How Much Money to Budget Each Day for Food While Traveling in Europe
Tapas and a pitcher of Sangria for 10 euros? We’ll take it.
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While traveling in Europe is complicated enough, budgeting is another story. Making an accurate budget for food really depends where you are going and how bougie you want your meals to be. If we are budgeting like college students and recent grads (aka a budget of “broke af”) then you can probably scrape by on less than expected.
Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe/Scandinavia and the Mediterranean are all very different in terms of meals and costs. If you’re taking a ~Eurotrip~ this summer or going there on spring break with your bestie, it’s likely that you’re going to choose to tackle only one or two of these regions, so here’s what you need to know.
Also, remember that we’re on a student budget so you can’t (or at least I can’t) afford to go out for every meal. These travel budgets mean eating as the Europeans do and buying food from local markets and picnicking or cooking at hostels.
Going to the United Kingdom is going to cost you an arm and a half TBH. Food prices are high and alcohol is even more outrageous. London is by far the most expensive (after all it is the NYC of Europe) so pick and choose where you eat wisely.
Try to spend a few days in Northern England or Scotland where prices are more suited for a student travel budget. Overall, you should spend $40 to $50 per day.
The rest of Western to Central Europe is relatively cheaper. France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium are all similarly priced in terms of food and drink, whereas Switzerland gets a bit more expensive (thanks to the Swiss Franc).
For instance, in Germany and Austria you can get a beer for only about 3 euros and a quality, filling meal for 10 euros. All of these countries also have outdoor markets where the food is just as good, if not better, than restaurants.
If it were me, I would split up my noshing 50/50 between eating out and snacking my way through the markets. If you do this, you’re looking to have an average travel budget of about $30 per day.
If you’re looking to be a little less basic but still eat some great food, Eastern Europe is the place to go. It also tends to be more affordable than Western Europe. You can get an authentic, delicious meal in Poland at one of their Milk Bar’s for as little as 4 euros. Throw in a beer for less than 2 euros and you’re set.
Hungary, Ukraine and Russia are similarly priced as well. Fortunately for us college students, it’s extremely cheap to drink in these countries. In Russia, beer is often less than $1 and you can buy a bottle of vodka for as little as $5. Overall, you could safely make your food budget to be around $15 per day in these countries.
Apart from certain areas of London and Paris, Scandinavia is the one place you’re sure to spend a pretty penny on food. In Norway, which is similarly priced to Sweden and Finland, the average beer is around $10, a meal at McDonald’s is about $11 and most other restaurant meals will range from $20 to $30.
The rest of Scandinavia and Northern Europe is pretty similar—with a cappuccino often being significantly cheaper than a bottle of water.
Copenhagen is a popular destination for students and backpackers as it is a small, tourist friendly city that is easy to access if you are traveling throughout the rest of mainland Europe. If you find yourself there, scope out fast casual restaurants that might be good for a night out, but will not totally break the bank like most other places.
If you don’t want to be starving yourself by the end of the trip, budget up to $50 per day for this region, which includes purchasing meals from supermarkets and drinking less than you might have intended.
Ah, the Mediterranean. This area is my personal favorite because it has the best, most unique and freshest food in all of Europe. Obviously Italy is world renowned for its food. The street pizza and panino are ten times better than any Americanized Italian food you can buy and can be as little as 5 euros.
In addition, Spain is known for tapas (small sharing plates). They make going out to dinner with groups extremely inexpensive and extremely delicious. A lot of the time bars bless you with free tapas as well, which makes traveling on a budget a lot easier.
Last, Greece is the holy grail of affordable, amazing food. It might be a bit more expensive of a plane ticket to get, but it’s definitely worth it. You can eat great food and drink high quality and cheap Greek wine for only about $15-20 per day.
Overall, you can get by in this region on around $20 per day. However, if you are in more touristy locations and like to eat sit-down meals, I would give yourself $30 per day.
General tips to help your travel budget anywhere in Europe: bring a reusable water bottle so you can avoid the insane cost of bottled water, pregame if you’re planning on going out drinking in one of the more pricey countries and last, eat street food and at markets as it is often better than many restaurants.
When you’re traveling in Europe, be sure to bring some extra cash as it’s no fun running out of money when you’re supposed to be having the best trip of your life. But most of all, make sure to have a good time and worry about your lack of funds when you return home.
How to Save Money on Food at the Airport in Europe
Airports are pricey. Everywhere. They can also be overcrowded, chaotic and boring. Unfortunately, spending time in an airport before your next tour is unavoidable; however saving money on food once you’re there is your choice entirely.
With a little preparation and some useful knowledge, you can avoid spending unnecessary money. Use these money saving tips to guarantee you spend less at the airport and have more cash at your final destination and to enjoy living it up during your tour across Europe. Here are our tips on how to save money on food at the airport.
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Save your money while you wait at the airport
1. Prepare meals and snacks in advance
By far, the best option is to try and prepare some food at home or in your hotel room and take it to the airport. Try and choose options that transport well. Sandwiches, bread rolls, wraps, cold pasta salads, nuts, and muesli or granola bars are great options. There is nothing better than getting peckish on a flight, then reaching for your salad sandwich that is freshly made that day and loaded with all your favourite things. Perhaps vegetarian options are a safer choice for your sandwiches or wraps, depending on how long your journey will be. Like we said, the less money you spend at the airport means you can live large during your tour or independent travels.
Alternatively, before heading to the airport, you could stop by your favourite café and pick up a freshly made baguette and a packet of some dried fruit or healthy snacks. This is always going to be a much better and cheaper option than airport food.
2. Zip-lock bags are fantastic to store snacks
Ask any traveller how they feel about zip-lock bags, I can guarantee they’ll rave about the number of uses they can find for them. They’re very durable and you can slide them open and closed all day to access snacks easily enough. They come in many different sizes and you can use them to store all your food separately.
These are fantastic to store your snacks to take to the airport. Fill them with mixed nuts, trail mix, dried fruit or beef jerky. Snacks such as these are high in protein and fibre, so they’ll keep you satisfied for longer. These are better options than sweets and potato chips, and they’ll keep you feeling much healthier too. Reusable cutlery and a washable container are great to travel accessory to always have in your daypack to help you plan ahead and transport food regularly.
All good adventures start at the airport
3. Pack a refillable water bottle
Always bring an empty water bottle with you to the airport, and it would be best to use an aluminium water bottle or similar. You will have to empty it before you go through customs, however, on the other side, you will generally find water fountains where you can refill and keep hydrated for free.
Who wants to pay around $4 on average for a bottle of water when the tap water in many countries and airports is perfectly fine? Most US and Australian airports have free bottle refilling stations, and more than half of UK airports have them, including all the major airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester and Edinburgh).
In many airports across Asia, you’ll find a free water filling station that offers both hot and cold water. The option to pour either hot or cold water from the free water dispenser is ideal if you want to fill a thermos or Keepcup to have hot tea on your flight or just enjoy while you are waiting in the lounge to board your flight. Bring some tea bags or coffee tea bags from home and avoid paying $5 for a cup of bad tea or coffee on the plane.
4. Best value food to buy at airports
There will commonly be a convenience store located inside the airport which has things like pre-packed sandwiches or wraps. This is probably the cheapest option to buy something that is filling, yet won’t set you back lots of cash. In many UK airports, look for a store called Boots. They offer great value meal deals for around $6–$7. This includes a pre-packed sandwich or wrap, a drink of your choice and a small snack.
In European airports, the best option is to buy a freshly made baguette or panini from a small café to take on the plane. You can always find cheap pastries, such as a croissant or danish to snack on later on. Enjoy that with your own tea from home.
Photo credit: Transport Pixels on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA
Some airports such as Schiphol in Amsterdam have a whole little supermarket inside. How fantastic is that? The Dutch always seem to be one step ahead of the game. If find yourself at Heathrow Airport, the best option is a store called Pret-a-Manger. They make fresh sandwiches, soups, toasties, wraps and salads all day – and they’re delicious. If you’re travelling to Gatwick Airport, again, the best option is Pret-a-Manger, Jamie’s bakery (cheap and filling) or Wagamama if you’re craving some Japanese inspired food-eat in or take away.
Photo credit: garryknight on Visual Hunt / CC BY
5. Take advantage of the in-flight hot water
Either way, once you’re on the plane, ask the flight attendant for some hot water. Hot water is also your friend if you’re in the mood for breakfast — just bring along a few packets of instant oatmeal. Mix in some dried fruit such as figs, dates or apricots and you’ve got yourself a hot, filling and nutritious free meal.
Save on Food While Traveling – 11 ways to save on vacation food
Food and drinks can be some of the most expensive aspects of your vacation depending on your destination.
When money is tight we seem to let go of the food expenses to make your budget extend.
But what if I told you that you can still eat and drink well on vacation without spending a fortune?
Keep reading because in this post I am going to give you my top 10 tips to save money on vacation and to spend less on food and drinks when traveling.
How can I save on food while traveling?
Here are a few great tips to help you save money on food while traveling.
1. Food to pack for vacation
Before you go on a vacation why not head to your warehouse store and buy some food that travels well in a cooler (or even without one) such as fruits, granola bars, nuts or other snacks in bulk?
You will save heaps because snacks on tourist destinations can be a lot more expensive.
I always bring a reusable water bottle for each person of my family too. We check that the water is safe for drinking in accommodation and we save during the day as we don’t need to stop to buy water or soda.
When going on a staycation by car I also like to take bread and a jar of peanut butter. They are perfect foods to eat while traveling in a car. I can make sandwiches very easily and they will hold up well no matter what the weather.
Have a backpack to carry the snacks and water in. I love our thermo backpack where I can add my drink bottle and snacks each morning plus my other travel essentials such as documents, money and telephone.
2. Do your own cooking
Depending on where you are staying you might have access to a fully operational kitchen so you can cook your own meals.
If you get your supplies from a local store and cook your own food this is most likely going to be cheaper than eating on a restaurant.
But if you can’t have a kitchen then at least choose a room with a refrigerator and microwave access. Plan to shop for the basics when you get there, such as milk and cereal, if you have small children.
The same regarding drinks, anything that you can stock up from a grocery store in your accommodation will be cheaper than buying it on a bar or food establishment.
Stock up on snacks too from home. There are plenty of food that travel well even without a refrigerator, such as fruits, bars and canned food, which is very handy to have if you are going on a road trip.
If you are going overseas than bringing your own food is not normally an option that will last you your entire vacation but you can still bring reusable water bottles and save on drinks.
If you have any allergies, intolerance or diet restrictions then you know chances to get your desired meals are small. Here you can find great vegan road trip snacks that you can prepare easily on vacation.
3. Have a vacation food budget
When planning your trip, investigate prices before you go and research the area you will be staying in.
Check out the restaurants to see the price of the entrees and kids’ meals. That will be a big saving.
Also see if there is anything special going on at the time you will be there, like a food or drink festival week or event, when you can eat and drink for less.
According to this basic guideline you should estimate a vacation food budget of $60 per day per adult and a bit less for children.
4. Choose an accommodation that includes meals
Depending on your package deal your accommodation may include meals.
For example, many of the hotel chains offer the option to include a hot breakfast. Although these are not always the cheapest option available for breakfast you can still eat super well in the morning so that can hold on for many hours and perhaps skip a lunch or substitute it for a cheap snack.
In many cases, you can also make your own sandwiches or pack lunch from your breakfast meal and take with you for lunch. Most places won’t mind it but just don’t abuse the service and be too obvious about it. All you would need to worry about then would be your dinner and snacks.
Other holiday packages, such as all-inclusive hotels and resorts, will include all meals. Obviously you will save money on food while staying at hotels with this arrangement. Be sure not to miss out on this and schedule your tour trips in between meals so you can make the most of this service.
5. Go for lunch
If you like to sleep in and have a late start of the day during your vacation then this can be a money saver too. Just simple go for larger meal for lunch and snack something light for dinner.
Often the lunch menu is often the same food as dinner in most establishments, or just a variation of it, but far cheaper. So indulge during lunch time and save at night.
6. Choose weeknights instead of weekends to eat out
If you want to have a mix of eating out and in to stretch your budget this is a good handy tip.
Many establishments offer a special deals on certain weekdays to entice more people to come out to dine when they have slow nights, so make the most of them.
7. A bit of everything
You can get a good taste of everything if you mix it up between fast food establishments, casual restaurants, and fancy sit down restaurants.
Sometimes we want to taste what a destination has to offer best and that is normally a little over the budget but if you save ahead you can balance your expenses out keep on your budget.
This is great way to prevent boredom, try something different and feel like you are getting the most out of your holidays.
8. Eat at early bird hours
In the same light of the above tip you can also find great value on early meal times or happy hour when restaurants are not at their most busy times.
9. Buffets can be great value
These can offer great value but do check ahead if they charge the same for kids if you are traveling with your family, because sometimes it might not be a good deal for you depending on the age of your kids and how much they eat.
But buffets are a great way to taste everything available and specially if you have a big appetite. Normally you will find a variety of food that will please everyone in the family.
10. Ask the locals for recommendations
Most locals will be happy to help you with their favorite cheap and delicious places to visit, a great opportunity to try local food too.
The hotel staff or people who live in the area will usually know what’s good, at a good price. You can end up discovering some fantastic meals for great prices.
11. Avoid fancy cocktails
Cocktails are an expensive drink in pretty much every vacation you will go.
If you do have to have a drink, steer clear of fancy cocktails, and go for beer or local wine. Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you have to keep costs down and avoid intoxication.
It is important to stay hydrated, so be sure to drink loads of water but if you want a different taste order one soda and divide it into the water glasses. You will get the taste without all the sugar and calories. This is a great tip for traveling with kids.
In short, there is a variety of ways that you can save during your vacation and saving on food means that you can enjoy other experiences while traveling.
What is your favorite way to save during your trips? let me know in comments below.
Other vacation budget articles here:
Why you should always have travel insurance
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How to save money on travel food
Family off Duty
A family that loves traveling, exploring, learning from locals and new cultures. We share our best travel tips, family vacation itineraries, adventurous stories and travel photography to inspire you to make your family travel dream a reality.