I would love to tell you I am frugal when I travel, but I am not. I love the occasional splurge and fine dining experience. But I have found ways to have these experiences without breaking the bank or saving in other ways to have money to spend on the things I want to do. I am an active traveler and am always on the go. If dining is an important part of your travel experience then this may not be the best advice for you, but even preparing your own breakfast, snacks and beverage will save you money.
I am a foodie! And I love to eat quality foods, including an abundant supply of fresh local fruits and vegetables.
- Ask for a refrigerator or buy an ice chest or insulated bag.
I always make sure I have way to store fresh foods. If I am in a hotel room, I request a refrigerator. Pro tip: Hotels will typically supply you with a refrigerator (for free) if you have medication or milk that needs to be kept cold. I bring or purchase an insulated ice chest or bag when I arrive. Costco usually has a large insulated bag for less than $10. We picked up a nice one on our recent trip to Hawaii.
- Make your own breakfast and pack an picnic lunch.
You can save money daily by having breakfast and lunch on hand. I learned this from my mother, she always brought an ice chest full of lunch supplies when we traveled as kids. Back then it was bologna or salami on white bread, with plain potato chips but it was the best. She would have ice cold soda’s too (but I don’t drink these any more). My mom is the best!
- Do some grocery shopping when you arrive at your final destination.
I head to the store as soon as I arrive, to buy breakfast and picnic items: turkey, cheese, lettuce, bread or rolls, apples, grapes, single serving chips, single serving hummus, crackers, tortilla chips and fresh salsa, yogurt and a couple big jugs of water. I also buy condiments at a regular store, because I don’t need 32 oz of mustard or a gallon of mayo. Pick up mustard, mayo, pickles, pepperccinis and produce at a smaller grocer. You can also pick up a bottle of wine or other beverages to enjoy.
Costco works for me because I know that I am going to pack our family lunch everyday, but if you are a single traveler, or don’t know if you want to have a picnic lunch everyday then you may want to buy from another grocer.
- Farmers markets are great for local in season fruits and vegetables and are a fun way to experience the culture.
If you don’t like sandwiches look for a highly rated specialty deli and pick up some side dishes that are good cold.
Also buy your breakfast items, like yogurt and cereal. If you like cereal buy a small carton of milk, and replace as necessary. My breakfast usually consists of a yogurt, with a little granola and some fresh fruit. Peanut butter and jelly are good for traveling as well.
- Don’t forget the sandwich bags, paper towels, bowls and cutlery if necessary.
Grab a few napkins at the deli counter and stock up when you eat out. Buy a package of cutlery or request a set at the hotel. Room service will bring you one.
- Remember your storage space.
Remember your space, but if you need more room to store cold items, don’t hesitate to buy a small or medium size ice chest and fill it with new ice daily. You can always donate this to local charity before you leave, or heck, leave it in your room, the maid is happy to have it, or give it to someone that is just arriving when you check out. It will still save you money. I use the large insulated bag as my carry on when I leave and take mine home with me.
Just buy the basics, save the treats for splurges, like a ice cream, gelato, desert, pastries, or cookies.
- Remember to make your lunch every day and eat your breakfast.
- Be sure to eat your food, and buy food you enjoy that feels like a treat, you’re on vacation.
- Don’t buy too much. You’re not saving money if you end up throwing it away.
- You can also use this as a way to reduce calories and lower the average 5 pounds typically put on during vacation.
- We usually enjoy a glass of wine or a mai tai before we head to dinner, and have a light snack.
Pack a lunch that your going to enjoy. Your picnic should be a good experience and not leave you feeling like you missing out.
If you haven’t done this before, buy a smaller amount to see if you like this or start with breakfast items and snacks. Even having an apple on hand, a granola bar or bottled water or cold drinks will save you money.
I also pack my own lunch and snacks for the plane ride.
If you have kids or just love pizza, have pizza for dinner on the first night and buy an extra pizza to go. That’s always good cold for breakfast or lunch.
If you’re staying at a time share, or VRBO location, or at a beach or park see if they have a BBQ area. Make something easy like chicken hotlinks or hot dogs, a prepared side, chips and a cold drinks. I promise you will remember how much fun you had.
Now it’s up to you to find an awesome location to enjoy your breakfast and lunch. Have your breakfast and coffee in a scenic location, on the lanai or by the pool or in the garden area.
For lunch, you have the perfect picnic for the beach or the park or the steps of your favorite museum.
This is another area where I think I am good at saving money.
If you enjoy dining out, you can still enjoy these experiences and save money, now that your had your lunch you can find an early happy hour where food and drinks are usually available at a discounted price.
Yelp is a great tool to find the best happy hour.
Most restaurants have a family section where you can sit and partake in happy hour.
You can either make a meal out of the happy hour offerings or think of them as appetizers and have a later dinner. Or you can skip dinner and indulge in that dessert you have been wanting to try.
This is another area that you can save money. I love FREE activities.
Beaches are usually free, just bring your supplies, chairs, towels, umbrellas, snacks and cold drinks. If you don’t have access to these items, bring your towels to sit on, a hat and sunscreen. You can also bring a cover up or long sleeve shirt. Bring your snorkel gear if you have it, or play in the waves. You may be required to pay to park.
Watch the surfers, or bring your binoculars and see if you can find a whale spouting.
Walk through the cities. Stroll the down town areas and window shop and look and admire the murals and city are. Look for busy restaurants and cafe’s. That’s how you know they are good. Stop at the art galleries. Its is free to look. Tourist areas usually have free entertainment.
Parks – Most city parks are free, and are great for picnicking, people watching, viewing animals like squirrels and birds. Some city parks are amazing and filled with things to do like New York’s Central Park, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Parks, but small towns have their own treasured parks like McKinley Park or South Land Park in Sacramento, or Kanab Park in the city of Kanab. These parks are treasures as well.
Community Gardens – Some community gardens are more elaborate than others. There is an amazing community garden to walk through on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Hiking – Look for local hikes, most parks and forests will post hiking information at the trail head. Bring your camera, snacks, water and your hiking boots and your all set. Make sure to tell someone where you went and when you expect to return. Also, check the weather conditions and don’t over commit yourself. You are on vacation.
Free Tours – Look to see if the city offers free tours. Most do.
Visit inexpensive museums or historic houses. Sometimes museums have free days or offer free admissions to certain credit card holders on certain months.
Visit a Art Gallery and browse.
Walk through historic neighborhoods. Visit a hotel and enjoy the manicured grounds.
Walk along the coast. I find more sea life on the coast than any aquarium. You can see starfish, crabs, fish, otters, seals and more.
Find a place to watch a sunrise or sunset.
Shopping – Find a farmers market, or flea market like the Aloha Bowl. These are the best places to pick up souvenirs.
Antique and Thrift shopping is another fun way to do some browsing for items you might need on the beach, or for finding other treasures. Don’t spend too much time thrifting, unless that what you came to do. You are on vacation. You don’t want to spend the afternoon looking at someone else’s treasures (crap).
If you are a collector, its always fun to find a new piece to add to your collection.
Cultural Events – Look in the paper or on the tourist website for cultural events like Garlic Festivals, or Greek Festivals, or Tahitian Dance Festivals. They will have artisan craft booths, excellent cultural food booths, and entertainment. These events are usually free to attend.
RV’ers – When traveling in our RV, we are always looking to save money and all of these tips apply.
Read my article on free camping, which I call Ninja Camping or Boondocking here.
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