5 Easy Ways To Save Money On Meals

By Kaeli Conforti
May 1, 2013
Family Travel
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank">caitlinbwdn/myBudgetTravel</a>

Looking to save more money on your next family vacation? I recently chatted with Anne Taylor Hartzell, founder of the family travel website,, to find out about the best ways families can get the biggest bang for their buck—especially when it comes to meals. Here are her five top tips for saving money on your next big trip.

Create a list of favorite restaurants for your destination.
Everyone thinks about the price of airfares, hotels, car rentals, and how much they should spend on activities and attractions, but people sometimes forget to set aside enough money in their vacation budgets for meals. Anne says a good idea is to research the place you're traveling to and create a list of favorite restaurants. That way you can estimate how much you'll really be spending, and you won't be tempted to blow your budget on an impulsive dinner at that fancy restaurant you know is way out of your price range.

Stick to hotels that have in-room kitchens or resort credits you can use towards meals.
Instead of eating at restaurants for every breakfast, lunch, and dinner during your trip, consider booking a hotel room with a kitchenette, visiting the local farmers market or grocery store to make sandwiches for lunch or even cook your own special family dinner. Alternatively, you can scope out hotel deals and packages that include daily breakfast to help cut spending on one meal a day, or look for places that offer resort credits towards meals at the hotel restaurant to offset the cost of dining out every night.

Eat where the locals eat.
Instead of being herded into one of the more touristy restaurants in the town you're visiting, talk to some of the locals and find out where they like to eat. Ask the hotel staff, your tour guide, or even your taxi driver, about their favorite places to eat—not only are you more likely to end up with an affordable meal, but you'll also get to try local specialties and have a more authentic dining experience.

It's okay to splurge...sometimes.
You may be on a budget, but you're also on vacation. Make enough room in your plans for a special splurge—eat at that amazing Italian restaurant everyone's been raving about or treat yourself to a sunset dinner on the beach in Tahiti because, honestly, how often do you get a chance to something like that? It's okay to splurge once in a while, just don't make it a habit or you won't be able to afford your next vacation.

Look up deals and coupons online before you go.
Scour the internet for coupons and meal deals—look for dining vouchers, discounts for activities and attractions on sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, and Travelzoo Local Deals, or seek out coupons for popular restaurants in the place you'll be visiting.

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Travel Tips

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Travel Tips

4 Hotels That Offer Special Perks

We recently asked our Budget Travel audience how important toiletries were when it comes to deciding which hotel to book—most of you felt fancy shampoos and conditioners were a nice touch but not a deciding factor, noting that you often pack your own personal favorites, while others said they were curious enough to at least Google the types of toiletries and amenities offered by hotels prior to booking a room. Overall, it seems larger amenities (like hair dryers), price, and location are more important to you when choosing a hotel. We wanted to dig a little deeper and find out if different, more unique amenities could become deciding factors. From free international calls to nifty personal touches when you're far from home, these four hotels are pulling out all the stops to keep their guests happy. Free International Phone Calls Seattle's Hotel 1000 wants international guests to stay connected with their friends and family back home, offering free unlimited international phone calls to Canada, India, China, or Europe free of charge as a standard hotel amenity. General Manager Denny Fitzpatrick said, "Part of the experience is to not ‘nickel and dime’ our guests, but to include as much as possible in the room rate. We’ve done this in the past by offering complimentary, high-speed internet since opening and are now continuing this with free calls to anywhere in the world." Personal Touches When You're Far From Home Every time you book a stay at Kimpton's Hotel Solamar in San Diego, you'll be given the option to send a photo of someone (or something) special so the hotel staff can print it out and have it waiting in a signed greeting card on the night stand upon your arrival at the hotel. A nice idea for travelers who are constantly on the road and missing loved ones back home, or for anyone who misses their favorite pet while traveling. Fun &amp; Games Want to unleash your inner child while you're on vacation? Play a game of oversized chess at Sea Island in Georgia or poolside at the Doubletree San Juan in Puerto Rico. Sea Island also offers Bingo games in The Cloister Ballroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays where up to 500 guests can play for cash prizes.

Travel Tips

How Important Are Toiletries When You Choose A Hotel?

In an effort to help attract more guests, hotel chains across the globe have begun changing the quality of their toiletries, upgrading their shampoos, conditioners, body lotions, and soaps to top-shelf brands like Paul Mitchell and other high-end products typically found in pricey salons. An article by USA Today recently reported that Ritz-Carlton, InterContinental, and other Marriott brands like Courtyard, SpringHill Suites, TownPlace Suites, and Residence Inn are also getting on board. The folks at Hyatt have taken this one step further—in addition to upgrading their toiletries to high-quality bath and skin products from KenetMD Skin Care, Le Labo, June Jacobs, and Aromapothecary, they've also updated their in-room menus with healthier options that include smoothies, fresh juices, and well-balanced portions. Their new service, Hyatt Has It, also allows guests access to essential-but-often-forgotten items like makeup remover wipes, slippers, and shower caps (complimentary) as well as larger items like phone chargers, curling irons, yoga mats, and steamers (available to borrow or buy). I recently stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn Mont-Tremblant where I was given small bottles of Paul Mitchell shampoo and conditioner. Did I love those little luxury touches and the way my hair looked? Yes. Would I purposely book my next hotel stay at a Marriott Residence Inn because of it? Probably not. But maybe that's just me. What do you think? Do the types of toiletries offered by a hotel factor into where you book or do other, larger details like hotel location and overall price matter more in your final decision? Would a certain brand of shampoos or soaps be enough to ensure your loyalty to a specific hotel chain? Sound off below!

Travel Tips

Save 20 Percent on Rail Europe This Month!

Catch a train in London and step off in Paris a little over two hours later. Sound good? Now take 20 percent off the fare. But you'd better book your trip by the end of the month! Rail Europe is offering this steep discount on Eurostar tickets that are booked through April 1 with its 20% Off, 100% Comfort deal to London, Paris, and Brussels. They are also offering a 10 percent discount on a London Pass and a Paris Pass, which include free priority admission to major museums, historic sites, and other attractions (including castles, gardens, cathedrals, and monuments) and discounts at select restaurants, shops, and ground transportation. Passes have a choice of two, four, or six consecutive days, free information guide and map, unlimited travel on ground transportation within select zones of each city, and discounts on bus tours, wine tastings, and river cruises. Starting at $160 for a one-way trip, Eurostar Standard Premier service includes light meal service and a complimentary newspaper. In London, Eurostar's trains arrive at and depart from St. Pancras Station, which boasts a number of upscale shops and eateries and is extremely centrally located not far from Regents Park and the historic City of London. In Paris, trains arrive at and depart from Gare du Nord station, also right in the center of the city. In Brussels, you'll arrive at and depart from Midi Station, which, as its name suggests, is also right in the thick of things. TALK TO US! Have you traveled by rail in Europe? Have you ever taken the train between London and Paris?