Eating is one of my favorite things in general, but eating on vacation tends to be some of the highlights of the trip. There’s just something great about trying new things & diving into a culture using their food as the catalyst. As previously outlined in the blog, “Planning Never Hurt Anyone,” I believe that a little planning ahead of time can produce big dividends while on your trip. The same remains true for how you eat while on vacation. I’m talking less about what & where you end up eating and more about how you end up eating. Before you travel, there are a few things I would recommend you think about to make the most of your money & time in this regard.
What is Your Food Budget?
Often people plan for months, sometimes years, to go on vacation. They’ve decided their accommodations, they’ve purchased their airfare and they have budgeted for the activities they will be experiencing. However, it seems like budgeting for food is often overlooked. They just figure they will figure it out when they get there. While I agree that you don’t necessarily have to have every restaurant picked out before you go, knowing how much you can and are willing to spend each day will help you make sure you don’t overspend on dining.
Let me show you what I mean. It’s common knowledge that Europe is expensive, especially in high-tourism areas. Let’s say that you decide to sit down at an average restaurant for every meal. Nothing too fancy, but you do choose a sit-down restaurant, plus a few snacks along the way to keep you going between destinations. Per person, for breakfast you pay €15, plus later you grab a mid-morning coffee for €7. You stop and sit-down for lunch which costs you €20 followed by a mid-afternoon gelato for €5, and end the day you have dinner which costs €30 & then you stop at the pastry shop for dessert on the way back to the hotel and spend €8 there. By the end of the day, you’ve spent €85 PER PERSON. If you ate similarly for a week, and there were two of you traveling together, you’re looking at €1,190 just in food costs. At today’s Euro/American Dollar conversion, that’s $1,412.47.
Most people can’t afford to drop that kind of money without planning for it first, so make a budget! As you’re planning your trip, your travel agent can help you research how much you can expect to pay each day for food depending on your destination. That way, you can make sure food costs are accounted for in advance & you don’t end up in debt over something as basic as food.
Save Money (and Time) by Choosing Accommodations that Include Breakfast
One of the easiest ways to cut food costs & save time while on vacation, is to ask your travel agent to find you accommodations that include breakfast. Many hotels offer at least a continental breakfast spread that can get you going for the day without spending the time or money at a sit-down restaurant. Keep in mind that while hotels that do this are quite common in the States, it is less common in Europe and other destinations. The reality is many hotels now charge you extra for their breakfast, but often if you purchase that option in advance when you book the room, they will charge you less than if you pay at the hotel. Regardless, it tends to be more reasonable than going out to eat for breakfast. Tell your travel agent how much you’d be willing to pay (if anything) for breakfast & they can likely find you some good options and walk you through everything so you know in advance what to expect.
In addition to saving you money by avoiding going out for breakfast, eating at the hotel means you can get a faster start to your day. Whether you’re going to the parks at Walt Disney World, or visiting the Louvre in Paris, our biggest piece of advice is to arrive early. Major attractions attract major lines & if you’d rather spend your day exploring the amazing sights instead of standing in line, getting a quick start to your day by having breakfast at the hotel can be the key.
Street Vendors are Awesome
Some of the best food I’ve ever eaten on vacation have come from street vendors. They are no-frills options that are fast and give you awesome food without the big price-tag or the need to spend valuable time at a sit-down restaurant. Now, I can hear the voice of my mom in my head asking, “But are they clean?” Most cities require that their street vendors are licensed & they have to meet the same cleanliness standards as restaurants do. For example, in New York City, all restaurants are given a letter grade based on their cleanliness & they are required by law to post that grade in their front window. As of early 2019, they started giving their street vendors those same grades. If you’re feeling nervous, look for posted licenses & make your own observations. Only pick those vendors who make you comfortable. In my experience, I’ve only had positive experiences with street vendors. Worst case, I’ve eaten cheap food that was only okay. Best case, I’ve had some of the most delectable local treats you could get. In my opinion, they are a great option that will help you stick to your budget & give you the chance to try some of the local fare all while saving you time.
Remember, Hangry is a REAL Thing
We’ve all been there. It’s been too long between meals, your blood sugar is dropping, you’ve walked at least 10 miles that day, and you start picking at the people around you. My family is notorious for this – ask any of my in-laws. I’m not proud to say that I’ve let my “hangry” tendencies get the better of me more than once on vacation. I’m also confident it’s a bigger problem than most people realize (or are willing to admit). Realizing that it is a real thing can help you recognize it for what it is & help you avoid turning your vacation into an unpleasant experience for everyone. While I am personally all about saving time by eating at the hotel in the morning, or purchasing food from street vendors, I DO NOT believe that meals should be sacrificed for the sake of getting to the next thing. When you’re thrust into a different time zone, culture & daily routine, your body needs that consistent fuel more than ever. And as much as I’d like to say that gelato & macarons count as “real food,” they don’t. Sugar in its many delectable varieties is not a meal substitute. If you find yourself starting to get irritated, take stock of what you have eaten that day & then go get some real food. Trust me. Your vacation will be much more enjoyable if everyone stays fed.
Ask About Meal Plans
Depending on where you are traveling, there may be options to have your meals included. For example, cruising is a great way to see several locations in a short amount of time & all meals are included on the ship (with a few exceptions where surcharges apply to certain restaurants). At the Walt Disney World Resort, if you stay on property, they offer a variety of meal plans to fit every budget that typically save 15-20% (Temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. Don’t worry, it’ll be back.). There are also many all-inclusive resorts all over the world, particularly in tropical locations where meals are included. These are all viable options to have your food included in the overall price of your vacation. Ask your travel agent what options may be available to you based on where you are traveling.
We hope you can see how once again, a little planning can go a long way in regards to eating your way through vacation. It’s honestly one of the most enjoyable aspects of experiencing a culture & we hope these reminders will help you make your next vacation even better!
As always, we’d be happy to help you plan your next vacation. Visit our website & click on the “Get a Quote” feature to get started!
There are a lot of different types of snacks and desserts found at the Walt Disney World Resort properties. Here is a list of the top 15 choices from my guests’ favorite snacks and desserts while they visit Walt Disney World… Try not to get too hungry reading blog!
1. Dole Whip Ice Cream or Dole Whip Float – Location: Aloha Isle In Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom and at Capt. Cook’s in Disney’s Polynesian Resort
2. Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar – Location: In all parks
3. Funnel Cake – Location: Sleepy Hollow at the Magic Kingdom and at the Funnel Cake stand near the American Pavilion in Epcot
4. Churro – Location: Mexico Pavilion in Epcot
5. Frozen Lemonade – Location: In all parks
6. Carrot Cake Cookie – Location: Writer’s Shop in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
7. Mickey Mouse Shaped Pretzels- Location: In all parks
8. Fish & Chips (Fries) – Location: Rose and Crown Rub in Epcot
9. Turkey Leg – Location: Toluca Legs Turkey Co. in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
10. Popcorn & Pickles – Location: In all parks
11. Strawberry Tart- Location: Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisseries in Epcot
12. Ghirardelli Hot Fudge Sundae – Location: Ghirardelli Soda fountain shop at Downtown Disney
13. The Grey Stuff – Location: Be Our Guest Restaurant at Magic Kingdom
14. LeFou’s Brew- Location: Gastons’s Tavern at the Magic Kingdom
15. The Kitchen Sink (The Biggest Ice Cream Sundae You Can Imagine)- Location: Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort (Along the Boardwalk)
Again, there are a lot of great snacks even beyond these 15 choices. Feel free to comment and share some of your favorite desserts below.
– Cody Woodbrey