Meal Planning Monday – Vacation!


              I just got home from a four-day road trip with my brother, Jim, to attend a family wedding in Buffalo (which actually has fantastic weather in July.)  Vacations are fun, but if you’re not careful you can blow a big wad of cash on meals when your family is traveling. This week I’m going to give you some great tips for eating well on the cheap when you’re out of town.
            Whether you are traveling by car or plane, it makes sense to pack your own snacks so you’re not paying an arm and a leg for them at airports and gas stations.  Snacks like granola bars, trail mix, pretzels, apples, and dried fruit are inexpensive at the grocery store (especially if you’re using coupons!) and they pack well.
            If you are traveling by car, make sure you’ve saved some space for a small cooler!  Instead of blowing $25 on a fast food lunch for your family, pack some sandwiches or wraps, cut-up veggies and dip, chips, and fruit.  Save room in that cooler for bottled water and soda!  You can purchase that at the grocery store for a fraction of the price you’ll pay at a convenience store.
            When you are booking your vacation reservation, consider staying at a hotel that includes breakfast with your room.  Depending on the size of your family, this can save you a ton of money!  If you travel frequently, make sure you’re signed up for your favorite hotel chain’s rewards program.  On this recent trip to Buffalo, my brother got a free room, plus discount coupons on meals and free drinks at the hotel’s bar/ restaurant for being a Holiday Inn Platinum member.  (Saving $ runs in the family!)
            One savings trick that my husband and I used last winter in Hawaii was to make lunch our biggest meal of the day.  Dining out is especially pricey in resort locations, but you still want to sample the local fare.  We would eat lunch at swanky restaurants around 1:30 or 2 PM.  The entrees were 1/2 to 1/3 of the price at lunch time, and the service was usually great because they aren’t as crowded as dinner time.  If we found ourselves getting hungry in the evening, we’d find a bar/ restaurant that had good happy hour specials and have some drinks and appetizers at a discount.  We also stick to water and rarely buy soda at restaurants.  You can easily add $2 – $3 per person to your tab before you even order any food with soda.  For a family of four, that could be as much as $12 – yikes!
            If you’re driving to your destination, take your cooler up to your hotel room.  Stop at a local grocery or drug store and buy your bottled water or soda there instead of at the hotel vending machines, where you’ll pay three to four times the amount.
            Finally, it may be worth your while to purchase an Entertainment book for your destination city for the restaurant and attraction coupons.  Entertainment books are usually deeply discounted by early summer.  I hope these tips help you to eat well without breaking the bank on vacation!  Use the money you save on food on drinks to do something fun, like an extra day at the amusement park, or a surfing lesson!  Happy Trails!