Spending a year on the road, traveling to 31 countries and 6 continents, we sometimes joke that it was our food tour of the world. Although we love splurging on a good meal and great wine, we had a tight budget to adhere to. This wasn’t a vacation; this was a lifestyle. One of the top questions we are asked is how we managed eating out – without breaking the bank -- with our son for that extended time. These five tricks can help you shave off your food budget, freeing up funds for more attractions or souvenirs:
1. Cook your own meals. Book an AirBnb or a hotel room with a kitchenette. Having a room with a refrigerator, microwave and even stovetop means you can cook meals and snacks in your room, reducing the number of meals you’ll need to have at restaurants, which can save you big. Shop at a nearby grocery store or local market for fresh foods—not only will it be cheaper than a restaurant, you can tailor your menu to meals your child will actually eat.
2. Dine smartly. When dining out, even if a restaurant doesn’t feature a kids’ menu, which is often in foreign countries, requesta half-portion as a meal for your child. Half portions will cost half the price, and be enough to satisfy your toddler. Or, even better, before dining at a high-end restaurant, swing by a quick-service restaurant for an easy and cheap meal for your child. We would go to McDonalds and get our son chicken nuggets before we go a restaurant to enjoy our “grown up” dinner.
3. Stock up on snacks. Whether you have a kitchenette or not,stock up on snacks, drinks and picnic items for the times when you are on the road. When visiting museums, aquariums, and other big attractions, you can skip the pricey cafe having your own stash of snacks in your stroller, as well as avoid impulse buying when someone gets hungry.
4. Find free food. Many kids 6 and younger (and sometimes 12 and younger) can eat for free, or at half price. Stay at a hotel that offers discounts for children's meal, such as properties that have kids eat free programs and free breakfast for the entire family. Find restaurants that have a kids-free option, as well.Often, some restaurants have major discounts on websites like Groupon or Living Social. Before you travel to a destination, visit these sites and check for special half-off or big discount deals.
5. Eat local. Don’t ever eat at a restaurant in a tourist area, such as Times Square in New York City or the Champs-Elysees in Paris – prices are always higher when feeding unknowing visitors. Instead, eat where locals eat. Ask people you meet for recommendations, and choose restaurants on small, side streets versus large boulevards.
Food will account for much of your travel budget, but you can make it through a trip cheaper than you think.
AJ Ratani and Natasha Sandhir traveled around the world with their son Aarav. Visiting 31 countries and six continents as a family, they documented their year-long travel and trips on their family travel blog. Visit their website for more tips and also follow the couple on their Instagram account.