On Travel Hacks (Dining)
Because travel is more than checking off monuments in a particular location but also understanding the culture of the land, dining can be prioritized into your travel plans (because, after all, we all gotta eat).
Dining experiences don’t have to cost a lot of money. As a matter of fact, except for a few destination restaurants, less expensive might be better, as you experience the food the way locals experience it.
Here are some hacks:
- Get an apartment or a hotel room with a kitchenette.
- If the apartment is close to a market or a grocery store, it’s a huge plus, because you can learn so much by shopping in a local grocery store and the community market: vegetables you don’t see elsewhere, fruits that share the same name but taste different, unexpected convenience foods available in the frozen section (e.g., frozen sushi pack in Scandinavia, paella in Italy), relative prices (e.g., while cost of living is high in Denmark, fresh produce and other unprocessed foods were relatively inexpensive), how many varieties of specific foods take up what percentage of shelf space (e.g., a corner dedicated to bacalao in Portugal, foie gras and cheese in France).
- On your first day there, buy some breakfast ingredients so you can eat breakfast in your room, so you can try foods you don’t usually get at restaurants, like yogurt, cheeses, and various kinds of rolls and pastries. Take care when purchasing milk. Buttermilk is more commonly used in Europe, for example, so it appears next to regular milk and in the same sizes. I have a friend who ended up with buttermilk in Russia, and another who did the same in Sweden.
- I usually time the stay in a particular town based on when their weekly farmers’ market is. Larger cities in Europe will have multiple markets in different neighborhoods.
- Plan a picnic
- A break from fast food or restaurant dining, you can shop for sandwich ingredients or tapas spread for a picnic in the park. In most European cities, you can drink alcohol in public spaces, if you want to try a local wine with your spread.
- Food trucks
- It seems to be a fad everywhere now. Search the Internet for the local food truck meetups. The food isn’t necessary cheap but it’s less expensive than sit-down dining, and you can try more varieties.
- Make lunch your splurge meal
- Many cities have a lunch special which is more affordable. Some high end places have lunch course menus, so rather than going there for dinner, switch to lunch. Another way to look at it is that you can now consider going out to a restaurant you couldn’t otherwise afford because you are going there for their special lunch menu.
- If it’s a popular restaurant, it may be easier to get lunch reservations.
- This tip is good for your local community, too.
- Selecting a restaurant: prioritize places with shorter menus, look for places where locals dine
- Pack a reusable food container
- I started packing one as I started to practice more of the tips above, so I can keep left overs in the refrigerator, microwave it for lunch or late night snack, or pack some food for the plane ride home because ordering plane food or airport restaurants is a downer (and a rip off).
- I also pack disposable utensils in my carry-on now.
Bon voyage & Bon appetit!
Photo: Fish Soup for brunch at Helsinki’s food hall & menu board