“For the average hotel guest, dining can make up anywhere from a third to a half of the total spend on an average trip,” noted Lisa Grossberg, General Manager of the historic Buckingham Hotel in Manhattan which has eat-in kitchens in every apartment-style suite.
Whether you’re headed to a tropical island or a major city, here are 5 simple ways you can save hundreds of dollars on your next trip:
1) Book a condo-style hotel room with an eat-in kitchen. If you’re headed to a major city, you’ll find that many of the early and mid-century hotel buildings, like the Buckingham, came installed with private kitchens. And if you’re jetting to an island destination, more and more hotels are renting out their dormant condo and timeshare units.
“The overdevelopment of timeshares in 2008 has left a lot of hoteliers with a wider inventory than they anticipated. As a result, travelers can find cheap hotels, some with Viking kitchens and high-end appliances!” notes Grossberg.
2) Stock your fridge. Even if you have plans to dine out every night of the week, you can still skip paying $40 for a below-average continental breakfast by bringing your own eggs, bagels and coffee.
“We have the great fortune of being located in midtown Manhattan, so we’re blocks from some of the best bagels and lox in the country,” said Grossberg. “But every city and town has its own food gems. It’s a great loss if you don’t take advantage. When in Rome!”
And if you want to spice things up with a mimosa, pick up a bottle of Freixenet cava. It retails for just $10 at the liquor store and is what many restaurants use behind the scenes. Just pour out half a flute of Freixenet and top off with another half of OJ — and you’re set, brunch style…
3) Stock your bar. And if you’re tempted by that packet of peanut M&Ms or miniature Jack Daniels calling your name late-night, make your own mini-bar by hitting the liquor and convenience story for far less. Stores like Walgreens even sell theater style box candy or a 1 oz bag of mini-Oreos for $1 instead of $6+ mini-bar prices. And if you really insist on having the Thelma & Louise experience, a site called beerliquors.com actually sells miniature bottles of your favorites in bulk, and on the cheap.
Also, with wines incurring a hefty mark-up dining out, pick up a great $20 wine that would cost you $50 from a restaurant’s cellar.
“It’s on the rise right now for even five-star restaurants to open up their Mondays for BYOB. So you can have a great meal and pick up a great bottle at cost,” added Grossberg.
To find local restaurant specials check out deal-of-the-day sites such as Groupon.com
4) Buy local. Also treat yourself to the best of whatever your particular city has to offer. If you’re in New York City, hit the H&H Bagels or at least a great deli. Seattle? Fish market! Bay Area? Replace your in-room Sanka pod with a small bag of the cult-favorite Blue Bottle coffee.
And if you’re somewhere tropical, hit the market for a couple of pineapples and coconuts and make yourself a far better piña colada than the swim-up bar is serving. Here’s a simple piña colada recipe with fresh ingredients
Island Piña Colada Recipe
1 Coconut or Vita Coco
1 Can of Goya Coconut Cream
1 small bottle of dark rum
Combine ½ cup of chopped pineapple, ½ cup of rum, ¼ cup of fresh coconut juice or Vita Coco, ½ cup of coconut cream and ice cubes. Mix in a blender and serve with a sliced pineapple wedge as a garnish. Top off with a small pool of dark rum over the top.
5) Live off the land. Even if you’re planning to eat out most of your trip, sourcing a recipe with local ingredients can make for one special and inexpensive night in.
“If you’re somewhere where’s there’s fishing like Alaska or the Bahamas, nothing will compare to the satisfaction of catching and preparing your own meal,” said Lisa. “ And if you’re hiking, or strolling by a green market, spice things up by picking some herbs.”