How I Travel on a Tight Budget: Section 3 (Food)

How I Travel on a Tight Budget: Section 3 (Food)

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I know it’s been over a month since I posted about budget traveling! Definitely got a bit distracted there once summer hit in full force! But let’s continue the conversation, shall we? This section of budget traveling with food allergies and restrictions is definitely an important one for me and my family. It can mean the difference between an excellent vacation and a terrible one. It’s no fun to be laid up with digestive issues or migraines while on vacation! It also can be a budget buster. Cheap eats doesn’t usually lend itself to high-quality eats, does it? 

So how do we eat gluten-free and dairy-free while away from home and not break the bank? Sometimes, it’s not the easiest thing in the world. And I will admit, we’re not 100% careful about sticking to our food restrictions when away from home (I absolutely admit to eating a NYC bagel at the beginning of the year!). But with a little ingenuity and some research, we don’t usually have a problem experiencing the food in whatever city we happen to be on. Here’s a few tips for how we stay on budget with food allergies.

1. We almost always rent a condo

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts about lodging that renting a condo is a huge money saver for us. It allows us to have our own space and bathrooms without needing multiple hotel rooms and it allows us to cook our own food! We’re not huge breakfast eaters (well, my dad is. It’s his favorite meal to eat out) so saving the money on eating breakfast out is great for us. We’re able to cook a couple of eggs and a cup of coffee and save that money for attractions or a nice dinner out instead. Many times, we’ll pack in our luggage gluten free pancake mix or oatmeal packets for breakfast options. Having a full kitchen is almost a requirement for us nowadays!

2. Research is key

  • I’m a librarian. Research is what I do, right?! I can spend hour upon hour, for weeks ahead of time researching what each new city is like and the best restaurants or food experiences in town. I love it! Budget traveling almost requires the need for research! But that’s ok with me, I love to research! For almost every major city there’s bound to be a blogger who’s written about the cuisine and what you just HAVE to try when you get there! Nowadays, there’s probably a gluten-free, dairy-free, or allergy friendly blog post available too! Especially for any major city in the United States. If you need a suggestion, NOBREAD has a bunch for major cities around the world. Sometimes, overseas is harder. But coming prepared with a list of great restaurants that either have a gluten-free menu available or are known to be accepting with working around food allergies is vital to having a good time away from home. And of course it helps with the budget too. You’ll know that that gluten-free pizza in NYC will cost you $18 for dinner so you’d better stick to something cheap for lunch!

3. Come prepared

  • We found it very handy to bring an allergy card with us overseas. This is a little card to lets your server know that you have a food allergy or restriction in their own language. You can print them out HERE in a variety of different languages. We also pack a lot of food with us when we travel. It’s definitely easier when we’re road tripping it to pack more but we figure out a way to bring not only snacks but easy meals as well when we’re traveling by plane. Some of our go-to foods when traveling are:
    • Birch Benders Pancake Mix: I like Simple Mills better usually but you only need to add water to Birch Benders so that tends to be an easier choice for us.
    • GlutenFreeda Oatmeal Packets: Not all oatmeal is certified gluten-free but GlutenFreeda’s are. I first encountered them at the Gluten Free Expo earlier this year and they’ve been great for quick breakfasts while away! These also just need water. 
    • RX bars: I’m not a fan of protein/granola type bars but they do come in handy when you need something quick on the go! RX bars are my favorite and they’re Paleo, Whole30, and allergy friendly! 
    • Trail Mix: Again, I’m not a huge fan but it is an easy option when out and about! Get one high in protein and fat but low in sugar to keep you going longer! We usually make our own ahead of time and pack it in a ziplock (FYI: make sure you look up any country restrictions about bringing food in. We learned the hard way that any food brought into Mexico must be sealed. They took our huge bag of trail mix from us when we entered the country! Sad day.)
    • Other stuff that might be handy: Some other things we’ve brought with us on vacation include gluten-free graham crackers (because the resort did nightly smore roasts!), salad dressings and seasonings that we knew we could eat, gluten-free hot dog buns, hamburger rolls, and sandwich bread. We’ve also packed individual nut butters for easy breakfasts on the go. Slather it on an apple or make a quick almond butter sandwich to tide you over for hours!                                  Coconut Milk “Pancakes”- Borough Market, London

4. Be Picky

  • You’re spending your own, hard-earned money on this vacation, right?! Don’t settle for just “ok”. Sometimes, it’s just easier to pick a place that you know will be able to accommodate you. Even if it means spending a little more. Pick an all-inclusive resort that advertises the ability to cater to those with special needs. Because even though you might spend a little more than you usually do, you’ll be able to rest easier knowing you won’t fall ill. Or any of the major cruise lines will work with you on food sensitives and allergies.  Disney’s Aulani resort was amazing for those of us with food sensitivities. But then again, I’ve yet to be disappointed with how Disney operates, ever. I’ll be doing my very FIRST media trip in October as a joint venture with Disney and Carnival Cruise Line. Both of these companies are absolutely amazing about helping you have a fantastic experience with food allergies. Seriously, I can’t recommend both of them highly enough. I always have their head chefs come out to personally talk to me and walk me through their menus or buffets.

*Also, maybe think about investing in a Nima sensor if you’re sensitive to gluten, like I am. Although I’ve never tried it out, I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about the sensor. 

So there’s a wrap up of how we travel in high style on a budget. Do you have any budget traveling tips? Or is there something I didn’t touch on that you’re curious about? Ask away! 

*This is a series. The 1st (Lodging) and 2nd (Airfare) parts can be found at the links below!*

Vacation on a Budget: Part 1- Lodging

Vacation on a Budget: Part 2- Airfare