My family and I are in Florida right now. White sandy beaches, blue skies, warm breezes...everything Florida is known for. Aside from getting lost during my run this morning, it has been a nice time thus far.
Even though we've saved for this trip for a few months, we don't want to pour our entire vacation budget into restaurants. Here are some of the tips that I found most useful to maintain some semblance of a budget while on vacation.
1) Cook. I know it seems counterproductive to the idea of relaxation, but it saves an extraordinary amount of money. We opted for a condo with a full kitchen and then bought groceries when we arrived. I spent a bit more on food than I would have at home, but a lot of that is condiments and stuff that I don't normally have to buy. Food doesn't have to be fancy or take a long time, but making it yourself and using local ingredients is one of my favorite ways to save money.
2) Use Local Ingredients. During the summer, farm stands are everywhere. Peaches at Publix were $3.99/lb...locally grown, picked that morning peaches at the farm stand were $2 for a 3 pound bag. My family almost always finds local farm stands or farmers markets and then we decide our meals based on what looks tempting.
3) Use Savings Websites. A few months before we left, I subscribed to the local Groupon site and kept watch for restaurants or other fun things that we could enjoy as a family. I always checked restaurant reviews on Yelp.com before buying so we didn't end up with a dud. We enjoyed one of our Groupon coupons last night at a local pizza place (really yummy!) and walked out for $20 including tax and tip. The extra pizza will make a great snack for the family as well.
4) Check With the Front Desk or Visitors Bureau: If you're at a hotel or condo, most will have coupons or special deals available only to patrons. I asked the woman who checked us in and she handed me a stack of coupons good for everything from free appetizers, free kids meals or a percentage off the final bill. The locally owned restaurants want you to walk in their door and providing something for free is a really great way to make that happen.
We are eating out a few meals during the trip, but for the most part, will be eating in. Breakfasts will include egg and veggie scrambles, toast, smoothies and fresh fruit and we bought premium sandwich ingredients for subs and paninis for lunches. Spending $30 on really awesome sandwich ingredients that will last the week is far cheaper than hitting the local deli 5 times during the week.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a margarita that needs to be sipped and feet that need to be put up oceanside.