How to Eat Cheap While Traveling

I have dedicated much of the last year to travel. Friends have been asking how I stretched my savings so far. My biggest money saver is couchsurfing which I strongly recommend to anyone who really wants to be immersed in the culture they’re visiting. I also use budget airlines and bus companies. Oh and avoid peak tourist seasons!

Another big expense of travel is constantly eating out. Luckily there's lots of flexibility in how you go about this and you can save a pretty penny! Here are some tricks I use when on the road or abroad (Europe specifically).

Avoid buying food at the airport

on ferries, at stadiums, anywhere you’re going to be overcharged because the venue knows you’re stranded with no other options. You're a little restricted when importing food to another country. At the risk of seeing it thrown out I wouldn’t recommend bring any fresh food though airport security, but bringing sealed items like granola bars is A-okay.

Bring a reusable bottle

In Canada it’s the law than anywhere serving food or alcohol has to provide free tap water. NOT the case in Europe. They often charge whether it's tap or bottled. They also charge to use public restrooms so keep some change on you, or you're gonna have a bad time.


That ‘water’ bottle can hold whatever you want! The further south you’re traveling in Europe the cheaper bars will generally be, but you can always save money buying alcohol from a store. Something to consider especially North of Amsterdam. In many countries it’s also legal to drink in public so you don’t have to brown bag it. Stay classy!

Grocery shopping

Maybe I’m a nutrition nerd, but in a new country this feels less like a chore and more like a glimpse into the culture you’re there to explore. In Europe you’ll generally find much more fresh food and smaller sections of packaged food. See some of the unique local products and try something new without paying restaurant prices. You may want to look into accommodations that have a kitchen available as well.

Eat protein and fiber

It’s tempting to buy carb heavy foods because they’re usually the cheapest. But you’ll soon find yourself hungry and energy zapped for all your sight seeing. Spend a little extra for something with protein to stay full for longer (protein bars or nuts travel well). The same goes for fiber. Things like whole grain crackers, fruit, or baby carrots are all portable snacks that will get you through an afternoon of exploring.


This is a network where people offer their couch for free to travelers. If that isn’t your cup of tea, the app can also be used to meet up with interesting locals who want to show you around or share a meal. While free food isn't technically part of the arrangement, it's common that hosts will invite you to join them for meals in their home. When I stay with a host I usually try to make them a Canadian dish with the maple syrup I bring as a gift. Remember to pay it forward!

Apps for cheap eats

There are apps like Too Good to Go that offer majorly discounted meals when restaurants are about to close. It helps the restaurant and the planet by preventing food waste at the end of the day. Everybody wins! Search for apps that serve your destination. I haven’t personally used this strategy but I’ve met travelers who highly recommend it.

And there you have it. Don't forget to treat yourself to the local specialties even if it's a little steep. If you’re on a hard earned vacation you should definitely splurge here and there if you can. Everyone’s priorities are different while traveling, so spend on the things that are important to you.

By being prepared and a little resourceful you can save a big chunk of change on the little things that add up. That leaves more money left over for your next plane ticket.

Bon voyage!

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