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CheapTickets knows there’s no need to break the bank for a fabulous vacation, so we’ve hunted down fantastic money-saving dining tips from our savviest globetrotters (that’s you guys) for that guilt-free, lavish vacation of your dreams.

RELATED: 8 expert ways to save on flights

BYOF (Bring Your Own Food)

Food anywhere past TSA is expensive, including what you purchase onboard. Always bring some TSA-friendly snacks on the plane; it’ll save you tons of money at the airport but also keep things healthy. Fruits, nuts, hummus packs, popcorn and power bars are all good choices that won’t go bad on you.

Browse menus before heading out

When dining out, always look up menu prices online before you go to make sure that it’s within your budget and you are not sprung with a bill you cannot afford.

Search online for local dining deals

Use apps like Yelp to not only find great restaurants, but also to find special deals. Just select “Offering a Deal” under Filters. Similarly, you can search Groupon for special discounts to restaurants and food tours, not to mention spas, cruises, live shows and more.

Share your big news!

Whether it’s your honeymoon, anniversary or birthday, it often pays to let restaurant staff know. You could end up getting VIP treatment, and maybe even a little something free. We recently got a free treatment at a hotel spa because our birthday was that weekend!

Avoid eating in touristy areas

Restaurant prices are almost always higher in highly touristed areas and near major attractions. In a lot of cases you can save a significant amount of money—and typically get a better meal—just by going a few blocks away, or even to a different neighborhood.

Booze it up at happy hour

Some cities like Portland, DC and San Diego really go big for happy hour. So do a lot of resorts and hotels. With deals that often include half priced drinks and appetizers, it’s definitely worth seeking these out.

See if your hotel offers a free reception

Several hotels and hotel chains, including Kimpton, Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites, offer complimentary receptions that help you get a head start on your vacation buzz with a glass of wine or two!

Know where to drink (and not drink) the water

Getting sick on the road can ruin a vacation, fast—and cost you time and money with an ER visit. Sticking to bottled water can save you a lot of money in the long run. Also, in locations where you can’t drink the water, be wary of ice cubes in your drink, since they’re likely made from tap water, as well.

Book a room with a kitchen

Of course you’ll want to sample the local cuisine and hit those much-buzzed-about restaurants. But there’s no reason to eat every meal out, especially if you have a family in tow. Ponying up a few extra bucks for a room with a kitchenette and fridge means you can bring your leftovers home, and cook up less important meals like breakfast and lunch—saving your food budget for nicer dinners out.

Book hotels with breakfast included

When booking a hotel or hostel, look for ones with free perks included, like breakfast. It might sound like a small perk, but breakfast alone could save you $12–$15 per person (if not more) per day. Be sure to book on a site like CheapTickets that lets you filter your search results by perk.

Try the cafe version of a fine-dining restaurant

Quite a few upscale restaurants have a cheaper, more casual cafe version nearby. In Chicago, think celeb chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill located right next door to his more upscale Topolobampo. Or in the Bay Area, remember Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Cafe located right upstairs from her famed Chez Panisse Restaurant. If you’re in LA, eat at Petite Trois versus the Michelin-starred Trois Mec in the same location. Dining at the cafe version will save you money while still getting to sample the talents of a star chef.

Bring a reusable water bottle

Always bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up at a water fountain—be green and save green at the same time!

Go for lunch, not dinner

If there’s a pricey place you absolutely must try, consider going for lunch instead of dinner, since midday meals tend to be cheaper. You’ll enjoy a similar meal for a whole lot less.

Go coupon crazy

Whether you’re on a road trip route or exploring a new city, search for restaurant coupons in the areas you’ll be visiting. Apps like Groupon and Yelp often offer solid discounts at select area restaurants.


On your way to your hotel, stop by the grocery store to stock up on snacks, water and booze. This will prevent you from giving in to any late-night mini-bar cravings!

Ask locals for recommendations

Wise travelers know that bartenders tend to make the best affordable dining recommendations—while concierges often make the worst. After all, concierges tend to get kick backs from area restaurants to tout them. Your bartender, on the other hand, will know where regular folks like to dine.

Sample the street food

The food truck craze is at its peak, and that’s a beautiful thing. Besides offering affordable meals on the go, they tend to cluster in certain areas at certain times, so you’ll have a nice variety of eats to choose from—great for when you and your travel companion can’t reach a consensus! City markets, food halls and farmers markets are another great way to sample a variety of tasty local cuisine at a reasonable price.

Combine eating and sightseeing

Taking a food tour is kind of a twofer. Whether it’s a walking tour or a bus tour, you’ll get to sample an area’s most iconic eats while also getting interesting little tidbits about different neighborhoods and attractions. You can book a food tour ahead of time—in the same place as you book your flight, hotel and car—on

Make sure you’re actually getting a deal at Duty Free

Duty Free shops at airports around the world have a reputation for offering cheaper luxury items like booze and chocolate, as well as perfume, cigarettes and more. But these products might not actually be cheaper than they are at home. Fortunately, you can do a quick price comparison on products before you buy on a site like Duty Free Addict: Just type in your destination, the category of the product you’re interested in (such as alcohol, electronics, etc), the brand and then the actual product. The tool will instantly tell you which airports offer it for the best price, and which are most pricey.

Leave your cards in your wallet

When dining out or heading to a bar for the evening, only allow yourself a budgeted amount of cash—once it’s gone it’s gone. Your pocket and budget will thank you in the morning.

Tagged: Cheap Tips, Food & drink

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