12 Tips For Saving Money On Food While Traveling

When traveling, one of the biggest strains on your wallet is the cost of food. The problem isn’t that there aren’t affordable food options, but more that many people are unsure of how to navigate the dining scene in foreign locations. Instead of asking your hotel for recommendations or going to restaurants that “look nice,” use this guide to find budget-friendly meal options when traveling.

Stop Thinking “Everything Is So Cheap”

This is a dilemma many travelers face when in low-cost countries, or simply when they find a snack they enjoy that is less than $3. Instead of thinking you don’t have to worry about purchasing something because “it’s only $1,” think about how all those “it’s only $1” times add up. Moreover, if you’re the type of person who needs to eat something in between lunch and dinner, opt for a big lunch on a set menu. In most countries, you can find filling and cheap lunch specials and combos during this time, which can also help you eat a smaller dinner.Picnic

Not only does picnicking save you money, it’s also fun to put together. Instead of having one big meal, you’ll be able to taste a lot of different foods. For me, a good picnic includes bread, cheese, fruit, cold meat, dip and a dried vegetable. Along with saving money, having a picnic is also a great way to meet other travelers. You can either ask someone from your accommodation to go in on the food with you, or offer someone something where you’re eating. For example, when picnicking in the parks of Europe I would often offer someone some of my fruit in exchange for some bread, and I’d end up with a lunch partner.

Dine Locally

Eating at local restaurants can save you an exorbitant amount of money. Not only that, but the food is usually better. Don’t go to places with an English menu, and peek in to see if there are mostly locals inside. When traveling through Peru, a girl I met – who had eaten at the touristy restaurant the hostel had recommended – was ecstatic at how cheap food in the country was. “I paid $8 for a big antipasto plate,” she gushed. As I’d been eating at local restaurants and paying less than $2 for a huge soup, entree, desert and juice, I found this pretty expensive.

Don’t Eat At The First Place You See

When traveling, many people will see a place that looks good, or just go to the place recommended by their hotel. By doing this, you may be missing out on a great deal. When in Banos, Ecuador, with a friend, we decided we were getting a little tired of local food and wanted Mexican. We saw a place that looked good near our guesthouse, but decided to walk down the street a little bit more. About three blocks farther, we found a place that allowed us to have wine, beer, two appetizers and a huge entree for what one appetizer and one small entree would have cost at the first restaurant.

Eat Street Food

Street food is my favorite thing in the world. I’m always amazed at the unique entrees, and how inexpensive they are. While many people associate street food with Asia, there are many countries around the world with delicious offerings. I love chocla con queso in Peru, plantains with cheese and mayonnaise in Ecuador, choripan in Argentina, fried chicken and yams in Ghana and a giant salted pretzel in New York.

Buy Large Waters

If you’re in a city where the tap water is undrinkable, purchase a gallon bottle of water and use it to refill your smaller one. While it may not sound like much, a huge water is usually less than a dollar more than a small one, and lasts for days. And of course, if the tap water is drinkable, drink it.

Book Accommodations That Serve Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and one you shouldn’t skip to save money. Before booking your accommodation, make sure they include breakfast in the rate. That way, you can fill up on free food and eat lighter later in the day.

Do Some Research

While you could spend hours scouring the streets for a good place to eat, doing a simple Google search could save you a lot of time. I like to skip the tourism board and business sites and check travel forums and blogs to see what other people found on their travels.

Skip The Cocktails

While it can be nice to have a cocktail with dinner, it will usually tack on quite a bit of money. Think about it. Say you have one $5 drink with dinner each night. At the time, this will seem like no big deal. However, after a week you’ll have spent $35 extra dollars, and after a month $150 or more. Along with saying no to alcohol with dinner, I also bring my own water bottle so I won’t have to buy a beverage at all.

Check For Extra Fees

Certain things that may be free in your home country when eating out may not be complimentary in the place you’re visiting. For example, in certain countries it’s common to charge for condiments and the use of the table. Likewise, the breads and small appetizers the server automatically brings over may have a charge associated with them. Make sure to ask and, if they’re not free and you don’t want them, have the server take them back, as you’ll get charged for having them on the table.

Stay At Accommodations With Kitchens

Grocery shopping and cooking your own meals is not only healthy, but also budget-friendly. It’s also fun to discover new grocery items you don’t have in your home country. In Argentina, I traveled with a girl who dined out for every meal while I cooked for myself. After doing the math, I realized she spent in two meals what I paid for four entire days of food. Even if you don’t want to cook every meal, incorporating it into your eating itinerary will save you a lot of money.

Pack Your Own Lunch For The Airport And Excursions

It’s nice when tours include a lunch in the price, but if they don’t it’s best to pack your own. Tourist sites and airports usually charge a crazy amount of money, and usually don’t have the best food, anyway.

Hanoi’s Oldest Hotel Will Open Secret Bunker To Visitors This Week

During hotel renovations last August at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi in Vietnam, construction workers discovered an unknown bunker thought to be used during the Vietnam War. While drilling near the poolside bar, they found a flooded hallway, numerous rooms and a staircase leading to the secret 500-square-foot bunker. Moreover, wine bottles, unbroken light bulbs, graffiti and air ducts were also found, according to VietNamNet.

“In the hotel’s history, there is a story of the American folk singer, Joan Baez, who sought shelter in this bunker during the Christmas Bombings in 1972, and who sang some songs beside a Vietnamese guitarist,” explains Kai Speth, the hotel’s General Director. “We don’t know of any other hotels, in Vietnam or anywhere else for that matter, that maintained a shelter for guests and staff.”

The luxury hotel is the oldest in Hanoi, boasting a 110-year history that has welcomed guests such as Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, Fidel Castro and Somerset Maugham. That will be celebrated, along with the opening of the bunker to guests, on May 21, 2012. Likewise, people who actually spent time in the bunker, such as Bob Devereaux, the Australian diplomat who carved his name into the bunker in 1975, will also be present at the opening ceremony.

[image via The Metropole Blog]According to the hotel’s blog, some guests were given a sneak-peek of the Bunker. As a recording played of “Where Are You Now My Son,” a song Baez made there in 1972, each guest was brought back in time to those scary days.

“I knew that my guests were the beneficiaries of a powerful feeling for a place, and the past,” writes Speth on the blog. “Usually, people travel beyond the confines of a hotel for such experiences. But how lucky, I thought standing there with those 10 Americans, that my guests could experience that right here with us.”

Eco-Friendly Hotel Amenity: Pedal-To-Power LCD Television

For those interested in keeping vacation weight off while also doing something good for the planet, the Cottage Lodge in Brockenhurst, United Kingdom, is offering a unique amenity. Instead of allowing guests to turn on the television the old-fashioned way, the bed and breakfast features a pedal-to-power LCD television in their Standing Hat room.

The purpose of the unusually active method of television powering is purely environmental. While you’d think some travelers may not be happy about having to work to turn on their TV, the accommodation has actually received positive feedback, especially from cyclists.

“I focused on three things when constructing the room: reducing waste, minimizing pollution and using resources with the lowest impact possible,” the hotel’s owner, Christina Simons, explained to the Telegraph. “I also wanted to show that being green can also be exciting and fun, and guests love cycling on the bike.”

And for those with low stamina, don’t worry, you also have the option to make use of the electric supply generated by photovoltaic cells on the roof, so you’ll still be going green while you travel. In fact, the hotel utilizes many sustainable features, like solar panel heating in the summer, heating via a wood burning stove in the winter, low-impact building materials and furniture created by a local tree surgeon from a single fallen beech tree.

These US Hotels Are Helping Guests Celebrate America’s National Pastime With Baseball-Themed Packages

As the weather gets warmer, Americans are getting ready to enjoy their favorite national pastime: baseball. To help bring your love of the game with you on your travels, these hotels around the United States are offering baseball-themed packages.

The Ritz-Carlton, Denver
Denver, Colorado

The Ritz-Carlton, Denver is helping guests root for the Rockies in style. Their “Sports” package includes two tickets to a Colorado Rockies’ game at Coors Field, a $50 credit to the hotel’s signature restaurant, Elways Downtown, a keepsake gift upon arrival and overnight valet parking.

Rates begin at $369 per night during the weekends for a Deluxe Room. Package valid until December 31, 2012. Call 303-312-3800 to book.The Cheshire
St. Louis, Missouri

To help Cardinals fans enjoy the game while traveling, the Cheshire is featuring a special package. Guests will get Cardinals’ tickets in outfield box seats, a complimentary upgrade to a superior king room and two complimentary drinks at one of the onsite restaurants or bars.

Package rates begin at $259 per night plus tax, and must be booked at least 14 days in advance. Call 314-647-7300 to book.

Mandarin Oriental, Miami
Miami, Florida

Marlin fans will have the chance to experience the team’s brand new Marlins Park, while also staying in world-class accommodations with the Mandarin Oriental, Miami‘s “I Love Marlins” package. The deal includes two nights accommodation in a luxury suite, a chauffeured transfer to and from Marlins Park, two Marlins baseball jerseys and caps and two spa treatments.

Package rates start at $2,450, based on double occupancy. Valid during home games from April to September, 2012. Call 305-913-8383 to book.

The George, a Kimpton Hotel
Washington, D.C.

If you’re a Washington Nationals fan, you’ll love the “Grand Slam” package being offered by The George, a Kimpton Hotel. Guests who opt for the deal will receive two tickets to a Washington Nationals’ game, transportation to the game and valet parking.

Package rates begin at $179 per night through October 3, 2012. Bookings must be made at least 48 hours in advance. Seats are located on the first baseline, section 109, row RR and seats between 23-26. Call 202-347-4200 and say promo code GSLAM to book.

The US Grant, a Luxury Collection Hotel
San Diego, California

The US Grant, which is conveniently located a few blocks from Petco Park, is helping San Diego Padres fans cheer on their favorite team. The hotel’s “Baseball and Brews” package includes accommodations, two Padres’ tickets with seats located behind home plate, a 6-pack amenity of Mission Brew Blonde Ale and complimentary overnight parking.

Package rates start at $269 per night. Reservations must be made five days in advance, with the package being valid through October 6, 2012. Call 866-716-8136 and use promo code LAPKG1 to book.

Hotel Commonwealth
Boston, Massachusetts

Located near Fenway Park, which is turning 100 this year, Hotel Commonwealth is celebrating baseball season with two themed packages this summer. First there is the “100th Anniversary” package, which includes accommodations for two in a Fenway Room overlooking Fenway Park, two tickets to the official 50-minute historic Fenway Park Tour, and a welcome basket of Baby Ruth candy bars, old-fashioned glass coke bottles, boxes of Cracker Jacks and stacks of baseball cards. For those who want a more upscale experience, there is the “Luxury 100th Anniversary” package. This promotion gives guests all of the above-mentioned amenities, although it includes an upgrade to the Baseball Suite, a luxurious space with 30s and 40s baseball decor. This promotion also includes a copy of “Fenway Park: 100 Years,” the Fenway Park 100th anniversary official definitive coffee table book. The book includes 256 pages of history and insight, with a forward by Stephen King and remembrances by Ben Affleck, Paul McCartney, Carlton Fisk, James Taylor, Conan O’Brien, Peter Gammons, Carl Yastrzemski and more.

Package rates start at $339 per night and $599 per night, respectively, and are available during the Boston Red Sox season from April to October, 2012. Call 617-933-5000 to book.

Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club
St. Petersburg, Florida

The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club is helping baseball fans enjoy their passion while traveling, with their “Grand Slam Baseball Getaway.” The promotion includes round-trip transportation to Tropicana Field, two souvenir seat cushions, a Spectator Survival Kit with a tote bag filled with classic baseball snacks and breakfast for two.

Package rates start at $209 per night, and are valid until September 26, 2012. Call 800-228-9290 and use promo code SPE to book.

Affinia Hotels
New York, NY

Baseball addicts will love staying at the Affinia Manhattan, the Affinia Shelburne, the Affinia Gardens, the Affinia Dumont and the Affinia 50 this sports season. Their New York properties are each offering a “For The Love Of The Game” package, which includes a complimentary room upgrade, late check-out, the choice of a 6-pack of beer or bottle of wine and a NYC Metrocard to help guests easily get to Yankee Stadium or Citi Field.

Package rates start at $253 per night. Call 866-246-2203 and use promo code GAMES to book.

Nittany Lion Inn
State College, Pennsylvania

To help guests celebrate America’s favorite pastime in Happy Valley, the Nittany Lion Inn is offering a “Home Run” package. Guests will receive overnight accommodations, a breakfast buffet for two, two tickets to a State College Spikes’ home game and complimentary transportation to Medlar Field. No need to worry about the game being rained out, as the tickets are good for any home game during the season.

Package rates start at $155 per night, including taxes and gratuities. Valid for home games from July 1 to September 2, 2012. Click here and use promo code VILSPORT to book.

Earth Day Travel: Recycled Sites From Around the United States

Recycling – with all of the environmental issues the world is facing as well as the upcoming Earth Day holiday – is a hot topic. However, while most people think of recycling in terms of paper, plastic and aluminum, there is another type of recycling that is becoming a growing trend across America: re-purposing travel destinations.

Imagine eating in a restaurant that was once a church, immersing you in an atmosphere of stained glass windows, an alter and Biblical murals. Or, what about sleeping in a hotel that not only housed foreign diplomats after Pearl Harbor and served as an Army Hospital for wounded soldiers, but also held a classified secret government bunker used by Congress? Instead of getting rid of history, these types of places are refurbishing them and allowing travelers to experience them in a new way.

To help celebrate Earth Day, we’ve put together a list of recycled travel sites from around the United States. For a visual idea of these unique places, check out the gallery below.