Vacation Dining

by Kimberly Button

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A majority of travelers eat every meal in restaurants while they are on vacation, which quickly eats up a large part of your vacation budget. If you're struggling to afford a vacation this year or if you just want a few ways to stretch your vacation dollars, the following tips are guaranteed to save you money while dining away from home.

  • Ask the locals where the best or cheapest place is to eat. After all, locals can't afford to eat out at fancy restaurants every night, so they will know the most affordable places in town.
  • Purchase restaurant gift certificates for less than face value on
  • Consider buying children's meals if you're not too hungry. Though ordering a child's meal in a sit down restaurant is usually frowned upon, if you stop on the highway at a fast food restaurant or are placing a take out order, you can easily order a less expensive child's meal, which is usually a lot healthier. I order children's meals when eating at counter service restaurants within Disney's theme parks and the portions are still substantial for half the cost of an adult's meal.
  • Always be sure to request travel brochures from your vacation destination's CVB before you leave on your trip or pick up brochures at the city or state's welcome center. Many restaurants advertise in travel brochures and offer coupons for a free appetizer or a discount on your meal. Also, you might want to purchase a local newspaper to find dining discounts.
  • Perhaps the best way to reduce the expense of eating while on vacation is to pack food that you brought from home. Worried about how much room it will take up? The extra space that you use to pack food will leave extra room on your return trip when you've got souvenirs and plenty of dirty laundry that might take up more space.
  • Pack bottled water, which often runs up to $3 for each bottle in tourist destinations but might only cost $4 for a 24-pack at the supermarket. Don't forget snacks such as nuts, chips and cookies to throw in your purse or pocket and breakfast items such as bagels, cereal, fruit or pastries that can be easily enjoyed in your hotel room. Soups, pre-made meals, bread, peanut butter and jelly are all great supplies for lunch or dinner.

    Stay at a hotel that offers a refrigerator and/or microwave within the room. You'll be able to store leftovers that you might have from meals eaten out and you can cook meals to be eaten in your room.

  • If you don't want to bring food with you, stock up at a grocery store. For instance, many car transport services bringing people from the Orlando Airport to hotels around the theme park areas allow for a 30-minute stop at a grocery store to purchase necessities. If you have your own car or your hotel is located near a supermarket, be sure to stock up on water, snacks and perishable items in order to save a hefty amount of money.
  • Dinner shows are popular in many major tourist destinations. You might think they are a great value because you can enjoy entertainment and a meal at once. However, dinner shows are often overpriced with lackluster food and very little choices on the menu.
  • Lunch is often considerably cheaper than dinner. Be sure to eat your biggest meal at lunch. If you're planning on visiting an upscale restaurant, ask if they serve lunch.
  • If you are planning on visiting a specific restaurant or chain while at your vacation destination, check the business' website for coupons or special offers that can be printed out.
  • Don't plan on eating any meals or snacks at the airport, within museums, etc. You will pay dearly for the cost of convenience. Eat a meal before your flight or before visiting an attraction and pack snacks for later on.
  • Register to receive frequent flier points for dining through your airline frequent flier card. For instance, Delta Airlines will give you 10 miles for every $1 spent at participating restaurants when you register your credit card number. There's no fee and you'll be on your way to saving money on your airfare for your next vacation.

Kimberly Button is a freelance travel writer in Lake Lure, NC and is the author of The Disney Queue Line Survival Guidebook, the first and only guidebook to magically transform the time you must wait in lines at the Walt Disney World® Resort theme parks into a fun and entertaining experience for the whole family.

She is also the Budget Travel Editor for BellaOnline, For more information on The Disney Queue Line Survival Guidebook or Ms. Button's other works, visit

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