How to save money on food while traveling

During Easter, we went to another city to spend time with family. We have a big family so there was no way everyone could stay with relatives, instead, we all went to a hotel for the weekend. It was convenient for all of us to stay at the same hotel as we could all have breakfast together and have plenty of quality time.  The downside was that we had no place to eat apart from whatever we found from the city.

Because we had no cooking facilities (nor minibar that we could use as a fridge) we felt like the only option was eating out, something we don’t normally do. Quite quickly we noticed that if you want to eat out affordably there are not really many healthy options. Instead, you are offered white fluff in forms of pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches. We felt quite gross after a few days and were looking forward to returning home to cook decent meals.

But when I think of it, this was no one-time experience. We have had this dilemma many times before. Last summer we went to Greece and stayed at a hotel. Although the hotel room included breakfast, we still had two main meals that we wanted to have on top of that. It was very difficult to find good healthy meals for a decent price since many of the touristy places offered only pizza, pasta and club sandwiches on the affordable side. But who wants to eat pizza in Greece, when there is a possibility to eat delicious Greek food?

So my question is, why is it so difficult to eat out in a healthy and affordable way? Are there any other alternatives while traveling?

Apparently there are!

This year we’ll be doing some epic traveling in Europe and around the world before we move to Australia. We figured that our choice of accommodation makes a huge difference to how we eat. It’s not that we don’t want to eat out every now and then, but most of the time we enjoy cooking ourselves because that is how we know exactly what is on our plates. A few days back at the local grocery store, we saw a “hot chocolate” mix on sale and looking at it more closely, we noticed it contained 78% sugar… If you are offered that same cocoa at a cafe, you might not even pay attention (although nowadays I would because Mr DN has managed to wean me off sugar by offering me hot chocolate that is made out of 100 % cocoa).

Our solution is to use a house letting service such as Airbnb or VRBO. Instead of reserving a hotel room for a week, we can rent out a whole apartment (studio) for a similar price or even less. The bonus is that we would have cooking facilities. Brilliant. Seriously, I just hadn’t considered this kind of option before because I had bought into this typical idea of travel which includes staying at a hotel.

One of my favourite things during travel has been checking out local grocery stores and markets to see what different ingredients and products they have to offer. Now we can actually utilize that possibility to the full extent by cooking with local produce. Our plan is to prepare two meals  a day at the apartment (for example breakfast and lunch, or breakfast and dinner) and then we can choose to spend a bit more money on good quality food when we decide to eat out.

Summery goodness!

Summery goodness!


Benefits of using a house letting service (like AirBnB or VRBO)

1. You can eat on a normal schedule (in our experience some people, like Mrs DN, get a bit cranky when they don’t eat often enough)

2. You know what’s in your food

3. Cooking is more cost effective than eating out

4. You get to explore new ingredients

5. You can still eat out but can afford better meals because you are not eating out for all your meals

We have heard many good things about AirBnB from friends and family, but have never tried it before ourselves. This year we will definitely try it out and tell about our experiences once we are done with our travels. If you are a first time user like us, you can even google for free travel credit! We found 30 euros of free travel credit that we can use for our travels, pretty neat huh?


Have you tried AirBnB or another apartment renting sites for your travels? Have you figured out any other ways to save money on food while traveling?


Disclaimer: We are not affiliates of AirBNB, nor have we been paid for this blog post. We are, however, people who love to discover all different kinds of way to save money while creating great life experiences, and we think looking at different accommodation alternatives while travelling is one great way to do so!


Featured image by Robyn Randolph







18 thoughts on “How to save money on food while traveling

  1. Hei Mrs Dollar Notes,
    I’m delighted to hear that you are now planning to use Airbnb and I will be curious to hear how your experience will be! 😉
    Our experiences with cooking have been a bit mixed, and it is always a bit of a mystery. We have been in Ukraine, Lithuania, Portugal, and Iceland. Some kitchens have been very simple just with basic tools, but we also were at one place where they had even basic ingredients like salt, flour, rice, coco for us to use freely -that was really nice! Our last place we had our morning coffee with a price of a milk carton -obviously we enjoyed that. 🙂
    Unfortunately you cannot really know what to expect based on the website, but either way having your own kitchen helps with the stress of not needing to eat every meal out.
    Enjoy your travels!

    1. Hey Mrs Walkkeri,

      nice to hear your thoughts. If I remember correct, I actually got the inspiration of using Airbnb from you so thank you! We’ve been looking at different places for our travels and have paid close attention to the type of kitchen they offer. I guess that is as far as we can go. Did you guys enjoy shopping locally?

  2. We haven’t tried AirBnB but we often book through I think it’s somewhat similar. We prefer to book houses/cottages/cabins for the same reason that we want to make our own food. Eating out when traveling adds up and we realised we’d rather spend money on better accommodation than eating out. We also take snacks with us when doing day trips to minimise our food expenses. 🙂

  3. I haven’t ever tried AirBNB but have stayed in plenty of hostels with great kitchens! I know it’s not quite the same as having your completely own space but you do get to meet a lot of amazing people. You can also get a private room in most hostels so you still have your own space for sleeping. I’ve often found hostels are great for getting suggestions on things to do and hidden gems in the city, both staff and other guests seem to know so much.

    We’re currently staying in a hostel after five nights in a motel with no cooking facilities and are definitely appreciating being able to cook for ourselves again (our wallet is all the merrier too).

    I’m glad I’ve found your blog and look forward to hearing more about your move to Australia as well!

    1. Hi Mr Tightarse!

      Thanks for the tip! I never even thought that hostels would offer kitchen facilities! We haven’t really tried hostels because we enjoy our peace and quiet (we are morning people), but maybe if we would rent a private room it might worth a try one day. I checked you blog, it sounds like you are doing some epic traveling!

  4. We have stayed at AirBNB place once with a 6 member group. And it was ideal for us to have some fruits and yogurt at the house (and coffee and drinkable water!). This Airbnb was not from a private person but instead some kind of agency, but anyway at least to have a water heater is a really good idea. Specially in some countries it is really hard to find anything without sugar or without being packed and processed, if you don’t have a chance for cooking fresh vegetables.

    1. Moi Ekonomimmi,

      we have been looking at AirBnB places for our travels and have paid attention to the fact that not all of the apartments have a proper kitchen! An appropriate kitchen is one of our prerequisites for renting a place 🙂 Do you think you would try AirBnB again?

      1. I probably would, IF the price is lower than a nice hotel wit breakfast. Or if the place is nice and affordable. I am not comfortable with being scared of bedbugs or thieves :(.. In Barcelona at least it seemed that Airbnb is illegal + prices were at hotel price level.

  5. Hey Mrs DN,

    Thanks for the article. We are quite young and we’d like to think quite adventurous, but we haven’t yet used any ‘sharing’ apps like Uber, Airbnb etc..

    Making your own food definitely is great way to reduce the cost by half, maybe more. As long as you enjoy the experience, if you’re just going to Walmart/Tesco/Coles/insert Finland supermarket and eating your normal food – why go on holiday at all? Lol. But you guys are making local food, so good on you 🙂

    Knowing what’s in your food is a great advantage too – particularly if you’re watching/tracking what you eat.


      1. Hey Mrs DN,

        At the moment that’s hard to say. When we were long distance, we really didn’t try to save money, if we wanted to eat from a certain place, we would. Mostly takeaways, not restaurants.

        And now, we’re not travelling at all, saving all the money we can for IVF. In the future we will probably do what you do, and stay places with kitchens so we can cook a lot ourselves 🙂


  6. Yes we slows try and stay at apartments which have a small kitchen. We also try to have a larger than normal breakfast which lasts until mid afternoon and then a small snack which you can carry gets you through until dinner. We find Asian tend to offer healthier options with vegetables so usually try to find them.

    1. Hey TPE,

      it’s great that you have discovered staying in apartments while traveling, I would think it would be especially worthwhile when you have kids! Do you have any websites to recommend?

  7. Great idea!!! It’s so true that whenever we are traveling, we often eat so poorly. It’s also kind of part of the traveling-mindset, so it’s kind of expected. But it doesnt have to be that way.

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