Think about your most recent vacation—let’s say you went to Germany. What are the moments you remember most? Sure, you probably have a picture at the Berlin wall, and maybe you went to some cool museums. However, food and drink is, without fail, the highlight (or detriment) of most vacations. Spending time at a bar with friends, ordering smoothies poolside, dining at a world-class French restaurant or Beer Haus with your significant other—those are the moments you’ll remember most.
Similarly, food and drink can ruin a vacation. You might accidentally spend too much money at a restaurant, or maybe food was bad or service was poor. Those are the moments you’ll remember and rehash for years to come. While they may be funny in retrospect, experiencing a bad restaurant experience in the moment can cause stress, anger, and anxiety. That’s why you don’t want to skimp on the food.
With food, you get what you pay for. Of course, there is the occasional artisan-quality fast food burger, but for the most part, the cheaper the meal, the worse it will be. The best way to mitigate both cost and your culinary experience is to put in the work beforehand. Once you’ve booked your trip, begin to plan your meals. Use Yelp, Foursquare, and Eater to research where the locals are eating, review your options, and make a few reservations. Doing this in advance will eliminate ambiguity from your trip, and you’ll be guaranteed a table.
If you still want to experience a few meals out but save some money, use dinner as your opportunity to go out. For breakfast, settle for a breakfast bar or pastry, and pack a lunch or grab something from a local cafe. If you want to save even more money by cooking throughout your vacation, shop locally and try to reproduce native cuisine. This way, you’ll have the cultural culinary experience you want, spend money intelligently, and still have great food throughout the trip.
If anything, try to squeeze in at least one evening at a local restaurant. This splurge is all you need for a week to feel luxurious, and you’ll experience the local culture more thoroughly and intensely than if you spend every night eating at a chain restaurant or cooking at your AirBnb.
I am a lifelong explorer and travel enthusiast. I've never been a certified travel agent, but I have multiple family members who were. I'm not necessarily plugged in to the latest travel vendors and exclusive packages, and I've never cared for the label "life coach," but I do think I have some wisdom to offer about how people can get the most of your their vacation time.