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When planning a vacation, you'll want to budget for certain activities. Typically, the majority of your budget is going to go toward transportation, leaving accommodations and food to make up the bulk of the rest. According to ValuePenguin, food and beverages can eat up more than 27 percent of your budget for domestic trips, averaging to about $33 per day. These costs add up, especially on longer vacations.

However, with a little advance planning, you can save money on meals so you have enough for activities and souvenirs.

Find Free Food

Hotels often offer free breakfast, but that banana you swiped from the buffet isn't going to hold you over until dinner. Luckily, hotels, even the ones that aren't all-inclusive resorts, are offering additional food freebies. For example, the Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora in Tromsø, Norway, offers afternoon sweets and an evening meal every day. Embassy Suites offer an evening reception with free appetizers, while Homewood Suites offer similar free food and beverages Monday through Thursday.

When looking for accommodations, include bed and breakfasts in your search. Some B&Bs, like Eliza Thompson House in Savannah, Georgia, offer more than just breakfast. Extras include evening hors d'oeuvres along with late-night desserts and coffee.

Visit Grocery Stores

Even if your accommodations don't have a kitchen, you can stock up on peanut butter and jelly supplies, granola bars, apples, and other foods that allow you to cut costs on breakfast, lunch, and snacks. For larger meals, look at the prepared meals section. Combine a few items with a local park and you have a ready-made picnic.

Shopping at grocery stores also allows you to try local products that you may not be able to find back home. You never know what you might find and vacation is the perfect time to try something new.

Find Farmers' Markets

Many cities and towns have farmers' markets. Find out what days the markets take place and consider making a meal (or two) out of it. Not only can you purchase local products for later, but you may also find food trucks that have set up shop.

No one wants to ruin a vacation with bad street meat. However, these days it's easy to find reputable food trucks and other street vendors selling a variety of cuisines.

Make Lunch the Big Meal

Take a look at restaurant menus for lunch versus dinner, and oftentimes you'll notice lunch prices are cheaper. With many people working during the day, full-service restaurants have to find ways to attract customers in ways they don't have to during more popular evening hours. This means lower prices, specials, and more.

If you're staying at a resort or in the center of a city, consider wandering beyond the tourist zone. By going where locals go, you may find lower prices and higher quality. Your credit card rewards program may offer gift cards from top restaurants and other perks that help you reduce food costs. Look for other travel offers like room upgrades that may come with additional freebies.

There's a lot to consider when planning a vacation, but with a little extra research, you can find the lodging and food options that will help you save on meals.


This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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