12 Tips to Save Money on Food While on a Family Trip

12 Tips to Save Money on Food While on a Family Trip

It’s summer and that means it’s time for a family trip! Learn how to save money on food so you can spend it on other experiences!

Summertime is a great time to take a family vacation. The kids aren’t in school. The weather is perfect for almost any type of vacation (except maybe snowboarding). You’ve planned out the hotels and the itinerary. You’ve paid for flights and rental car reservations. But have you considered the amount it will cost to feed your family the entire trip?

Wouldn’t you rather spend your money on experiences than on so much food? Try these 12 ideas for saving money on the food portion of your vacation:

Overhead view of packed suitcase

Hey everyone! This is a note to let you know that I am in vacation mode, starting today (May 31, 2018)!!! My family is taking a “big trip” to some of the gorgeous National Parks that our country has. We are so excited!

Most of the hotels we will be staying at have no internet access. And we’ve been told cell reception is very spotty throughout the area. I know for a fact that there’s no reception in Zion because we’ve been there before.

Because of this lack of internet, I am taking the two weeks to enjoy all that nature has to offer with my family. You may be able to catch some of our trip highlights on Instagram as I get enough service to post. Make sure you are following me over there!

When I get back (and have time to sort through the hundreds thousands of photos that we will have) I will do a post or five about the places that we went, and of course, what we ate along the way.

I’ve also got some tips to save you some money when you head out on a family trip this summer!

I look forward to connecting with everyone once I get back to the great state of Texas. In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful start to your summer break.

~Stephanie

I documented all the food we had while on this amazing trip. We did a lot of these steps to save money on food while we were on vacation. If you’re interested in what we had you can find the posts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. They also have some photos of the many parks we visited.

Originally Published On: May 31, 2018

Last Updated On: April 3, 2020

Choosing a Place to Stay

  • Stay at hotels with free breakfast: Most hotels offer a free breakfast in the morning. Take advantage of it! You are paying to be at the hotel, so use the resources you are paying for in your nightly fee.
  • Check for other free food at the hotel: We stayed at a Drury Inn when we visited San Antonio a few weekends ago and they have a “5:30 Kickback” which has snacks and drinks. The snacks were enough that we made this our dinner in the evening so that was one less meal we had to pay for as well. I’ve never heard of any other hotel doing this, but it was awesome!
  • Utilize dining plans: If you are going to any of the major theme parks, most of them have a dining plan. Since you’ll probably spend all day at the parks, this usually ends up being more cost-efficient than buying the food with cash.
My Vacation in Food

Food Tips while on Vacation

  • Bring your own food: If you are driving it’s really easy to load up a bag with some food and snacks. If you are flying, space is usually more limited but you can bring food on a plane, just no liquids.
  • Save leftovers: When traveling, sometimes we don’t think it’s easy to save leftovers. But most hotel rooms have a mini-fridge and a microwave. Just make sure you have something to heat it on and some silverware.
  • Stock up: Find a nearby grocery store and get your snacks locally if you can’t bring them with you. It’s much cheaper to shop at a grocery store than grabbing things from the gas station.
  • Eat locally: Look online for local restaurants rather than eating at a chain restaurant. Yes, you know what you can get when you go to Chili’s, but that doesn’t give you a chance to try the cuisine of the area. Help out local small businesses, try something new, and (usually) save on the bill by eating locally.
  • Eat healthy: When you eat healthily you typically stay full longer. Yes, it’s easy to grab a bag of doughnuts from the gas station, but you will be wanting food again in an hour.
  • Only drink water: Especially if you are going to be in the sun or hiking through the park, your body needs the water. When you are eating out, water is usually free whereas other drinks can add up quickly if you are paying for them at every meal.
  • Order a kids meal: If the restaurant will let you, order kids meals or lunch portions even for the adults. You won’t overeat, you won’t overspend, and you won’t end up with leftovers if you are out and about with no way to keep them fresh until you get back to the hotel. Justin says, “and you get a toy to play with!”
My Vacation in Food
Yogurt with granola, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and homemade muffins.

What to Bring with you

  • Refillable cups: Some places, such as the theme parks, offer a souvenir cup that can be refilled all day for free, and only 99c refills after that. We did this at Sea World a few weekends ago and all shared the drink. Then the next day, when we went to Aquatica, it was really cheap to have drinks all day since we brought the cup back.
  • Bring your own cup: Many public places have a water fountain near the bathrooms. Bring your own reusable cup and fill it whenever you find a water fountain rather than buying water in plastic bottles. You save a lot of money and save the environment by not contributing to the ever-growing plastic problem.
Infused Water: A Tasty Way to Stay Hydrated

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28 thoughts on “12 Tips to Save Money on Food While on a Family Trip”

  1. I tend to always bring my own food and when we are abroad – yeah, I definitely utilize the free breakfast even though I am not a breakfast eater. I typically will smuggle a few things out of the restaurant to have just in case lunch is way later in the day!

  2. These are all great tips. Traveling as a family can be very expensive, and if you can save money on food, that’s huge! We always try to stay at hotels that offer free breakfast.

  3. These are some great tips, Stephanie. I also try to save as much money when I’m on vacation with my family by using some of the tips you provided. I try to get a room with with free breakfast, a refrig and microwave. This allows me to save a lot of money by buying my own food at the store.

  4. we love using yelp for finding unique local restaurants and healthy eats! we also love going to wholefoods and get soup and salads! =)

  5. This is awesome!!! Who doesn’t like to save money lol…We usually get food from grocery stores which save us tons of money.

  6. Neely Moldovan

    SO many awesome tips that I hadn’t even thought of! We haven’t traveled with both kids yet but we are soon!

  7. I am so grateful for these tips, Stephanie. My family and I were supposed to enjoy a beautiful 2 weeks trip abroad that we have planned for over a year. It’s canceled and we are not even sure when to reschedule it.

    1. Ugh, so many canceled trips. We’ve had to cancel a few as well. I did just book a trip to Florida in a couple of weeks but I’m visiting my family so I don’t have to worry about food out. We haven’t planned any family trips again yet to make up for the ones that we missed.

  8. Wow lucky you that you having a trip with your family while my flight trip is cancelled due to pandemic. These tips would help a lot to save money while on trip I love reading about saving money 🙂

    1. Well, I originally wrote this post two summers ago. I just updated it recently. We have had to cancel quite a few trips but things are easing up here. I just booked a flight to visit my family in a couple of weeks (just me, the kids aren’t traveling yet) and we have a road trip planned to visit family in a month or so and that will be the whole family.

  9. Melanie williams

    There are some really good tips here for sure. Bringing your own and drinking water are the best two for sure x

  10. Hopefully we can all travel again in the summer because I’d like to put your saving-money advice to good use. I love the reusable caps, helps save the environment.

    1. I hope so, too. We have a trip to Florida planned and we are still going. But we are driving so in control of our surroundings and we are going to visit my family.

  11. These are such great tips! I always try to stay at a hotel that offers free breakfast. If that’s not an option, I pack pop tarts and mini muffins. Even having breakfast covered is such a huge savings!

  12. These are all such great tips! Yes, it can be tricky to not spend a lot on food while traveling, so this advice will definitely come in handy once I am able to take the family on trips again!!

    1. Some of this helps even for a road trip. We take a car ride every summer to visit my family and will be again in a few weeks. Even small trips can end up costing a lot in food!

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