5 Ways to Eat Like Royalty While Traveling on a Budget

Photo: Kristina Todini

Like many foodies, the majority of my vacation's budget is spent on amazing food. My husband and I both value great dining and the bulk of our travel planning revolves around the food we will eat. We've had grilled crocodile in Australia, taken a ferry to Indonesia for lunch and hiked the jungles of Thailand for a cup of coffee. We love to explore a new place through its food and don't mind spending a little money on it.

Having said that, a long vacation abroad can be mighty tight on the wallet if every night is spent eating expensive meals. Our travel motto is about finding a balance between frugal and lavish, whether it be accommodations, experiences or food. Here are five ways I've been able to eat like royalty while traveling without breaking the bank or forsaking amazing meals.

Research the Local Fare

Before leaving home, research the foods and restaurants that locals love. Finding restaurants outside the tourist areas usually means much cheaper prices and a more authentic experience. Try searching travel blogs and forums for the advice of local experts to be sure you get the best food and experiences at the best price.

Prepare Your Own Food, Snacks and Drinks

One of the best ways to save a little moolah while traveling is to be prepared.

  • Buy Water in Bulk and Refill Your Bottle
    My travel hack: Rather than individual bottles, buy a large water jug and refill reusable bottles daily. Water is essential, but you don't want to spend all your money on it … or contribute more environmental waste than necessary.
  • Cook Your Own Meals
    When traveling for more than a few days, book your lodging at a place with a kitchenette to prepare your own coffee and meals. Cooking is possible with proper planning for space and tools.
  • Try Farmers Markets
    An easy way to live like a local is by visiting farmers markets. Without a doubt, you will find a fruit or vegetable that you've never seen before!
  • Bring Snacks
    One of the best ways to avoid paying for overpriced food is to be prepared with snacks for when hunger attacks. Fruit is super-easy and portable, while nuts and granola bars are great grab-and-go bites. Plan to keep your belly content until time for your next meal.

Find Free Breakfast, Happy Hours and Specials

A little research can also help you find the best deals throughout your trip. Keep your eyes peeled for happy hour or dinner specials at local restaurants and bars, and sign up for local email deals prior to leaving. I once found a Wagyu (Kobe beef) steakhouse in Australia with half-off bottles of wine, and enjoyed a more extravagant meal because of the savings.

Share to Enjoy More

One of the best ways to enjoy eating out without breaking the bank is to share. When eating out, order an entree and side to share and avoid overeating and overspending. Many times, the eyes are bigger than the stomach — and the wallet. Being mindful of portions means you can enjoy more for less money.

Know When to Splurge

Though traveling on a budget can mean forgoing nightly lavish meals, every foodie traveler should know when to accommodate some extravagances. Who would travel to Japan without trying the amazing sushi? Or backpack through Tuscany without sampling a bottle of Chianti Classico? Not me, that’s for sure! Most of my amazing memories from my travels revolve around a dinner table: dinner on Sydney Harbour in Australia, wine tasting in Chile and Amazonian snails (yes, snails!) in Peru. These are the memories that last well after the trip, not the breakfast spent standing in your hotel kitchen. So go ahead, make that reservation and don't look back!

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Kristina Todini, RDN
Kristina Todini, RDN, is a nutrition trends and communications expert at FoodMinds by day, and writes about food and travel at ForkInTheRoad.co by night. She serves as the Incoming Director of PR & Marketing for the Nutrition Entrepreneurs DPG and is also President Elect of the California Academy Bay Area District. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram.