Food is an important part of a family's travel budget. Here are some tips from our large families!
A word from the expert
Food makes up an important part of the budget, which can quickly become a sinkhole for large families. With children, you can be imaginative in order to save money, whether it is thanks to airport or hotel buffets, or by being clever in earning points for your groceries while travelling!Jean-Maximilien Voisine - Président-Fondateur de milesopedia
Eating while travelling
Every day, three times a day, excluding snacks… that’s several meals to budget for. For a family of five, that’s 210 meals over two weeks. For eight, it’s 336. And we can agree that the age of the children will have a big impact on the budget.
You know teenagers…
Buffets in airport lounges.
The airport lounges, which some credit cards offer access to, are a must for parents who maximize them, just to fill up bellies for free, especially those of teenagers in front of a buffet!
These lounges have been used many times during departures, stopovers and even arrivals, for example in Orlando on the way to Disney.
Depending on your subscription to lounges and the age of the children, the access may be free or counted towards the number of visits allowed. Read the fine print in the booklet that comes with your credit card! Otherwise, you risk paying the same price in cash or admission for an adult as you would for a four-year-old child.
Snack bags when travelling
Another solution to avoid buying food at airports is to prepare bags FILLED with snacks, or small dishes for the duration of the flight. On the way there and on the way back.
Each child receives a big bag, explains one mother, which contains a gold mine of snacks: small bag of “Gold fish”, bag of peanuts, cereals, cookies, ramen noodles, chips, a packet of gum, a chocolate bar, chewy bars, fruit bars, fruit compotes, muffins, etc.
They eat what is perishable first and of course they drag their water bottles to fill.
This allows children to manage their loot without the parents having to spend a fortune before boarding or during the flight.
Wet wipes must be included in the bag!
Breakfast at the hotel
Our best tip to save money for breakfast: choose hotels with breakfast included. For example, most of the Best Western chain include breakfast. This is also the case for Marriott Bonvoy with Residence Inn. Go eat breakfast later than you usually would.
Some families say they bring items from the breakfast buffet (e.g. cheese, fruit, muffin, chewy bar, bread and peanut butter/jelly) as afternoon snacks. Then all they have to do is plan an early dinner.
It should be noted, however, that several hotels have begun serving portions in large dishes to avoid this practice. For example, yogurt is in a large jar rather than in small containers, jams are served in bowls and juices in pitchers, etc. Of course, there will still be some options such as a fruit or a muffin, but they are scarcer than before.
Some chains like Marriott also offer hearty free breakfasts if you have the status to do so. Some bills easily exceed a hundred dollars when you are a family of five or more.
Finally, when breakfast is not included in the accommodation, our families buy the groceries the night before. The fridge in your room, although small, can be very useful.
Few families go to the restaurant for breakfast.
Some hotels also offer lounges where you can go, with your family, in the evening! It’s ideal for saving on dinner, since their buffets are often very well stocked!
These families are good at planning! Let’s see what they do at the restaurant.
If you must eat at a restaurant, then do it for lunch, as the menus are often cheaper.
Ordering two plates for three children is more than enough. You can even order three bigger meals for 6, and that’s plenty,
Avoid combos: try ordering a dozen hamburgers at the restaurant and then buying juice and side dishes at the grocery store. The family chicken meal offer is also well appreciated as well as two extra large pizzas for everyone.
Local Groupon offers are also worth checking out, as well as the websites for the restaurants you visit. It is even possible to find buffets where younger children can eat for free.
Cooking for yourself
Cooking for the family is a way to save money in itself that can be improved.
First of all, sign up for loyalty programs in the country’s grocery stores such as Leclercin France or Safeway in the United States, including Hawaii to take advantage of discounts. Don’t forget about Costco, when available.
Favour picnics on the road: buy bread, cheese, fruit, nuts at the grocery store, and go enjoy it in a park.
Depending on where the holiday takes place, you can compromise between cooking yourself on site and going to a restaurant:
- Stock up on deli or home-cooked meals such as shepherd’s pie or macaroni and cheese that are popular with the crowd;
- Get some cooking boxes delivered;
- For the parents, order boxes of ready-to-eat meals from chef Jérôme Ferrer, while the children eat their macaroni.
This trick is a funny one.
Try experimenting with mystery shoppers missions in restaurants at YUL, such as Rôtisseries St-Hubert, which allows you to save money and keep the children entertained, if they’re old enough to take the role of secret agent very seriously.
Kids see it as a game of observation:
- did the waitress say Bonjour first in English or French?
- Did she introduce herself?
- Did she offer a drink?
In short, the questions that the agency requires you to ask. Just subscribe to an agency like Lanla. The missions are personalized and you are free to accept them or not.
The clients to be investigated are diversified and adapted to your situation: restaurants, eyewear stores, pharmacies, senior citizens’ residences, etc.
One of our families got three “missions” at YUL last year for restaurants and parking.
A $25 allowance was paid to them after they ate and completed the online questionnaire within 48 hours. Parents filled it out with the children at the airport before boarding. Then they sent the picture of the invoice with the said questionnaire. They were then reimbursed.
Tip: Each parent requested this mission and they provided two separate invoices. They got $50 back.
They also did this for the parking at the airport with a $100 refund. Great savings!
The expert's opinion
When you’re travelling, there are many ways to save money when eating through loyalty programs (for hotels) and credit cards (to access airport lounges and earn more points at the grocery store)! And a saving that is often forgotten: the saving on conversion costs!Jean-Maximilien Voisine - Président-Fondateur de milesopedia
Being able to access airport lounges represents a significant savings right from the start. Some credit cards offer unlimited access for the cardholder and one guest: but for large families, this will require paying for each additional access. So the bill can add up quickly!
We can then use several credit cards in order to obtain many passes:
As Brigitte said, some hotels offer free breakfast. For others, it will be necessary to reach a high status in the loyalty program: Platinum or Titanium status at Marriott Bonvoy or Gold status and beyond for Hilton Honors.
Some credit cards allow you to earn 15 Elite Nights so you can progress more quickly to the next level, such as the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card.
Others offer the Marriott Bonvoy Gold status, which allows you, in some hotels, to get a room upgrade with access to the hotel’s lounge! This is the case with the Platinum Business Card from American Express for example.
But if you wish to have direct access to the free breakfasts, with the American Express Platinum Card® you can get the Hilton Honors Gold status. Enough to get a free breakfast in most Hilton hotels.
The grocery store
For groceries, we recommend having a credit card that earns more points for these expenses.
Abroad, the American Express Cobalt™ Card should be preferred: it is the only one to get 5 points per dollar at the grocery store, even outside of Canada! And even if it charges a foreign currency conversion fee (2.5%), you’re still winning.
Finally, if you are travelling abroad, get a credit card that does not charge a conversion fee for your foreign currency expenses.
In my opinion, the best choice is the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®: since it’s a Mastercard, it will be accepted everywhere in the world!
After accommodation and transportation, we thought about what tips we could give you with regards to food when travelling. We found some good tips, mixed in with some parental common sense. And they apply to all families, regardless of how many children they have.
You must admit that the mystery shopper missions can help you save, both for restaurants and activity-wise! Then the idea of taking advantage of lunch menus at the restaurant, subscribing to loyalty programs at local grocery stores and looking for the breakfasts included with the accommodation rounds it up nicely. .
They say there are no small savings.