This is the last part of the Travel week series. If you missed any previous part, click here.
The final section of our series will focus on how we can eat like kings during our travels with staying on a pauper’s budget.
Find out who’s “on the take”
A little known secret about big vacation spots is that local restaurants or attractions actually offer payment to hotel staff if they send you their way. The doormen, check-in staff, and even the cleaning staff are all usually part of these deals. Ask the staff and make sure to let them know that you’re aware of the incentives they may receive. For example, if a lovely cleaning lady tells you about a great restaurant down the street, you can say “so, should I tell them that you sent us their way?” If they smile and say absolutely, then you know you’ve got them. The advantage to doing this is that if they are on “the take” they’ll be happy to either call into the restaurant and get you reservations and discounts, or they may already have an agreement with the establishment to give whoever shows up from referral a special discount. Lobby attendants are the easiest to figure out when it comes to these tricks because they tend to always have acutal coupons for certain places right at the front desk. Since they will have quite a few discounts available, they can actually tell you which restaurants are worth your time. Even on vacation, it’s all in who you know.
Eat where the locals eat
If you don’t feel comfortable trying to find those on “the take,” you can just use the internet to your advantage. Find out where locals love to eat in the vacation spot you are frequenting. There are quite a few sites that can help, like Serious Eats or even Yelp, and they will all give you some great results. Another way to find out where the locals eat is to pay attention to cooking shows. Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives is a great resource, as is 40 dollars a Day with Rachel Ray. Both give you some of the best food suggestions for high traffic areas and they are both centered around places where the locals like to eat, which means good quality food at a low cost.
Follow the college kids
This is yet another untapped resource for finding great food. If you are going to be vacationing in or near a college town, do a little research of where the college kids like to eat. You know the prices will be cheap and that the food will be filling. The best part is that in the summer, they college kids are back home, so you won’t have to worry about being accosted by a student in a drunken stupor while you’re having dinner. A good place to start your research is to google the name of the nearby college(s) and the words “cheap eats” or “food.” You’ll be able to find reviews of the best eats in that area.
Be open and friendly
No one likes those vacationers that show up expecting; expecting all of their plans to fall into place, expecting staff to fall over themselves without a thank you or at least a smile from you, expecting the trip to be nothing less than perfect. If you have the mentality of letting the experience take you on a journey rather than planning every little detail, you will yield frugal results. Maybe you planned on seeing a show in town at a discounted price, but you found out there is a great, free arts festival in town. Take a chance and experience what the town has to offer. Who knows? You may go to the festival, strike up a friendship with on of the vendors and it turns out that they have FREE tickets to that show you wanted to see and would love to treat you to dinner at their favorite “dive” spot. Yes, these things do happen on vacations, as long as you open to receiving them.
Allow yourself at least one “luxury”
One of the reasons people stray away from frugality, especially when traveling, is that they penny pinch all year and just want to treat themselves as much as possible while vacationing. Even we frugal divas and divos need some time to just feel “rich.” So, budget at least one luxurious experience within your trip. Whether its a couples massage, VIP access to the local water park, or one really nice lunch or dinner at a fancy restaurant, do it. You will thank yourself later for allowing that particular experience. Plus, you’re going to be saving so much anyway, why not splurge on yourself at least once? You deserve it.