Traveling can get very expensive, very quickly. I've always been budget-minded (I'm a big fan of day-old bakery items and department-store clearance racks), and I like to think that I've gotten pretty good at pinching pennies whether I'm on a short weekend trip or heading overseas.
The easiest way I save money when I'm traveling: I bring or make my own breakfast. Here are five (really good!) reasons why breakfast is the best meal to save on.
1. I don't ever feel like I'm missing out.
Don't get me wrong — I love a lengthy, boozy brunch as much as anyone, but when you think about it, breakfast is the same almost everywhere. Pancakes, toast, eggs, yogurt ... it's really nothing special. I can get eggs Benedict or Belgian waffles or mimosas at countless restaurants at home.
2. I'd rather put the money I save toward a more substantial meal.
When I was in Spain last summer, I ate the free (albeit disappointing) breakfast whenever the hotel provided it, and instead chose to spend money on traditional paella, tapas, and plenty of sangria. If my hotel doesn't have a free breakfast or if I wasn't able to pack a few treats before I left, I'll just pop into a grocery store once I arrive to grab a bag of granola, single-serve cups of yogurt, or pastries. If I'm staying at an Airbnb with a kitchen, I'll just buy and cook up a couple quick (and inexpensive!) eggs. Personally, I'd rather splurge on a regional specialty or one superb meal, and focus instead on something ordinary, cheap, and possibly high-protein to kick off the day.
3. I like using breakfast ingredients as snacks later in the day.
I recently traveled to Reykjavik, and brought along lots of trail mix, chocolate, nuts, and protein bars. (I also tried to bring a jar of peanut butter, but it was sadly confiscated by TSA. Apparently peanut butter is considered a gel.) In addition to being able to eat all of these things for breakfast, they also made great snacks in between meals. I'd been warned by several friends that Iceland is expensive, so my travel companion and I were pretty frugal food-wise, but sprung for tasty espresso drinks, special meals, and even some surprisingly authentic Neapolitan pizza.
4. It saves me time.
By eating something quickly in the hotel room or in a nearby park, I save a lot of time, which I can use to see the sights. I don't have to find a cafe or restaurant. I don't have to wait for someone to take my order, make my food, and bring me the check. I can just eat and be on my merry touristy way.
Also, in Reykjavik we could literally find one place that was open before 9 a.m., so on days when we had to catch a tour bus at 7:30 in the morning, it would have been nearly impossible to find something to eat.
5. It helps me eat (a little!) healthier.
Traveling provides a great opportunity to indulge in local foods — the healthy and the unhealthy options. That's another reason I like to skip having breakfast out while I travel. This way I have a little more control over what I eat first thing, and ideally get set up on the right path for the rest of the day. It's so easy to have a "treat yourself" mindset when you're away from home. I would happily order French toast at brunch or eat a chocolate croissant for breakfast every day, but these things wouldn't keep me full or stop my pants from getting too tight.
Do you do the same thing? Do you have other money-saving tips when you travel? Share them in the comments below!