While 5-star hotels and dining are great, we love to travel in our comfy jeans and experience low-cost local delights as well. Whether you’re traveling domestically or around the world, there are plenty of ways to score great meals, fun activities and memorable experiences without breaking the bank. Here we share a few of our favorite ideas for enjoying cheap and cheerful food travel. We hope you’ll share some of yours with us!
1. Look for the Line. Some of the best local restaurants are the ones where locals are willing to wait in line. If you’re wandering around an unfamiliar destination looking for a place to eat, if there’s a crowd outside, it’s probably worth the wait.
2. Go For A Top-Notch Breakfast. Sometimes you’re on the run early and grab a bite on the go. Breakfast buffets at hotels can often be pricey for a lot of food you won’t eat. But when you can, it’s great to treat breakfast like a real meal. There are some amazing places to get a delicious hearty breakfast that won’t dent your wallet.
3. Find A Cooking Competition. When you’re looking around for things to do, don’t forget to see if there are any local cooking competitions. From chili cook-offs to bbq brawls to paella championships, local food fights are a great way to have fun and get some tasty food that’s filled with local flavor.
4. Try A Tasting. There are lots of places that pride themselves on their local brews and booze. If you like wine, beer, scotch, tequila and other libations, try a tasting where you get to sample a variety of offerings for one lower price. You can also look for flights, where they give you the same opportunity. Sometimes there are even food flights so you can sample an array of local tastes without having to over-order. This tequila tasting included a variety that goes for $400 a bottle!
5. Be Flexible. Leave some room in your schedule for happy surprises. You never know what you may encounter that will add to your memories without costing a dime. We were heading back from a trip and on the way home saw a sign that said “Alpaca Farm.” It was enough to get us to go down a small dirt side road to check it out. And what we found was one of the highlights of our trip.
6. Consider Low Season. Some places have a definite high season and low season as far as visitors. The prices of accommodations and attractions can be substantially different even if the destination offers great opportunities in either one. If you’re heading to a destination that might be even more explorable when there are fewer crowds, think about taking advantage of the low season prices.
7. Unique Spots You Have To Try. Sometimes there will be a stand or other spot that catches your eye because it is so unique or local that it catches your attention. Just go for it! You will enjoy sharing the stories about whatever you find there and if you find it amusing, chances are the locals do too.
8. Enjoy The Local Specialties. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that prices for certain specialties are the same everywhere. But when the local specialty is in abundance somewhere, the prices tend to be much more reasonable. For instance, when we discovered that spiny lobster is readily available at a budget price in the Caribbean, we took advantage of it at every opportunity.
9. Visit Local Markets and Bakeries. They may offer samples and demos as well as tasty goodies that you can take with you if you like. Don’t forget about local farmers markets where you can often find homemade treats and local specialties.
10. Check out Malls and Attractions. Sometimes it’s fun to act like a tourist. There are some destinations that give visitors special treatment by providing free entertainment and plenty to see and do while trying to coax you into their stores. In some urban environments around the world, these areas are also where the locals tend to congregate to take care of their daily lives. If you pick them carefully, you might just find a cheerful combination that provides lots of fun.
These ideas, of course, are just the tip of the iceberg. We’d love to hear some of your ideas for how to enjoy cheap and cheerful food travel, so please share your thoughts in the comments!
THE QUICK BITE: Whether you’re traveling domestically or around the world, there are plenty of ways to score great meals, fun activities and memorable experiences without breaking the bank. Here we share a few of our favorite ideas for cheap and cheerful food travel.