My Top 5 Eating Out Tips (@Home & Vacation)

Lets talk a bit about accommodations while on vacation, then we will get right back to the food!  If you are wavering between paying for a vacation rental or hotel, I suggest a rental.  I have found from online research that nice rentals from beach-side homes to inner city condominiums are usually cheaper or at least comparable to hotel/motel/resort accommodations.  And usually come with some of the same extras: pool, free WiFi, cable or satellite, free movie channels, local calls...You get the point.

Why does this come into play?  You can cook your dinners at the rental.  And by that I mean the evening meals (evening meals cost more at restaurants).  Also (non food related) if you have kids and/or babies you can put them to bed in a separate room!  With families it seems that hotels only REALLY provide a place to sleep, then you need to get out and about before someone gets hurt! ~ But let me get back to the eating part...

Here are some ideas for saving money while eating out @ Home & Vacation!
  1. Don't waste time on terrible food.  If you have a smart phone or laptop you can check the website or use an *app for Yelp and Urbanspoon to cross check restaurants, cafes, dives...For cost, rating, reviews, and distance!  Next, use Foodspotting to check the place you would like to eat at to see if they have pictures of their food.  Seeing how a plate of food looks will help you make your decision.  You can look at the picture and see if there's a nice presentation, large or small portions, if its what you thought it was...So now you have some top notch places to eat, you know how far away they are, what the prices are, and if you read the reviews you know what the specials are, what one dish everyone raves about, or what to steer clear from. * its easier if you have these apps on your phone.
  2. Eat LUNCH, not dinner at your favorite, must have, most expensive, gourmet places and restaurants that you must try.  Why?  Usually the portions and food are the same as DINNER only priced cheaper.  
  3. After eating lunch at most of the places you wanted to try, cook dinner at your rental property or order take-out from places with great food and great prices but no atmosphere and eat it somewhere else.  This cuts down on spending money by doing away with tips, lackluster service, bad atmosphere, or terrible ambiance. (Like maybe misbehaved children or obnoxious happy hour participants.) These things rob your joy, so immediately you feel your money was not well spent and the food was not "all that".
  4. Sign up with Groupon and Living Social for coupons that are usually 'half off' or more on restaurants in your area.  They email deals to you almost daily and you can change your location to see what may be coming up in your vacation spot!  And again, there are smart phone apps for these so you can use the 'coupon' right from your phone without printing anything out!
  5. Eat food off the Happy Hour Menu - Its cheaper!  The food is usually discounted (and drink specials) to bring in more customers.  To me its like ordering 'a la carte' for dinner. 
I am sure I have left out a lot of good advice, but those are my top five...Please include your own advice in the comments below!