Great Smoky Mountain - Eating Out

When you are on vacation you are on vacation, right? I venture to guess that NO ONE wants to cook while on vacation.  Therefore, your family will eat out most of the meals. For the budget conscious family this can be a deal breaker on whether or not you go on vacation this year. Below I have some tips to help you save money on food while on your family vacation:

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Gatlinburg TN
where the food is good but PRICEY!
  • Eat breakfast in your room - Make sure your lodging accommodations have a refrigerator in your room.  This can save you lots of money because you can keep breakfast foods in it. Better yet, if you can find an affordable hotel/motel that offers FREE breakfast stay there. As you leave for the day grab some non-perishable fruits and cereals to take with you that day to snack on. 
  • Join every restaurant club you can - Most chain restaurants have loyalty programs where they reward you for being a member with free food on your birthday. When you sign up for the club, state that your birthday is around the days you will be travelling. About 1 week prior to your "birthday" you will get free food that you can use while on the trip. 
  • Stay AWAY from the tourist spots for food - In Gatlinburg we quickly learned that if we ate on the main strip through town we would pay 2 to 3 times the cost of a meal off the main drag.  Eat where the locals eat.  Some of our favorites in Gatlinburg include Mountain Lodge Restaurant (our favorite with great lunch specials) & Hungry Bear BBQ. Both are locally owned and operated and serve good, reasonably priced food. We also enjoyed the Texas Roadhouse on the main strip but that was the ONLY restaurant we enjoyed on the main strip. 
  • The days you plan to hike, take a lunch - We stopped at Subway & picked up sandwiches for our hike before heading out each day.  You can also go to the grocery store and get beef jerky, bagels, nuts, or other non-perishable high protein foods to give you the energy to make it until dinner.  Make sure you take plenty of water to avoid dehydrating.\
  • If you have the option of eating out at lunch or dinner - CHOOSE LUNCH.  At sit down restaurants the cost of eating out increases by as much as 35% from lunch to dinner. Therefore if you are going to eat out at a sit down restaurant, CHOOSE LUNCH it's less expensive.
  • Drink water instead of sodas/tea - The average cost of a soda or tea in a restaurant today is $2.80 per glass.  For a family of 4 that is an additional $11.20 added to your meal price just for drinks.  If you drink alcoholic beverages you will spend even more! If you want to save money, opt for water.  If you do not like the taste of plain water ask for a lemon wedge to place in it. 
  • Do NOT order appetizers or desserts - In many sit down restaurants the cost of an appetizer is almost the same cost as a meal. Forgo the appetizer unless it is a meal for one of your family members. If you MUST get a dessert, share it with multiple people in your party.
  • Order kids meals for any members of your family - Fast food restaurants do not ask to see the child before handing you the kids meal.  If you don't need a full meal then order the kids meal at fast food restaurants.  Sit down restaurants tend to have strict guidelines on who can order from the kids meal. However, you can ask for a smaller portion and save money that way. 
  • Use coupons -  Go to the chamber of commerce (website or actual location) for the town you are visiting and ask for vacation booklets.  Often times there will be coupons for area restaurants. You can also find coupon books at area hotels too.