Eating on a Budget While Traveling for Work

Sick of blowing your entire budget for your business trip on your first meal out? Instead of having to dip into your personal wallet, try out these helpful tips to make sure you stretch your budget all the way through your flight back home.

Research inexpensive places to eat before your planned destination

Have you ever gotten out of a conference with an hour break to grab some lunch? Or wanted to quickly run grab a bite to eat before your next meeting? When you are battling between time and researching an inexpensive place to eat that won’t leave you hurling in the end, more often than not, you will not come out victorious. I’ve found this out the hard way many times.

By using one of many restaurant directories like the Yelp app or Resy on my phone days before my planned destination, I can easily spend the necessary time searching restaurants that are close to my hotel or any other place I will be during my trip and bookmark them to quickly pull up any time I need. This gives me ample time to filter restaurants by price and browse through reviews and images to ensure the quality is to my liking.

Grab a meal before arriving at the airport

Airport restaurants and shops are expensive and don’t offer that much variety. A few reasons for this premium are; Airport restaurants have a greater lease expense and food prep and delivery takes longer due to strict airport safety policies.

To avoid all this, I always plan to have a meal before my destination and return flight and that usually means eating somewhere 2 or 3 hours before my plane departs so I have enough time to check my bags and slide through security.

Because I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and Fly out of the Salt Lake International Airport, I will usually grab a mcgriddle and OJ at a close by McDonalds for breakfast or stop at a nearby drive thru for quick lunch or dinner.

Get some snacks and water to carry you through the day

Although you can’t bring snacks on your flight, you can always plan a quick stop to a local grocery store or supermarket after the plane hits the ground to grab some cheap snacks that will hold you over. This also helps you enjoy smaller portions once it is time to eat a meal.

Water is also a great thing to pick up at the grocery store as it’s often much more expensive at your hotel and airport shops. A few other key items I like to pick up are peanuts, bananas, apples, and granola bars.

Make the Most of Your Hotel

When booking your hotel, look into whether or not they offer free breakfast. The hotels offering breakfast usually have a big variety of breakfast foods. Skip the sugary cereal for something that is filling like the fruits and vegetables so that you don’t get hungry an hour or two after eating.

In a USA TODAY informal survey, Embassy Suites was voted the best free hotel breakfast. With menu items like made-to-order pancakes and omelettes, fresh fruit, and Chobani Greek yogurt. Be sure to include them in your search of places to stay to enjoy a free top quality breakfast.

Sometimes the hotels will have coffee or snacks in the lobby area. You can grab something on your way out for a quick snack. Also, you can inquire with the concierge about any coupons or deals available for nearby restaurants. If not, ask if they can recommend affordable options.

Shop at Farmers Markets or Grocery Stores

Shopping at farmers markets or grocery stores can save you a lot of money. You can grab some fresh bread, meat, cheese, and some fruits and vegetables and it will only cost a few dollars. This is a good option if your hotel comes with a small kitchenette or offers eating utensils knives, and other light dinnerware.

I’m a huge fan of the Downtown Farmers Market in Salt Lake City but wherever your destination is, you can find the closest market near you, using this Farmer’s Market Directory.

Avoid Eating in Touristy Areas

Finding restaurants even a mile away from main towns or tourist areas will ensure you don’t pay the “tourist premium” when going out to eat. A good rule is when the crowds are smaller, the value is often better because they don’t hike up their prices due to increased demand.

Eat Around Colleges and Universities

Many people going to school are on a strict budget, restaurants close by know this. In order to earn the opportunity of these students being a regular, restaurants close to colleges and universities will often have specials and discounted prices.

Look for Coupons and Specials

I mentioned using Yelp or Resy to preplan restaurants. Well there’s another benefit to this, often times, when looking up a restaurant profile you may find coupons or specials attached by checking in. This could earn you a free appetizer or drink.

I’ve also used groupon to purchase dining vouchers that I can use on my trip. But make sure you read the groupons hidden details. There are some cases where I have found rules on what days of the week or hours in the day the voucher can be redeemed.

Have Lunch Instead of Dinner for Your Splurge Restaurant

I’m sure we all have the urge to splurge when we are eating out away from home, and for good reasons. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy local foods that aren’t available in our home town and whether you are away for work or a vacation, you want to enjoy yourself.

If you must plan a high end dining experience, you will find lunch menus in any style of restaurant are a much better deal and you can enjoy a great experience without the dinner premium.

Hit the Streets

If you’re visiting a place with food trucks, you will often find an excellent quick meal that doesn’t break the bank and will give you some local flavor. In case you’re worried about quality, you can always look up these food trucks on Yelp as well to make sure they have a great reputation.

Some of my favorite meals in New York and Chicago are the Hot Dog and Fajita stands and food trucks!

Now you can enjoy your next trip without breaking the bank

That’s it! By using just a few of these tips, you will likely save a few jacksons or benjamins without having to sacrifice a great experience while you travel.

About the Author

Caleb Kingston is a UX Consultant and instructor at App Design Tips. He travels frequently to present at conferences and seminars and consult with clients in design sessions. Lately, he has been authoring a new online course, Learn InVision Studio, that will be available shortly and teaches designers how to take advantage of the most anticipated design tool on the market.

Connect with Caleb on LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.