One of the best things about being a college student was the ability to travel. My husband I made it a point to visit England every spring while we were in college. These trips would be short little jaunts on a shoe string budget. It wasn’t so much the fancy hotel and food that we were interested in but rather being in the UK taking in the culture, sites and new experiences. Believe it or not, your hotel will most likely be your second most expensive cost, next to food. Let’s face it, we all have to eat and a vacation is not much fun when you are starving. Through these were tightly budgeted trips here are some tips that we have learned to not blow your entire vacation budget on food.
1. Eat Breakfast.
It is the most important meal of the day for a reason. It gets your metabolism going allowing you to have energy to see the sights. You can go about having breakfast in a couple different ways. If you hotel offers a free complementary breakfast, eat it! Some hotels also offer free tea or coffee in the room that you can make yourself, take advantage of this as well. If your hotel does not offer a free breakfast, venture out and find a bakery or corner shop. You can also do a sit down breakfast but just take a look at the prices before you do. Some places have a breakfast special. Breakfast should not cost more than £7 per person. If you are over slightly don’t worry too much about it. Also if you are coming in on an early morning flight, breakfast is a MUST. Not only does it help reset your body’s clock but it also helps kill some time until you can check into your hotel. (Most hotels do not let you check in until mid to late afternoon, no matter how long you’ve traveled to get there!)
2. Go Grocery Shopping.
This is perhaps the best money saving option when it comes to eating while in London. Let’s face it London is a very expensive city and you can go broke eating if you do not watch you wallet. You can help offset by the costs by taking a quick trip to a grocery store or corner shop. You can even do this before you leave home if you prefer. Please note however, you cannot bring food in to the UK that is not sealed! Good things to bring from home may be a box of cookies, crackers, and other snack foods. Not only are these great snacks, but foods like cereal bars can be breakfast! If you decide to visit a corner shop in London, often referred to as an “off license” have fun. It is a great way to experience some British culture. Keep in mind, you most likely will not have refrigerator to keep items cool so try to avoid perishable items.
3. Lunch Options.
Lunch can get tricky when visiting London. You are often out sight seeing and realize it is lunch time. Most of the big tourist sites do offer a cafe that serves lunch, be careful here. You can easily spend a small fortune on lunch at one of the sites if you are not careful, believe me I speak form experience. Instead try to get away from the tourist sights for lunch. You have a couple inexpensive options for lunch while in London. The first is fast food. It isn’t gourmet, but it’s quick and cheap. I have to say it can be a welcome treat after eating British food, it’s a little taste of home. Don’t fret, fast food is generally healthier than here in the US. and there are healthy options on the menu if a burger and fries aren’t your thing. Another option is try a pub. Be careful here too. If you are mindful of the budget you have to spend on lunch you can get a good deal. Also take a look at the specials they have for the day, it’s a great way to save some cash. One of the best ways to do lunch on the cheap, and perhaps my favorite way to save money is to do take-away or pop into an grocery store. The British love pre-made sandwiches. They are super easy to find. You can go pick up a whole lunch and eat like royalty for only a couple of pounds. The best thing about this option is that you can picnic in a park or next to the river. This is a really inexpensive way to make a really nice memory.
4. Look for Specials.
Wither you are doing breakfast lunch or dinner look for daily specials. This may be the one case when it is okay to eat at your hotel, especially for dinner. Most eateries in London do have a menu outside the door or you can go in and ask if they are having any specials for the day. Not only is this a great way to save money, it can be a great way to have some authentic British food.
5. Little Ways to Save that Add up.
One thing you will quickly notice is that Londoners are big drinkers. While it can be fun to throw back a few with the locals be mindful that drinks aren’t free and add up quickly. I will say that on average a glass of wine with dinner is often less expensive in London than here at home. Also note that just about any sit down eatery will offer wine. Go ahead and indulge you could probably use it after a long day of sightseeing. Another way to save money especially on dinner when you are super tired, is to order a pizza in. Most hotels will allow you to do this, however all may not be friendly about it. It is an inexpensive and relaxed way to have dinner. One of the biggest ways to save some money is not to tip. No I am not being stingy, tipping servers in the UK is generally not done. These people make a nice hourly wage, and it can be perceived as rude if you tip. I cannot tell you how many tourists we see tip. You are throwing away money by tipping.
London is a great city with amazing dinning options. While eating in London can quickly drain your pocketbook, with these few helpful hints you can hopefully save a bit and get that really cool souvenir instead. I will say that do try to make a point of having at least one nice dinner out while you are there. We’ve always had one nice dinner while on vacation, a bit of a splurge. Still budget for this dinner but set aside a little extra. Some of our favorite dinning memories have come from these nights.
Let’s face it we all have to eat. Vacation is not going to be much fun if you are starving. If you are smart about where you eat and do it on the cheap, you can eat like a king without going broke.