forget to check for a can opener before shopping). Walking through the markets is also a fantastic way to experience the local flavor and vibe of the place you are visiting while saving a little money because you will be gathering what you need for your meals. I like to do this on a daily basis: you can get the freshest things you need for that day or the next morning’s breakfast, all while meandering with the locals and learning so much about the culture.
4- When Eating Out, Look for a Local Favorite. I love eating at a cafe or restaurant as much as I love to cook. When you are traveling to a place you have never visited before, you will be sure to eat out a few times. The best way to taste what the locals eat and satisfy your cravings as well as your budget is to ask the people who live there. I often ask someone at the market or even a barista for their recommendations regarding a food type or an area I want to explore. Another one of my favorite resources is a travel guide. I really like Lonely Planet or the Let’s Go travel books, as they give you options for well known places as well as hidden gems.
Traveling and immersing yourself in a new town, city or country is one of life’s greatest pleasures. When you cook while on your holiday or vacation, you not only expand your budget for other options such as museums and souvenirs, but you can discover the real treasure about the culture and yourself. I often find I dial things down a little, cook simpler and regionally, leaving more room to enjoy time with family and friends. I like to think that just because I’m on a budget, it doesn’t mean I am not enriched and full of life. As Paul Prudhomme said, “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.”