Never Eat Out by Accident

When you travel with your family, what will you eat?  Do you envision delicious meals at the hottest new restaurants every night?  Or would that wind up being endless loop of “sit down”, “eat your dinner”, and “stop poking your brother with a fork”?  On the other hand, the idea of spending your travel dollars at McDonald’s or KFC doesn’t seem like such a great option either. 

Fortunately, there’s a solution that will save you both money and frustration.  Prepare some of your meals at your apartment.  Of course, I’m not saying your shouldn’t eat out at all!  If you eat out for every meal, though, you’ll spend a ton of money.  You’ll also end up overly full and trying to remember what you ate three days ago.  

Instead, choose your meals out carefully to maximize the experience.  Or, as I think of it, “don’t eat out by accident”.  Choose your meals out carefully.  You’ll enjoy them more and have memorable experiences.  For many of the other meals, prepare them yourself.  

We’ve been doing this for years. The percentage of meals that we eat out varies significantly by location.  We consider both the quality of the local food, and the price. 

If the quality of the food in the area is amazing, we’re more likely to eat out.  If the food isn’t so great, there isn’t as much of a reason to eat out.  Similarly, if a location has inexpensive restaurants, there’s not as much of an incentive to prepare our own meals.  If eating out is really expensive we’re going to cook more meals in.

You’ll make your own decisions on this one, but here are a couple of examples.  During our trips to Rome, we’ve found amazing takeaway restaurants with homemade pastas and sauces for less than $10 per meal.  The food was better than just about any I’ve had in the US.  That experience was definitely worth the cost.

On the other hand, we’ll be going to the UK in the next several months.  I know that London is quite the city for foodies, but given the exchange rate, I doubt we’ll be eating out very much.  I’m sure we’ll have fish and chips and a pub meal or two, but we’ll be eating in or picnicking most of the time.  A meal for a family of four can easily top £100.  I’m happy to spend that money on a memorable experience of a meal, but I don’t want to spend it on a random Tuesday lunch that will be forgotten in a couple of days. 

In addition to saving money, cooking in means you’ll get to experience grocery shopping in another place.  This can be incredibly interesting and fun.  It’s fascinating to see what’s on the shelves (and what’s NOT on the shelves) in different countries.  If you think your kids won’t enjoy this, just introduce them to the idea of checking out the local candy options.

Some people don’t consider a trip a vacation if they have to cook and do dishes.  That’s totally understandable!  Just plan simple meals with easy prep and clean up (don’t worry—I’ve got ideas). Those few simple meals can save both money and time.  

A restaurant meal is going to involve quite a bit of waiting.  Instead of spending that time trying to entertain your kids, you could prep an entire meal in 15 minutes.  Your kids will almost certainly enjoy playing at the apartment more than sitting at a table waiting.  You won’t be stressed out by trying to make them behave.  And after eating at a restaurant your family is probably going to be tired and ready for a break.  If you eat at “home” your meal will be more restful and you’re likely to be ready to have more worthwhile experiences sooner.

Remember, I’m not saying not to eat out at all.  Just don’t eat out by accident.  Plan your meals out to get the most out of them, and save money and time by eating other meals in.  Have you tried this on your trips?  What do you think of this idea?

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