Food is probably of the biggest expenses most people factor into their travel budgets. Sure, you can eat every meal at McDonald’s, but if you’re traveling abroad, you probably want to experience something of the local culture. Food is one of the best ways to do that. Whether you’ve got your eye on a Michelin starred restaurant, are a sucker for room service, or just want to binge on street food, you can do this cheaply. Here are 7 ways to eat for free while traveling:
1. Get Hotel Elite Status
Getting hotel elite status can help you eliminate most of food expenses while traveling. Elite members get free breakfast and, if they’re eligible for club lounge access, free meals throughout the day. Most of the food served in club lounges isn’t exactly “local fare” or what you’d travel thousands of miles to sample. But if you just want to save money on food, then the food in the hotel club lounge is a pretty good option. One of the best lounges I’ve ever been to was probably the Grand Hyatt Singapore Club Lounge. The lounge served breakfast, lunch and dinner. The buffet was always extensive and there was lots of great stuff to choose from. At the time of my stay, I got access to the lounge thanks to a Hyatt elite status challenge, which unfortunately no longer exists.
Some might wonder, “Why would you eat in the club lounge if you’re in Singapore?” We didn’t always eat in the lounge. Eating in Singapore is super cheap for starters, so we did make the rounds at the hawker stands. But some afternoons we were too tired after hours of sight-seeing, so being able to grab some snacks at the lounge was super convenient. It’s no longer possible to get status matched to Hyatt Diamond status, but you can still spend your way to elite status at Hilton, SPG, and Marriott/Ritz Carlton Rewards. That gives you a huge range of hotels where you can eat for free during your travels.
2. Stay at Hotels That Offers Free Dinner
Did you know that some hotels offer their guests free dinner? I learned this from Points With a Crew, who wrote a really great post about this. Homewood Suites by Hilton, Residence Inn, and Staybridge Suites are just a few of the hotel chains that offer guests free dinner. Most of these hotels are in the suburbs, where restaurants are limited to chains and drive-throughs. Thus, the food served at these hotels is probably a lot better in comparison. Being able to eat for free while staying at a suburban hotel is killing two birds with one stone, as far as I’m concerned.
3. Stay at Hotels With Free Mini Bars
No, you’re not going to be able to eat three meals a day from the mini bar. But if you book a hotel that offers this perk, you can at least save on snacks and drinks during your travel. Hotel chains like Andaz and Kimpton offer up free mini bars OR credits as a perk to all hotel guests. Again, you’re not going to get full (or nutritious food) out of the mini bar, but it is free and a great way to grab a snack. When you’re traveling, being able to grab food out of the mini bar free of charge saves you a trip to the convenience store. You also save a few bucks you can put towards other travel expenses.
4. Stock Up on Barclay Arrival Miles
I find room service to be generally terrible (except at the Nizuc Resort in Cancun), but some people love it and it can be convenient when you’re too exhausted from your travels to go out. Arrival Miles earned from the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard are great for covering room service charges. The Arrival card pays out 2 miles per $1 spent on everything, which is equal to 2% cash back. Travel redemptions qualify for a 5% rebate, though there is a $100 travel redemption minimum. Charging room service to your hotel bill is one way way to circumvent this. Regardless of whether you order room service or eat at a hotel restaurant, using Arrival Miles to cover the charges is a great way to eat for free while traveling.
5. UberEats Referral Program
If you find the thought of eating generic hotel food depressing, food delivery services like UberEats (referral code eats-uberpointchaser) are a great alternative. UberEats partners with local restaurants to deliver food in most major cities. Delivery charges range from $3 – $5 and you can choose from dozens of great local restaurants. I used UberEats in Chicago and New York when I wanted a quick meal but didn’t feel like walking anywhere to get food. What I like about it is that it’s THE solution to terrible room service. It’s often faster, you have a larger selection of food to choose from, and they partner with some really great local restaurants so you don’t feel like you’re eating generic food you could get pretty much anywhere else.
How does UberEats allow you to eat for free while traveling? They have a referral program much like Uber does. Sign-up for UberEats with a referral link (code: eats-uberpointchaser) and you’ll get $5 towards your first two orders. Refer a friend and after they place their first order, you’ll receive a $5 UberEats credit. Refer enough friends and you can essentially eliminate food from your travel budget altogether! Another huge advantage of using Uber Eats towards food purchases during your travels? The $200 Amex Platinum Uber credit can be applied towards UberEats!
6. PostMates Referral Program
PostMates is a food delivery service pretty much like UberEats. Except, UberEats has a better picture menu and customer service. But PostMates has a huge advantage over UberEats: New PostMates members receive $100 in delivery credits (code NXNHB) during their first week of membership. Note that this credit does not apply towards food purchases but delivery fees, which range from $3.99 – $7.99. That’s much better than two $5 Uber Eats credits, because PostMates delivery fees can really add up over a week. As an added bonus, PostMates allows users to leave tips on the app, which is great for people who don’t carry cash.
7. Eat24 Promo Codes
Eat24 is Yelp’s food delivery app. Eat24’s restaurant selection is generally smaller than UberEats or PostMates’. What bugs me about them is that Yelp has an icon on every restaurant page indicating that they delivery via Eat24. But when you click on that icon, you get directed to the App Store rather than the app, which you’ve already downloaded! And when you type the restaurant name into the Eat24 app, it doesn’t come up. Really, this is Yelp’s problem but I do wish the two apps were better connected. How does this relate to eating for free while traveling? Eat24 occasionally doles out $5 promo codes that existing users can take advantage of.
Other Food Delivery Services that Let You Eat Free While Traveling
There are lots of other food delivery services with referral programs that enable you to eat free while traveling. I’ve personally only used Grubhub and Delivery.com, but you might want to check them all out while you’re traveling. After all, a single referral credit doesn’t last forever, so being able to get one from multiple apps can go a long way in cutting down on food expenses.
- Seamless – $7 for new members
- GrubHub – Various promo codes
- DoorDash – $5 for new members (free delivery with Apple Pay on the first 3 orders in June)
- Delivery.com – $7 for new members
If there are any other food delivery services you think are worth recommending, please list them below and include your referral link. What are some of your tips for eating for free while traveling?
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