Monday, May 7, 2012

Cheap Eats! How to chow down while traveling on a budget.

Green Tortoise Adventure Bus tours - gourmet food on a budget
Boston and San Francisco are bustling U.S. cities, each with a local charm and personality that escapes most highly populated metropolitan areas. Situated on harbors with chilly sea water, they have distinctive skylines and scenic bridges over bays, rivers, and deltas.

Unfortunately they both also have inexplicably high prices during this downturned economy.

So what do you do when you are traveling on a budget and want to chow down on some local food without emptying your bank account and selling off your luggage?

Cheap eats.  Many restaurant-bars run specials on weekdays -- an invitation to fill yourself with satisfying food and socialize with other patrons.  But while $2 Taco Tuesdays are a great bargain, beware of the temptation to wash them down with a couple of drinks.  Beer, wine, mixed drinks and sodas may be especially high priced to offset the food cost.  Plus you may end up spending more than you thought if those tacos are mere morsels that require a dozen to fill you.

A better option is to look further than the popular tourist areas.  Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco for example, is a must see, but eat before you go or you'll be subject to average food at above average prices.  A better bet is to visit "the mission" first where a number of locales serve burritos as big as your head for a fraction of what you'd pay on the waterfront.

Chinatown is another option -- numerous small restaurants offer amazing cuisine for just a few bucks.  Both Boston and San Francisco have a Chinatown, by the way.

If you have the time, seek out the restaurants near the colleges and universities.  Pricing and portion size will likely be scaled to fit the college-sized budget and appetite.  If your hostel or hotel has a refrigerator, save half your meal for the next day . . . unless you can eat it all on the spot, that is!  

As always a little research goes a long way.  Websites such as chowhound, Yelp, tripadvisor, and urbanspoon have numerous suggestions and reviews from users that have discovered food nirvana and want to share their knowledge.

If you don't have time to get online, try these local favorites:   Galleria Umberto (Hanover st North End, Boston) stuff yourself with divine pizza and other Italian specialties for under $5.

El Farolito (Mission district, San Francisco) for burritos as big as your head -- and other Mexican fare. 

Happy travels and Bon Apetit!

To get to Boston and San Francisco, check out our USA Expedition Cross-Country Adventure. See both coasts and everything in between on this trek across America! Happy travels ... and Bon Apetit!

Helpful Travel Tips -- Plan now to make your adventure go smoothly!

Green Tortoise Adventure Bus tours - Helpful Travel Tips
Traveling is an exciting and wondrous activity! Each day is filled with the opportunity to experience new surroundings, cultures, and people. It stimulates our minds and touches our hearts in ways that our every day life cannot.

But as with most things, there can be a downside. The logistical challenges of getting ready for your adventure can be overwhelming. This is especially true if you are combining destinations or if you are planning on participating in one or more activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking or hiking. While most outfitters provide gear rental, you will still need to pack some essential elements to make the most of your vacation.

The following are a few pointers to steer you in the right direction when faced with the daunting task of filling your empty suitcase with all the right things.
  1. Identify the area(s) that you are traveling to and do a quick weather pattern search on the internet. Is it likely to rain during the time of year you are going? Will the sun be high in the sky threatening sunburn? Will it be humid and will insects be an issue? Take the answers into consideration and set aside the appropriate gear to protect yourself from the environment you are forging into.
  2. Plan on filling your luggage last and making small "piles" of your things first.
  3. Your first pile should be items that you cannot live without on a daily basis. Medications, nutritional supplements, etc.
  4. Next up are items that you need, but can be purchased anywhere, eg toothpaste, lotion, and other toiletries. If you cannot buy these items where you are going, you'll have to put them in the "Can't live without" pile.
  5. In the third pile, you'll assemble your "can't do without" wardrobe. Start with the items that are absolutely necessary to endure the success/safety of the activities during (for example: rain gear, bathing suit, hikers, sun hat, etc).
  6. Your last pile will be your daily clothing. Choose items that are multi-use and can be worn in a variety of situations. A collared sun-protection shirt is a good example of this. It can be worn hiking as well as to dinner. And while jeans may be a standard dress item for you, consider bringing a lighter weight pair of pants that will dry fast, weigh less, and double as dinner wear for a night out. Apply these same multi-use principles to your footwear, too. For a longer trip try not to bring enough outfits for two weeks. Instead, pack for a week and plan on washing your clothes when needed.

Now that you have assembled your piles, it's time to start loading your luggage. You should have a scale handy to weigh your checked bag. Nobody wants to be the person on the floor at the airport re-organizing their life at the check-in counter. Weigh as you pack and allow 0.5 lbs for a variation in scale weight. If you are using older luggage or have overstuffed your bag, consider securing a strap around it to help the poor zippers hold in the contents. It's a small investment of your time that might prevent your bag from bursting during transit and spilling all of your things onto the conveyor belt at baggage claim. You also will want to place some identifier on the outside of your bag such as a brightly colored ribbon, some colored tape, etc. This will help you spot your luggage in the sea of black bags at the luggage carousel.

Hopefully these tips have broken down the daunting task of packing for an adventure trip into small, easy to manage sections. While packing for a trip still remains a chore, using these easy steps will ensure that your pre-trip preparations go more smoothly.

Travel safely and have a blast!