Oftentimes when people travel, we forget just how much the food choices we make affect us both in terms of our health as well as in terms of our budget. Now, I tend to travel a whole damn lot, so over time, I have collected more than a few tips and tricks here and there and figured that I it was high time I spilt my guts and shared my secrets with you:
001: Do some research
The internet is a pretty magical place full of endless amounts of information. (And cats! Lots of cats!) Once you know where you will be staying (or have a pretty good idea about where you will be staying, should you choose do take a more spontaneous approach to travel and simply buy a round-trip ticket and do the rest of the deciding once your feet hit the ground), go ahead and check out sites like foursquare – which uses user generated-content to give you the lowdown on local haunts and also allows you to search based on type of food, type of place, or dietary preference – or happycow which will let you know your local vegetarian and vegan options.
instagram can also be a great resource and is now my new go-to place for finding new cafes and restaurants both in my own city and while traveling. Before my trip, I like search for my destination and scroll through the images that pop up. Oftentimes popular restaurants and beautiful cafes will show up in the search. Voilà! You’ve just come up with your own curated travel guide!
Now, clearly this can backfire, if you are only creating a list full of pizza places, but I tend to use these three sites to find places that suit my dietary preferences, don’t aggravate my allergies, and will also ensure that I keep a healthy diet while away. It’s also a great way for you to find out about some places ahead of time that are within your price range (Foursquare includes a price key) so you can avoid walking around aimlessly, only to begrudgingly finally decide on the nearest thing possible to you at that given moment which may very well be a very overpriced and touristy restaurant because you are too hungry, tired, and pissed off to keep looking for anything better.
002: Stay at places with kitchens or communal kitchens
I love staying in a place with a kitchen or communal kitchen because it allows me to save a bit of money on some of my meals. It gives me total control over what I put into my body. This is so important if you are trying to stay healthy during your holiday, but also, if like me, you are allergic to pretty much everything except air. By preparing meals yourself, you can be 100% sure of the ingredients that are going into your meals.
*Pro Tip: If you are in a place with a communal kitchen, don’t be shy! Make a new friend, go grocery shopping, divide up the cost, and cook a dinner together! Just use common sense and refrain from going anywhere alone with anyone who is giving off a creepy vibe. Trust your gut!
003: Get creative
You still have options, even if your place doesn’t have a kitchen, but you are still looking to save money and stay healthy! Most hotels and motels have refrigerators, so you can at least buy some food, keep it cold, and eat it the next day. I often do this with soy milk and cereal or soy yogurt.
*Pro Tip: Just be careful! Some hotel fridges have sensors so if anything is removed from the minibar, you will be charged regardless of if you drank all of those overpriced sodas stashed inside or just set them on the counter to temporarily make more space!
If you don’t have a fridge, most places should have an icebox (especially if you are traveling within the US). When I am on trips and do not have access to a fridge but still want to have some easy to eat no-cook meals, especially for breakfast, I just put a small bottle of soy milk or soy yogurt in an icebox full of ice to keep it cool and prevent it from going bad. I also always make sure to have fruit on hand that will still be fine even if just chilling on the mini bar counter, like bananas.
When it comes to preparing a make-shift breakfast in a hotel room without a kitchen, make sure to grab a disposable spoon and make use of a those plastic or glass cups you usually find in the bathroom or at the minibar – Now just pour some of that soy milk that has been chillin’ in your icebox in a cup full of cereal and BAM! Breakfast: McGyver style. Alternatively, if breakfast is complementary, eat up, but grab a clean bowl and a spoon and bring it up in the room with you to use for the rest of your stay should you crave a midnight cereal snack. (I’ve done this plenty of times.)
004: Come prepared
I often bring along with me a few teabags of my favorite green tea and individual serving sizes of oatmeal as most places have a coffee machine which you can also use to simply make hot water. Use the cup technique mentioned above, and enjoy a warm breakfast and tea without ever whipping out your wallet.
*Pro Tip: Just make sure that if you are using a disposable cup it is made for hot temperatures if you are planning on using it to make your oatmeal or tea in!)
005: The grocery store is your friend
On about every trip I take, whether alone, with a s.o., or with family, we always make good use of the grocery store. Here you can stock up on things like fresh fruit, carrots, and nuts to either eat in your room or take with you on the go so that you can be sure you are getting your daily serving of healthy fruits and veg while away from home.
006: Pack a lunch
When my ex boyfriend and I went to Fuerteventura a few years ago, we booked an all-inclusive stay (including airfare!) at a low-budget hotel. All of our meals were included, but we were often out exploring the island and missed lunch. We took care of the situation by making a few sandwiches with the items at breakfast and taking them and a few pieces of fruit with us in the car. This enabled us to save money each day.
*Pro Tip: Use discretion here. I like to live by the rule, “Don’t be an asshole”. It’s worked for me pretty well thus far in life. We made our sandwiches discreetly, and took only a few pieces of fruit with us. Yes, the food was included, but ain’t no reason to get greedy now.
So there you have it – 6 tips for staying healthy and saving money while eating out (and in) during your next holiday. These are all tried and tested by me, and I have found them to be pretty effective.
Have any other tips? Please share them in the comments below!
photography by: Rae Tashman
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