My bride and I were listening to Ilyce R. Glink this past Sunday. Ilyce is an award-winning nationally-syndicated journalist who specializes in real estate and financial planning. She has her own show on Sundays and often times fills in for Clark Howard or Mike Kavanagh.
Ilyce was telling her listeners about a recent trip to Italy. She told how she, her husband, and two children sat down for lunch at a cafe and very quickly spent almost eighty dollars for a lunch of pizza and water. She said the bottled water (the only kind available) alone cost six or seven dollars per bottle.
My bride and I had a similar experience in Paris. I had a hot dog and French fries while she had a ham and cheese sandwich and a small salad. I drank a beer and she had a diet Coke. Our bill was close to eighty dollars. It truly was a shock to the system.
That was not our first meal in Paris, but it certainly was a wake-up call. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a small grocery store. There I found the same brand of beer I’d had at the sidewalk cafe, but instead of twenty dollars for a sixteen ounce glass, it was less than three dollars for a thirty ounce bottle.
Ilyce told how she and her family used the same approach for most of their remaining meals in Italy. They went to the markets and bought bread, meat, cheese, fruit, and beverages and dined just as well on much less money. No, they didn’t have waiters taking care of them, but they ate good healthy meals well within their budget.
My bride commented that we were just as smart as the financial expert. One of our favorite meals consisted of open faced sandwiches purchased at a bakery… washed down with bottled water purchased at a small grocery store – while sitting on a park bench watching the river boats pass by on the River Seine.
The photo at the top of this post was taken when we had a mini-family reunion in New Jersey back in 2006. Most of our meals were eaten at the beach house we rented. We took turns cooking and bought most of our food at the local grocery stores. However, for one meal, we did it up big! The Leeds Room at the Smithville Inn was named for one of our ancestors who was a frequent client at the original tavern. The Smithville Inn is within waling distance of Leeds Point.
When we vacationed back in my childhood days, we’d always rent a place that had a kitchen. One of our first stops was the grocery store where we’d stock up on everything we’d need for Mom to prepare good, healthy, inexpensive meals. During our two week stay (mostly in New Jersey, but sometimes on Lake Erie, and once in Maryland), Mom would be expected to take care of us just as she did at home. If we ate at a restaurant at all, it wouldn’t be more than once or twice during our stay. I never gave it a thought back then, but now I wish I could say, “Sorry, Mom.”
However, as I’ve pointed out in this article, you don’t have to cook all your meals in a rented house to reduce the cost of your vacation. There’s nothing wrong with cold cuts, cheese, fruit, bread, and maybe a bottle of wine, to make a pleasant and less expensive repast while visiting the exotic tourist attractions in any city throughout the world.
Let’s face it, that leaves more cash for other things.