14 Sep How to Eat Well on a Budget While Traveling
What is a Value Traveler?
This is an excerpt from a Yelp review I once wrote in Paris, trying to describe what it means to be a budget-conscious traveler. I refer to the ‘value traveler’ because the word ‘budget’ always gets associated with negative terms like cheap, poor, terrible quality, etc.
“A value traveler is someone who understands that the Euro is worth more than the US dollar. A value traveler knows that in Paris, especially in central Paris, things are more expensive. A value traveler also knows that if you do your research, it is possible to have a great meal that doesn’t cost as much as it would at a supposedly more “well known place” and with a more “fabulous atmosphere.” A value traveler also knows that just because a place may be inexpensive, it doesn’t mean cheap, and it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice quality.”
We try to be value travelers. We are intentional about how we spend our money in order to have the best overall experience.
Jedd vs. the budget
When Michelle first introduced me to the concept of ‘life on a budget,’ I have to say I was against the idea. In fact, I hated it. I thought budgeting meant being cheap. It meant poor quality. It meant restrictions. It meant a more challenging lifestyle.
I wasn’t ready to sacrifice a certain way of living to save a few pennies here or there.
I was wrong.
Benefits of Budgeting
Budgeting is not about sacrificing time, energy, or quality. It’s a practice of intentionally knowing where your money is going and making good choices towards achieving two ultimate goals:
1. Getting the best value/experience for your money
2. Saving your money to be able to afford the things you value most, including giving
I’ve now used the word “value” 10 times. What do I mean (specifically for travelers)?
Ask yourself what are the most valuable things to you when you travel? Is it quality? Is it cost? Do you value time? Do you care about service? Of course, no situation is perfect. And you probably can’t get everything you want all the time- or what fun would that be?
Eating is one of the most fun things to do in a new country, but you shouldn’t have to spend tons of money – or worse, settle for cheap, fast food. It’s an opportunity to learn about a country and it’s culture, plus you need to eat. You just need to figure out a way to get the best value and experience for your money.
Enjoying an affordable, leisurely breakfast in our apartment during a family reunion in France
Tips for Value Traveling:
1. Do research on your destination before you travel
As a value minded traveler, one of the biggest concerns regarding travel expenses is around food. In some countries, like Vietnam and Thailand, eating out is extremely affordable. A bowl of pho that would normally cost $7 – $8 in the States can be easily had for less than a $1 in Vietnam. For the price, quality, and overall value, these are the ultimate travel destinations for food.
But what about countries like France or Switzerland where things are generally more expensive? Or traveling to the U.K. where the dollar is weak against the pound?
2. Consider making your own meals, eat out sparingly
One of the best ways to save money and enjoy your time eating out is staying at a place that has a kitchen. We love hotels with suites, but this can be an expensive option. Instead, we prefer Airbnbs because of the access to a kitchen. We’ll choose an Airbnb location based on access to public transportation, walking distance to a grocery, and kitchen amenities.
This doesn’t mean we don’t go out to eat. It just means that instead of eating out for every meal, we are very intentional about when we do.
3. Eating out for lunch instead of dinner
If you are going to eat out, consider what time you are going to eat. Breakfasts and lunches are usually a lot more affordable than dinners. Seek out happy hours or brunches.
4. Make eating out a special occasion
When eating out for every meal, it doesn’t feel special anymore. One of my favorite things that Michelle and I try to do is to save our money by making our own meals and only go out for one special occasion at a place that might be considered a splurge.
5. Buy inexpensive local treats from the grocery store
We love trying local flavors and specialties. When we were in Belgium and Switzerland, these countries were known for their chocolates. We could have gone to all of the specialty stores and spent a lot of money, or we could go to the local grocery stores and get a lot more for less. And we even staged our own taste testing.
What tips would you share for getting better value for your dining funds on the road?
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