Tips for Traveling on the Cheap: Dining

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - DiningKevin and I travel. A lot.

Since we’ve been married, we’ve visited nine countries and we’ll be visiting at least three more on our big trip in March.  That means by our third wedding anniversary in June, we’ll have visited at least twelve countries together*.  On top of that, we’ve taken several weekend getaways to New Orleans, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, Austin, Oklahoma, and more.  You might wonder how we manage to do it all (sometimes even we wonder).  While Kevin and I are both blessed to have very good jobs as engineers, we still have a mortgage, car payment, student loans, bills, savings accounts, retirement funds, and home renovation, not to mention a large furry family to take care of.

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - Dining

Atop the Campanile in Venice

So how do we do it? This week we’re sharing the tips and tricks that allow us to afford to travel both domestically and internationally year in and year out while still managing to be (mostly) responsible adults. Check out Tip #1: Timing is Everything here, Tip #2: Planes, Trains, & Automobiles here, and Tip #3: Hotels and Rentals and B&Bs, Oh My! here!

Wine and Dine on a Dime!

It’s no secret that Kevin and I love to eat – especially when we travel. No matter where we’re visiting you’re sure to find us sampling the best that our destination has to offer.  We’ve put together a system that allows us to afford to eat where we want all while maintaining a budget.  When we’re traveling, we set a daily budget for food for that trip.  We can spend it on breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, or anything else that tickles our fancy, but when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Our System

If we’re not staying at a B&B or hotel that provides a free breakfast, one of our first stops on arriving somewhere is to find a market and get a few things for breakfast.  If we have a kitchen we’ll make breakfast ourselves. If not, granola bars, fruit, and yogurts make great on the go breakfasts and are much cheaper than eating out at a cafe or restaurant.

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - Dining

We even cooked our own breakfast on our honeymoon

What we do for lunch depends on how expensive dinner is going to be.  If it’s not too expensive, we’ll grab lunch from a street vender or small cafe.  If we’re planning on going all out for dinner, we’ll opt for the same grocery store route we took for breakfast. On our honeymoon we took this so far as to have Ramen noodles we bought at a market for lunch (made in the electric kettle of our 5-star hotel) so that we could go all out with wine and dessert at the fabulous French restaurants on Moorea.

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - Dining

We usually decide where we’re having dinner early in the day (if not the night before) so that we can make reservations and get an idea of what we’ll be spending. Dinner’s the big meal for us, so we like to splurge on it.  Whatever we have left of our budget at the end of the day goes into the dinner budget.  We know what we can spend ahead of time, so it takes away any guilty “I really shouldn’t order this” moments.

We never feel like we’re missing out by going light on breakfast and lunch. It saves us money and allows us to eat at the restaurants we really want to and when you’re as active as we are on vacation,  you don’t want huge meals to slow you down anyway.

Dining Tips

When it comes to choosing where to eat, the first thing to do is research. If we’re traveling internationally this means talking to the locals and finding out where they go for dinner.  Our bed-and-breakfast owners have all had great suggestions on restaurants and some of the best meals we’ve had came from menus without any English on them at all.

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - Dining

A View of the touristy Mussels shops along the Petite Rue des Bouchers in Brussels

In fact, if you come across a restaurant with a special “tourist menu” in every language imaginable, turn around and walk away.  It’s intimidating to go into a restaurant where you may not speak the language, but if you’re willing to give the menu a go, the waitstaff will probably be more than willing to help you out.  Remember, there’s a huge difference between a tourist and a traveler.  Strive to be the latter.

If we’re traveling in the good ol’ US of A, we might ask the locals where to go, but most likely we’ll pick a genre (ie. sushi, Mexican, pizza, etc) and then hit up Yelp.  Some of our favorite restaurants were found by perusing Yelp (Animal in LA, The Peppermill in Las Vegas, Deanies in New Orleans… I could go on).

Little House. Big Heart. | 5 Essential Tips for Traveling on the Cheap - Dining

Barbequed Shrimp at Deanies’ in New Orleans – Unbelievably good.

Do you have any tips on how to eat cheaply on a budget?

Check back tomorrow for our tips on how to see the right sights at the right price!

*For the curious, we’ve visited French Polynesia, the UK, Belgium, France, the BahamasGermany, Austria, Italy, and Vatican City and will be visiting Thailand, Vietnam, Japan (and potentially Cambodia) in March.


This entry was posted in Travel.


  1. Ashley@AttemptsAtDomestication says:

    Food was the big one for us in Europe! We spent so much money on food, but it was so worth it! Every dinner was appetizer, entree, bottle of wine, dessert and coffee! We even went to a Gordon Ramsey restaurant in London. Go figure why it took us 3+ years to save up! 😉

  2. Ainhoa says:

    We love dining out when we travel, too, it’s a huge part of the trip for us! I hope one day you’ll be able to visit the Basque Country since we have so much to offer in that regard.

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