FamilyHip Travel Mama‘s 5 Tips for maximizing your food budget on vacation. Get more smart travel tips here.

You’ve booked your flight, the hotel has a room waiting for you, and you’re ready to head to your destination. What’s missing? Your budget for one of the most elusive elements of your travel costs—what you’re going to eat and drink when you get there. If you’re a family of four or more, chances are you’ll go out to eat, and those meals out can add up. Setting a daily food budget is often the most overlooked part of vacation planning and one of the biggest pitfalls to sticking to a travel budget.

What can you do to maximize your dining dollars on vacation? Here are five ways to cut costs for any destination:

1. Create a Pre-trip “Favorite Restaurants” List. Find out what restaurants are in the area you’ll be visiting and do some pre-trip research. Create a ‘favorites” list of local restaurants so you can make the most of your dining out experiences.

2. Book Hotels/Rentals with Resort Credits and/or Kitchens. Hotels that offer daily resort credits, free breakfast and other “extras” allow you to enjoy great food on property, while saving money. Another great way to make dining cheaper for your family is to rent a hotel suite, condo or rental property with a kitchen to offset the cost of restaurant dining on vacation.You could even have a bit of fun cooking with local flavors! Choosing a hotel that offers daily resort or dining credits, complimentary breakfast, or snacks at cocktail hour can help you save money on a few meals and splurge on others.

3. Ask Where The Locals Eat. Get the scoop on where the locals grab food.. By eating local, you get to better experience the culture of the destination whilesupporting small businesses and saving money at the same time. Eating at a local hangout is often much less expensive than restaurants that cater to tourists and you’ll have the opportunity to try special dishes unique to the area.

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4. Set a Budget + Splurge On A Few Meals. It’s called vacation for a reason! Take some stress out of your planning and spoil your family with a few special meals out. Set a budget for these meals and make reservations if it’s a popular restaurant. One great way to get the most out of your more expensive meals is to pick dining experiences that you can only have at your destination. Headed somewhere tropical? There’s nothing better than a sunset meal right on the beach. Immersed in a completely different culture? Choose a menu item that you just can’t find at home.

5. Shop For Discounts and Coupons in your Destination:  There are many resources you can use to find discounts and coupons on your vacation. One of the most helpful while traveling is Restaurant.com. The website not only helps you find deals at restaurants in the area you’ll be visiting, it also works great as a dining guide to help you discover great restaurants for your family.

How do you maximize your food budget on vacation? Share your tips in the comments below.

Anne Taylor Hartzell, a.k.a. Hip Travel Mama, is a nationally recognized family travel expert, inspiring the #welltraveledfamily. Follow @HipTravelMama on Twitter and Like Hip Travel Mama on Facebook.