Eat Well For Less On The Road

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, eat well, explore fun activities, and have 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. Reach out to the local tourism board.

Most of the tourism boards offer discounts and incentives for folks visiting their towns. Many even have coupon books that offer 2 for 1 deals and other great bargains. It’s a wonderful way to stretch your road trip food dollars. Don’t stop at just picking up brochures and pamphlets be sure to ask them for their own local favorites. You’ll be surprised at some of the local food spots that only real locals eat at. Get the daily special or ask what they are known for and you’ll get an earful of recommendations.

2. Go For A Top-Notch Breakfast.

Sometimes you’re on the run early and grab a bite on the go. No need to sacrifice, stop for a road trip meal that always satisfies. Breakfast! Breakfast buffets at hotels can often be pricey for a lot of food you won’t eat. 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.

Blues Classic Benedict


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, best burgers 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.


Paella In DC Is Cooking Eat Well


4. Try 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!

Try A Tasting


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.

Not only did we get up close and personal with our alpaca friends we also bought some alpaca socks and a tiny alpaca toy for my niece.

Be Flexible


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.

We went to Yellowstone in the winter and we just loved it. No crowds, and if you dress appropriately you can get close to nature and enjoy the peacefulness of being alone in the wilderness.

Norris Basin Geysers Yellowstone Country
Norris Basin Geysers Yellowstone Country

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.

We love to check out food trucks and food carts when we’re traveling too. Find the one with a long line and you’re bound to find a winner and eat well.

Unique Spots You Have To Try and Eat Wel
Unique Spots You Have To Try


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.

Delicious lobster at Lime Bar Eat Well

If you’re on the east coast you’re also bound to find great prices on lobster too. Find the spots that the locals go to and you’re bound to find good prices, good food, and good people.


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.  We love bringing bakery bread and baked goods from our trips.

Don’t forget about local farmers’ markets where you can often find homemade treats and local specialties.

Nantucket Bakery Grand Rapids Eat Well


10. Check Out The 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. A local zip line or a tour of an unexpected museum or roadside attraction not only gets you off the beaten path you just might learn something new too.

Goodland Kansas Giant Painting on Easel

These ideas, of course, are just the tip of the iceberg. We’d love to hear some of your ideas on how to enjoy cheap and cheerful food travel, so please share your thoughts in the comments!

Bonus Tip!

Bring your own snacks.

Whether you’re taking a foodie road trip or hopping on a quick plane ride having your own snacks is never a bad idea.

There are so many road trip foods that we love. We are sure to pack healthy, indulgent, salty, savory, and sweet foods for road trips. Our faves? Red vines and Mike & Ikes(for Diana), Berries from Haribo and Cheetos(for Sue), Cheezits, dark chocolate, fresh fruit, and nuts. And most anything we already have in our cupboard at home.

Don’t forget the road trip snacks for kids, too! It’s a great way to keep them quiet and happy. Just be sure to bring along their favorites.


Eat Well For Less On the Road: 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. The next time you hit the road we hope you find these tips helpful.


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15 thoughts on “Eat Well For Less On The Road

  1. Yes! Love this post. We love to check out local favourites when we travel but also don’t want to get dolled up for fancy.
    We are always watching for where the line up are and quite often will watch for foodie festivals.

  2. Great points! I actually prefer eating in cheaper areas when I’m in a new country since it gives me the experience of eating the kinds of food that the general population would typically eat 😀 It’s a really fun experience!

  3. Nice list! On top of no. 1 above, I usually just ask a local staff at the hotel/hostel I’m staying at for his/her recommendation for a place that they would go with their family and friends, not a place that they would normally recommend a tourist but they themselves never go. These places are usually the best, and work out to be much cheaper too.

  4. What a great idea to look for a cooking contest! That’s a new one on me. I agree that grocery stores are fun to explore in every foreign country – in fact, I love exploring foreign grocery stores in my own city, Philadelphia, since food is such an evocative way to learn about a culture. Thanks for the ideas.

  5. most of the best places in London are NOT in the middle of tourist attractions. You have to scoot around a bit. These are great suggestions

  6. Great tips. I also sometimes like to pick up a meal or snack at the local grocery store. It is cheaper than eating out and visiting the store can be an adventure in itself. If there is a particular higher-end restaurant you really want to try, having lunch there can often be a cheaper option than dinner.

  7. These are great tips Diana! So true about just stopping by places on your route. Those Alpacas are adorable. I love your suggestion on cooking competitions. I like to ask local shop owners and customers for suggestions on where to eat. They usually give some great, inexpensive recommendations.

  8. Great tips! I know looking for a line is a good one, but honestly, I’ve been so disappointed (self-hype, most probably) whenever I’ve waited in a lengthy queue for food that now I avoid them. Perhaps incorporating the Low Season tip with the queue tip would be a good remedy!

  9. Totally agree with every point. Big queues = good food. lots of locals = good food. I know that in Japan you can virtually eat exclusively from samples at malls and markets, and it is local.

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