RTherefecently I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who was about to leave California for a trip to his Midwestern hometown. We were commiserating about how challenging it can be to stick to a diet when you travel. It’s something I’ve struggled with myself every time that I leave this West Coast for other parts of the United States. As we discussed the tips that I keep in mind, I realized that most of them would also help if you’re trying to save money on food during your vacations.
Create a Plan Before You Go
If you want to stick to a specific diet (or food budget) during your travels, then you definitely need to plan in advance. If you just head off on your trip and eat whenever you get the urge, then you’re going to spend more calories as well as money.
Figure Out Your Core Diet for the Trip
First, start by figuring out what your core diet will be. In my case, it’s generally the same as what I eat at home. I’m a vegetarian (aiming for vegan) who eats a plant-based diet primarily. I eat about 1500 calories per day. I know that if I don’t eat steadily throughout the day, then I get hungry, cranky, and much more impulsive about my food choices. Therefore, I mentally plan out my meals in advance of a trip with all of this in mind.
Figure Out How You’ll Access the Food for that Diet
Of course, it’s easy to access my usual meals at home. It’s different when I travel. If I’m on a road trip, then I find it hard to get fresh produce during the trek. If I’m eating with relatives who don’t have similar diets, then I know that I’m not going to have access to the same foods. Therefore, I have to figure out in advance how I’ll access my food.
Often, I find things that I can pack and take with me as snacks. I purchase them in advance, parcel them out into serving-size sandwich bags, and take them along with me. I also usually visit the local grocery store upon arrival in a new place, stocking up on the basics by sticking to a list I’ve created in advance.
Of course, I also frequently dine out when I’m traveling. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to research menus in advance. I find that if I know ahead of time what I’m going to order, then I don’t make as many costly mistakes.
Plan for Some Very Specific “Cheats”
All of this sounds pretty joyless, though, doesn’t it? I certainly do enjoy food, and I particularly like certain treats when I travel. I have some very specific foods that I like when I go to my hometown, for example. Plus, if I’m traveling somewhere new, I like to try a few good restaurants or wineries.
That’s no problem. I simply plan for them in advance. I know that some days will be cheat days, and I mentally place certain limitations on that. Generally, I disregard the calorie part on those days. They’re a treat, and I treat them as such. However, I don’t ignore my budget. I make sure to plan ahead for more expensive food days during travel and adjust my budget accordingly.
Tips for Saving Calories and Money in Unexpected Situations
Of course, travel isn’t without its hassles. No matter how much I’ve planned in advanced, surprise situations sometimes arise. If I’m trying to stick to a diet and/or save money on food, here are some of the tips I try to remember:
- Always order water as the primary drink. I do love cocktails and wine so that I may order one of those with dinner. If I do, I only order one glass. Generally speaking, though, I stick to water, particularly during daytime meals.
- Order the vegetarian option. Of course, I do this anyway since I don’t eat meat. However, if you’re usually a meat eater, you’ll find that you can often cut down your restaurant bill significantly just by ordering plants.
- I order an appetizer instead of an entree. I skip dessert. That’s almost always enough food for me. If I do order an entree, then I take half of it to go. I eat the rest of it the next day.
- If I want to check out an expensive restaurant, I go for brunch or lunch. Why spend money on dinner when you can get more affordable options a few hours earlier at the same place?
- I start fresh when I get back home. There’s no point in beating yourself up if you do slip on your diet or budget. Simply recommit to your original plans and start anew.