Are you planning a spring break trip or summer vacation with your family this year? Dining out as a family on vacation can be very expensive. These are some easy ways to save money on food on family vacations!

How to Save Money While Traveling with Family

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One of the biggest expenses of a family vacation is the meals. When you are used to eating most meals at home, it can be shocking how expensive it is to eat out for every meal on vacation.

There are usually two opinions when it comes to eating at restaurants on vacation and these two opinions are usually married to each other! On one hand, you are on vacation so you want to take a break from the usual chores like meal planning and prepping. The idea of eating out for a few days or a week can feel like a true luxury.

But, on the other hand, the idea of eating out as a family on vacation for every meal is not always appealing.

First, there is the expense of dining out as a family. One nice dinner at a restaurant can be as expensive as a week’s worth of groceries! Not to mention that it is harder to eat healthy when dining out of the home for every meal. Plus, you add in that it is not always enjoyable to eat out at restaurants as a family when you have younger kids. You might have picky eaters in your family. The wait at a restaurant might be long and kids might already be off of their normal schedule. So there is bound to be a bit more whining and restlessness.

There are definitely pros and cons to eating out with family on vacation.


Ways to Save Money on Food on Family Vacations

If you are trying to stay on budget on vacation while still feeling like you are able to get a break from cooking every meal, you can strike a good balance. There are many ways to save money on food on family vacations. These are some easy money saving strategies.

Bring your own food. 

The number one way to save money on food on family vacations is to pack as much snacks and food as you can. Whether you are flying or driving to your destination,  bring your own food. Flying to your destination is certainly a bit more limiting, but you can still bring snacks and refillable water bottles.


how to save money on food on vacation with kids

Just by eliminating the need to buy bottled water, you can save a lot of money.

When we are driving to a destination, we bring a big cooler. We like to bring some of our kids favorite drinks and snacks so that when we get to our destination, we have some of the basics. It is nice to not have to run out for milk or breakfast foods the minute we get on vacation. The big size cooler comes in handy throughout our trip, especially if we are at the beach.

If you do plan to cook at your rental home or hotel on vacation, you can even bring some of your favorite spices or ingredients. My friend’s parents take a lot of vacations and they pack up their most used spices into plastic storage bags. I think this is a genius money saving strategy! If you like to cook and you use a lot of special ingredients, you can save money by bringing your ingredients from home.

Pick out trip snacks at the Dollar Store. 

One of my kids’ favorite vacation tradition is to the Dollar Store before the trip and pick out their own snacks. It feels special to the kids to be able to pick out whatever they want to bring. They know these are their personal snacks that have to keep them satisfied while we travel. They usually pick out snacks that we do not eat often and it is usually a bit more candy and junk food.

But, it is vacation, so it is okay for the snacks to be more indulgent!

Avoid rest stop restaurants and airport dining. 

Two of the biggest places to eat on vacation that are overpriced are highway rest stops and airport restaurants. Both places charge more than normal for the same food at these restaurants elsewhere. If you must eat at an airport, save money by avoiding expensive drinks and snacks. Stick to a healthy and filling meal that provides the most value for your money.

When our family takes road trips, we always pack our own meals if we are going to be driving over a meal time. We save a significant amount of money on vacation by avoiding rest stop restaurants. My husband and I bring our own coffee in reusable cups (that come in handy throughout the vacation) to avoid buying coffee at rest stops.

Stay at hotels that provide free breakfast. 

One of the easiest and most convenient ways to save money on food on trips is to stay at a place that breakfast is included. As a family of five, we often opt to stay at hotels that provide breakfast. Kids love the variety and freedom to pick out all of their favorite foods.

It is a huge savings to start your day with a free breakfast.

Stay at a vacation home rental. 

For many families, it can be easier to stay at a vacation rental (like VRBO or Airbnb) than to stay at a hotel. If you have kids, it is nice to have a home like feel while on vacation. It is easy to bring your own food and prepare meals at a vacation home rental.

You can even plan ahead and order groceries before you arrive to your destination. Then, you can either pick up your groceries or have them delivered to your rental home.

Bring a collapsible cooler. 

Last summer, on our trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, we packed a collapsable cooler in our luggage. We saved a lot of money by having this cooler on vacation.

At the start of each day, we would pack up our own snacks, that we bought at a local store, and then grab some sandwiches and drinks at a local deli.

Not only did having a collapsible cooler  save us a lot of money, but it was very convenient to have our own food when we were ready to eat. There were times when we were not near any food options but everyone was hungry.

Plan one meal out. 

You might be able to strike the perfect balance on vacation by eating out for one meal a day and eating at your hotel or home the rest of the meals.

Each day, take a look at your plans and think about what meal you want to eat out. Your plans might dictate when it makes the most sense to eat out. If you will be out and about,  you might opt to eat your meal out when that is the only option.

Also, consider which meals you family enjoys to eat out and what time of day is best to be out with the family. When my kids were younger, we were up so early. The only thing to do on vacation that early was to find a breakfast place. Then, by the end of the day, the babies and toddlers were too tired to eat out for dinner.

Order pizza. 

Last year during our trip out west, we spent a lot of money eating out the first two days. We could not believe how expensive it was to eat lunch and dinner out as a family of five. After a few days of paying a lot of money to eat out, we made the decision to order pizza and have it delivered to our hotel. This was our least expensive meal of the trip!

Pizza or some fast foods options like Chipotle are a family crowd please and are a lot less money than a dinner out on vacation. Sometimes, the thought of another sit down meal on vacation sounds exhausting. There is a lot of value in ordering dinner in and getting a chance to relax and unwind while you eat.

Eat a big breakfast or brunch.

Another way to save money on food on family vacations is to eat a big breakfast or brunch and have it cover two meals. When our family goes to Disney World, we plan a sit down meal for mid-morning. We might have breakfast at the hotel with food we brought. Then, when we eat at the restaurant mid-morning, we are full until dinner time.

You can pack snacks to keep you full in between meals.

Split the Meal Planning with Family or Friends

Are you traveling with family or friends? One way to save money and spend less time making meals on vacation is to split the load with the people you are with.

If you are renting a house with other families, you can divide up the groceries. Each family can be assigned particular meals. Then, when it is their turn for the meal, they handle the groceries and meal preparations. The responsible party can choose to make the food or order pizza or a meal!

When we have traveled with other families, we create a shared document to assign responsibilities. First we list out the basics like paper products, condiments, drinks and breakfast and lunch foods. Then we add in the ingredients for the meals that we are in charge of. That way, everyone can see what ingredients are being brought. You might realize someone is already bringing an item you were planning to and it saves you from having to bring it.

Saving Money on Food While Traveling

When you are on vacation, you do not want to feel stressed about every dollar you spend. However, you also want to stay on budget. When you are smart about how you spend your money on vacations, you save money to go on your next vacation! There are simple things you can do to spend less money on food on vacation while still getting to enjoy meals that you did not have to make!

What is your favorite way to eat cheap on vacation?


Check out these related posts:

Screen Free Road Trip Activities

6 Things to Do To Prepare for a Family Road Trip

8 Tips to Getting Organized After a Vacation 

How to Save Money on Groceries Without Cutting Coupons

Rosemary Beach Vacation Guide



  1. notinjersey on March 21, 2023 at 11:17 am

    We tend to go food shopping on trips and eat at least one meal a day from what we purchase. It helps when we are already staying with family!

  2. Holly Breton @ Pink Lady on March 22, 2023 at 8:08 am

    Great tips!

  3. Ulises Flores on March 29, 2023 at 12:12 am

    I just like the helpful information you provide in your articles

  4. Jocelyn Lee on June 6, 2023 at 6:13 pm

    my favorite way to save while on family trips is by visiting open food makets and cooking food at home! Grocery shopping in new places is also really fun!

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