Dollars and Cents Part 1 Fine Dining on a Geezer Budget

There are three primary things you have to do if you are going to travel. You have to get from point “A” to point “B”, you have to sleep and you have to eat. When you get home after a couple of months of travel and sit down to do the trip’s final budget if you’re paying attention to the Geezer Tools taught on this site your actual movement from point “A” to Point “B” may be minimal if not free. Your lodging will also surprise you as being very reasonable if not free. The one cost that may cause you concern is food. Let’s face it most people who are traveling will eat out a lot and unless your living at Subway and McDonalds that gets expensive.

To travel extensively one set of Geezer Tools you will have to master is the Geezer Tools that drop the price of eating out. As I mentioned before we’re happy most of the time flying coach and staying in clean discount hotels. The area we don’t want to skimp is food.

When we travel we are out for the food. We both love trying new food when we travel and that means we refuse to skimp on our dining experiences. Our road trip across America will be a perfect test of how well we can do on our food budget. One nice thing about a travel food budget is that even if you’re curled up in front of you’re TV at home you have to eat so you have a base amount of money you spend on food any way. At home Charlene and I generally will spend around $1200 dollars a month between dining out and groceries. That means when we travel we have a base budget of around $40 dollars a day. The trick for any Geezer Traveler is to find a way to completely explore and enjoy the foods where you’re traveling on that base budget that represents your normal monthly food budget.

The first strategy is to go somewhere that has great, inexpensive food. In South Africa you can get a beautiful seafood dinner for two for about twenty dollars and you will be able to eat very well on your $40 dollar budget.

In most of Asia unless you’re eating at Americanized Hotels you will be hard pressed to spend $40 dollars a day on food. I remember a little restaurant in Northern Thailand where we had dinner with ten of our fellow volunteer workers. We all drank, a lot, and ate some of the most wonderful Thia food I have ever had and our total bill for ten of us was $38. So the first way to keep your food bill down is go somewhere that the cost of food is cheaper. For Americans the food is cheaper just about everywhere. To compare the expected cost of dining in different countries and even different states you can go to https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_countries.jsp and get the latest data. Below is the data you can find comparing the United States and Thailand.

 

The second strategy is to travel in such a way that your meals are part of your lodging this is simple stuff like taking a cruise, staying in motels that offer free breakfast and staying at lodging such as timeshares that have kitchens so you can cook some of your meals.

I would have added staying with family and friends to that list but the reality is we usually go over budget for food when we stay with family and friends because we love to take our hosts to dinner and Charlene loves to pick up groceries and cook for everyone.

The final strategy to save money on food while traveling is to take advantage of every dining deal you can find. Our road trip across America will be an expensive food budget. America’s restaurants are expensive. We will ease our budget a little by getting Hotels with free breakfast. That will be one meal down but we still need to figure out how the two of us can explore the foods of America on as close to a $40 dollar budget as we can get.

The first deal we are using is https://www.restaurant.com . This web site offers deep discounts of food costs for restaurants. Most communities have restaurants that are participating in this program. The way it works is you buy a reastaurant.com coupon at a discount. The discount is usually 40%. So for $10 you get a coupon worth $25 dollars on you’re next meal. That’s nice. But it comes with a problem, almost every restaurant you will go to say’s you have to buy $50 worth of food to use your $25 dollar coupon. So really you are getting a $15 discount on a $50 meal. If you belong to RCI and have platinum status you will get a free $25 dollar restaurant.com coupon every month so our costs for meals when we use our restaurant.com coupons from RCI actually reflect the full $25 savings.

The second trick is belonging to and using airline-dining clubs. These clubs offer loyalty rewards to their airline members that dine at restaurants that have partnered with the airline. The airlines are picky so these restaurants will usually be higher-end restaurants.

 If you dine with an airline dining club partner you will usually receive 3 to 5 airline point per dollar spent on meal. That’s as much as 7.5% ( 5 pts X 1.5 cent value of airline point) discount on your meal. We use the American Airlines dining club that you can find at: https://aa.rewardsnetwork.com because we primarily fly American Airlines and the value of the American miles are higher then United and Delta.

The third trick is discount vendors like Groupon.com. If you are traveling it’s not a bad idea to find out what deals are out there with Groupon.com. Groupon.com sells discounts for restaurants like restaurants.com. With Groupon.com each discount is different and you need to read the fine print but their discounts on restaurants are often as high as 50%.

The fourth trick is a neat little web site called opentable.com. Opentable.com has a huge international presence and will be asset in almost every country in the world. Opentable.com books reservations and pays their followers loyalty points for booking thru their site. With each booking you get between 100 and 1000 opentable.com loyalty points worth 1 cent a peace for free meals offered on the opentable.com point redemption site. On a meal you spend $25 dollars on and got your 100 points the return would be 4%. That covers the tax.

Finally in order to reduce the cost of your meal you have the use of your credit card to purchase the meal. When dinning I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve card that gives me 3X points for every dollar I spend. That’s 6 cents (3pts X 2 cent value per point) on the dollar. I’ll take that discount thank you very much.

The real advantage of most of what I have talked about is stacking all these advantages together to get the maximum bang for your buck. Let me give you an example: on the first day of our trip Charlene and I stopped at a great restaurant in Tampa called Catch 23.

The atmosphere in this Zagat rated restaurant was lively and friendly. As an added treat they had a female vocalist performing in the bar. I had the salmon and Charlene had the Sea Bass, our total bill for the two entrees was $51 dollars. We used a $25 restaurant.com coupon that I had received from RCI. The coupon dropped our food bill to $26 dollars. Before we got to Catch 22 we called and got reservations thru Opentable.com which gave us 100 loyalty points for making our reservation thru them. That dropped the real price of our meals to $25.

I then paid for the meal with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card that gave me 78 points ($26 X 3pts per $) that has a travel loyalty value of $1.56. Making my total meal cost $23.44 for a total savings of $27.66 for five minutes worth of work on the Internet putting this deal together.

I think this example should go a long ways toward showing you how you can eat out on the road and stay within your travel budget.