Dining Out Frugally while Traveling

We often think of vacations as a time to “splurge.” Frugal dining isn’t really on the radar screen. It can be extremely difficult to maintain a budget while on a vacation, especially when dining out. The impetus on vacation is to treat yourself, go for it — order and indulge in whatever you want. Also, when you find yourself in a new city, country or area that is unfamiliar, you tend to just go with what is close by, convenient and safe in the area.

However, this is not always necessarily the best and most economical dining choice. You want to have a great time on your vacation and enjoy yourself, but you don’t want to land yourself in debt. Instead of ending up in the poor house, consider following these tips for dining frugally. You can still enjoy your vacation meals while sticking to a budget, PaydayLoansCashAdvance.com has gathered these six tips to help make that happen:

“There’s an App for That”

In this internet age we live in, there are a multitude of resources to help you find the best restaurant for your dollar. Review sites such as Yelp and UrbanSpoon can help you to sift through the restaurants in a given geographic area, while you’re there. Many of these restaurant search and review sites offer free “apps” (applications) for your smartphone or other mobile device. Download the apps for your favorite sites before your trip, and you’ll be armed with the ability to scan your surroundings for the best — and most affordable restaurants for your budget and tastes.

Don’t have a smartphone or access to restaurant review sites while on the road? When all else fails, kick it “old school” — ask around! You don’t have to just “wing it” in an area you’re unfamiliar with. Ask the hotel clerk, the concierge, a gas station attendant or any other local resident. No one knows the local cuisine — and pricing — better than someone who lives there!

Discounts and Coupons

Some of the apps mentioned above can connect you with mobile discounts. Another great way to arm yourself for frugal dining while on your vacation is by joining a group like the Diner’s Club or, if you’re old enough, AARP. The auto club AAA also offers discounts on many dining and travel expenses. The Entertainment book is another great source for discounts. If you know you will be staying in a particular city or area for a while and have planned ahead of time, it may be worth your while to buy the Entertainment book for that city. With many coupons offering “buy one get one” deals on meals, at $35 the book will pay for itself after just a few uses.


Sharing may be a simple and obvious concept, but it can save you hundreds of dollars in dining out costs on your vacation. With so many U.S. restaurants still serving huge portions for each entree, consider buying just one entree for each two family members and getting some extra plates. If you’re on the road, leftovers won’t be a very viable option anyway, so only order as much food as you can eat and serve it “family style.”

Bring It on the Road — Or Grocery Shop

Another frugal dining option for your vacation is to bring as much of your own food as possible. This is an especially great option for road trips. Pack a cooler and bring as many of your dried goods, snacks and non-perishables as you can fit into a couple of grocery bags. Pack a picnic basket, table cloths, paper plates and plastic ware, and have picnics in local parks. Many parks have grills, too, so a delicious grilled meal could be an option. Another great idea is to shop local grocery stores, delis and farmer’s markets for your meals. This will still allow you to sample the local fare without going broke in the process.

Happy Hour!

Happy hour specials are a great way to save money when dining out, and most mid-range restaurants offer them. Try and time your mealtime during happy hour at least a few days during your trip. You’ll save substantially on both drinks and select menu items. Order a la carte from the happy hour menu and allow everyone in your group to sample a variety of fare. Most happy hours tend to be between 3:00 and 6:00 pm, with some offering late night happy hour specials after 9:00 pm. Call ahead or check their website for details before planning your meal time.

Eat in when you can

If you will be staying in one place for a while and it has a kitchen or kitchenette, you can definitely save money by eating in. Many hotel rooms offer at least a small fridge and a microwave, with some rentals offering a full kitchen. Stock your room with items from the corner grocery store, or bring your own (as mentioned above) if you’re traveling in a foreign country, this can be a great way to have a culinary adventure — affordably! You’ll save hundreds on your trip and have more money left over for other sightseeing adventures.

These frugal dining tips may not be the best options for every family or every trip, but they can save you a small fortune. If none of these ideas sound appealing or very viable, you may just need to budget your money carefully during your trip and before you leave. Many restaurants post their menus online, so if you have certain restaurants in mind, you can at least plan out what options you might choose to eat before you depart on your adventure.

Find out about daily specials or happy hour options as well. Make a list of times and prices. A little planning goes a long way! If you’re interested in dining frugally, don’t just “wing it” while you’re away. Plan ahead, consider these six tips, and you could save big money on dining costs while traveling.

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