19 Ways to Save Money on Food for Family on Vacation

man loading cooler into truck, woman bringing foil items and a grocery buggy

Vacations are a great time to unwind and catch up with your family. However, you should not have to go broke to have a good time with them. Here are 31 ways that you can save money on food for your family while on vacation. 

Planning Before You Leave

1. The Route There

Planning is a major part of any travel and vacation plan. It is the “paperwork” that has to be done before you can unwind. Therefore, why not also include money-saving in your plans? The idea is that you plan where to stop to eat. As well as what to eat, including snacks, and local food.  

2. Restaurants And Stores 

Therefore, the first thing you should do is to plan your route, as you would for any family road trip, and where to stop. You should target local restaurants and stores where you can stock up on snacks or stop for a meal.  

While the more well-known and bigger stores or restaurants can be more inviting, they are often a bit more pricey. Plus, the local stores and digs can give you more of a taste of the local food in the area that you are passing through. 

Vacation Rentals (Airbnb/VRBO)

3. Airbnb With A Kitchen

Airbnb has gone up in popularity due to the idea that it is a home away from home. So the second thing you should do is to look for an Airbnb with a kitchen. It is a good idea to make sure that the kitchen has all that you need to cook in. “Even just a microwave or fridge is helpful”. A fridge lets you store leftovers and stock up on food for the duration of your vacation stay. And, a microwave and make cooking quicker to do if you are not a fan of kitchen time. 

4. Bring a Mini Kitchen

Another way that you can save money on food is to bring your own mini kitchen. This means that you can bring a small stove, or a blender to create fast, and delicious smoothies in no time. These are great for a summer meal or snack.  

However, you have to make sure that your accommodation allows you to bring and use your own equipment, since some places may not be keen on the idea of people not using their items. If you are allowed to bring your own cooking equipment, make sure that you are respectful of making a mess since someone has to clean up after you when you leave. While you are a guest in Airbnb, it is not your house. 

5. Meal Planning/Cooking some meals

A great way to save money on meals is to plan what you and your family will eat while on the trip. This can include prepping some meals before you leave. Therefore, you can save on food while you are traveling.

This means that you can create the meal before you leave, place it in a cooler bag or box, and you are good to go. 

man loading cooler into truck, woman bringing foil items and a grocery buggy

6. Frozen Meals

Bring along frozen meals. This can include vegetables or ready-to microwave meals which you can just put in the microwave or in the oven when you arrive at your destination. The same can apply to your personal prepped meals in your cooler bag.  

This can be handy for a road trip. But, you may have issues if you are flying. If you are doing the latter, then you have to check what you can bring on board. And, how much of it is allowed. 

This can certainly be pre-bought, but you’re definitely going to save money if you can do a batch-cooking session before you leave. Or even just double your existing meals for a few months leading up to the vacation.

It definitely requires a bit of planning, though!

7. Free Breakfast 

One of the most important meals of the day is breakfast. Therefore, if you find a hotel that offers it, and for free (or part of the price) then it would be a good idea to go for it. Therefore, you should book, and stay at a place that has free breakfast if that’s important to you

Plus – it’s a nice perk to just not plan for a meal once you’ve booked your spot to stay!

While Driving

8. Bottled Water

A road trip requires a few things and one of them is liquids and snacks. Therefore, to make sure that you have a lot of bottled water in your vehicle whether you’re RV’ing or driving your car.

Bringing your own reusable water bottles is more eco friendly & cheaper. If you are weirded out by unknown tap water, then another option is to buy the jugs of drinking water for refills. That’s still cheaper than paying for water at a gas station stop!

If you need some variety, bring along some drink flavoring options like a cut up lemon or Crystal Light.

9. Car Snacks

And snacks for the car ride are such a good way to save money since they would be with you in the car.

Good snacks would be candy, granola bars, dried fruit, trail mix (nuts), baby carrots, sugar snap peas, grapes, and berries. And sandwiches are a great way for your family to fill up on the road. As well as at the destination.

Plus, you can even freeze grapes, and berries if you are going on a summer trip. These can be a healthy snack to suck on while cooling down.

If you stick to thinks like granola bars and dried fruit, you don’t need a small cooler, but you’ll want one for sandwiches or fresh, cut fruits and veggies.

10. Grocery Stores

Having snacks and drinks in your car can also cut down on stopping time which can make your trip go by faster if that is what you want. So that if you do need to stop it can be to fill up the car with fuel or to use the bathrooms.

Furthermore, you can also stock up on more snacks and drinks. A good tip is to buy bottled water from a grocery store instead of a souvenir shop or gas station (source) even if you forgot to bring your own from home.  

The touristy or convenient locations target people from out-of-town meaning that they tend to jack up their prices. On the other hand, grocery stores target the local people who are regulars. Therefore, their items are cheaper by comparison.  

While we have covered how you can save money while driving on your vacation; let’s go further and look at how you can save even when you arrive at your home away from home.

While Dining Out

11. Go Local

When you are at your vacation home you should check out the local restaurants and cafes. While you may want to go all out on a fancy meal you cannot do this every night since it will eat away at your budget. You are meant to eat, not the fancy places. Therefore, ask the locals what their favorite spots are. It is here where you can find the unique food of the place that you are staying at. As well as get to know the real culture of the place. 

13. Kids Eat Free

There are places that let children eat for free. Therefore, if you are traveling with little ones these places can really help you out. But, you would have to research where they are located and to see when they serve these meals.  

And you should also be on the lookout for all-you-can-eat buffets. These are a great way to fill up on food and drinks for the whole family. And, some places may even offer doggie bags for you to take home. But, don’t get greedy. 

Cafes VS Restaurants  

14. But First, Picnics 

There are a lot of different types of places that you can eat at. One is at home, in the park, a cafe, or a restaurant. Or you can pack for picnics.

Picnics are a great way to enjoy the great outdoors with your family whether you are in a forest, on the bench, & explore a new place. It is also a good way to save costs since you can bring the food from home, or buy it in the grocery stores. 

picnic set up with pre-made drinks and food in a park

15. Cafes

But, if picnics are not your thing then you should try the cafes. Cafes often offer cheaper meals when compared to restaurants. You can get quite a lot like muffins, omelets, sandwiches, etc, depending on the establishment. This could save you a ton.

16. Lunch Time at Restaurants  

However, if you must go to a restaurant then you should go at lunchtime. Eating lunch at a restaurant is cheaper than dinner at the same place. But, the meals may be a bit smaller, just so you know. 

Be Even More of a Local 

17. Avoid Touristy Areas

A thing that locals do not do is that they do not eat (well, not often) in touristy areas. These are like souvenir shops that target out-of-towners and, therefore, hype up their prices. They can be very expensive. 

Plus, they are often more, kind of “distance” from the realness of the area you are visiting. They tend to be a bit more done up. Often giving the idea of what they think tourists want to see, but prettier. So if you want a more authentic experience, avoid touristy areas.   

18. Share

Remember that old notion of sharing is caring? Well, that can also save you a lot of money.  This means that instead of ordering one meal per family member, why not go for something that can feed up to four people, such as the family meals. This means that everyone can get a piece and full up. 

19. Specials

Plus, specials are great to cut down on costs, so ask them what their specials are, and have a taste. Specials are often the local foods so you can really feel and taste the favor of the place you are visiting. 

20. Street Food

Street food is also local food. They are easy to find, easy to get, and easy to eat. Plus, you would not have to clean up after yourself. Street food is at the heart of culture and is a tasty way to get to know the locals. 


Saving money on a trip can be very important, but you would still want to make sure that you and your family are fed. These tips can easily help to make a huge dent in your vacation budget so that you can spend more on the fun stuff while on holiday.  

The important aspects are to plan, prepare your meals, have water bottles, eat locally, and find a place that has a kitchen, or free breakfast. And do not forget about grocery shopping. This may be a bit of a hassle, but it will save you in the long run. Even more so than any of the other points we have mentioned.