Food – Choice or Chore

Countries that bank on tourism as a part of their economy, usually have a supporting gastronomy culture that peaks the interest of every tourist they attract.  Restaurants, food shops and entrepreneurial vendors abound to feed the weary traveler.  Besides exploring national sites and attractions, what to eat at the end of the day, in my opinion, is still the most pondered thought or question as you travel, whether in a group, or by yourself.  Vacationers from all walks of life want to know the answer to that question as they anticipate sinking their teeth into the delectable cuisines of their host country.  The more prolific the gastronomy culture the wider the variety of dishes offered.  A customized itinerary would not get into the meat and potatoes (no pun intended) of where one should dine or the foods one should try.  That is usually left to the discretion of the traveler.  However, itinerary planners like myself often recommend that clients have realistic expectations at their destination and be aware of the average price range of restaurants that will appeal to their dietary needs, and of course, suit their budget.

If you have chosen an all-inclusive resort where your meals from breakfast to dinner are prepared, or an ocean cruise where you can gorge throughout the day, then you need not worry about meal plans.  However, if you are traveling with your family, friends or solo, and your accommodation allows free access to their kitchen, you may want to seize the opportunity and utilize the resources to your advantage.  If you plan carefully, you will quickly realize how much better and healthier your dining choices can be for you and your family

Before leaving on a trip, you should actively research your meal options.  Know the ubiquitous and exotic foods of your place.  Learn the ingredients used to make the dish you might want to try especially if you have culinary objections, diet or religious restrictions.  The internet, guidebooks, restaurant’s and diner’s reviews are good places to start your search.  Social media is another excellent medium to source food information and can tell you what is: the latest rave, best and worse comments, photos, and how-to demonstrations.  Even if you are not a foodie-traveler, it is still wise to prep for a palatable experience before you begin your journey.  Hungry anyone?

Here are four sustenance means to choose from:


Fine Dining

Restaurants ($$, $$$) –  These fancy kitchens are run by talented trained chefs in the art of cookery.  Exquisite menu offerings oftentimes highlight items that challenges the English speaker’s ability to enunciate.  Plates of food look like they have been manipulated by a food design artist instead of cooked and tussled in a skillet or frying pan by a sous chef.  Dainty drops of green, red, yellow or orange spot the plate or maybe a lone streak of sauce stretch across an oversized plate, that at the center, sits the lone morsel.


Fine Dining

Depending on your deep pockets and thrill-seeking taste buds, you may choose to feast at a Michelin-star rated food establishment.  If so inclined, other eateries operated and/or owned by restauranteurs the likes of Alain Ducasse, Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck are worth visiting, even if only for the bragging rights.  Restaurants worth their salt in food preparation, presentation, and ambience seek to win you over with quality versus quantity.  You may walk away still hungry and lighter on the pocketbook, but who’s complaining?  It’s all about the experience and memory created.  You can talk about it for a long time, or write your own review on your blog page, etc.

Choosing to break bread nightly at a classy restaurant while on an extended holiday is not a sustainable option.  Apart from a few of us, it may turn out to be an extravagance you cannot afford.  At the end of the day, the choice would still be yours.

Fast food –  As a tourist, you might like the casual dining alternative of the more well-known places like the golden arches, the colonel, or some other easily recognizable western fast-food chain.  Moreover, others may be averse to trying new foods and finding familiar tasting foods may bring them a measure of homey comfort.  They crave a familiar taste and texture.  That being the case, some fast-food chains in foreign countries accommodate side orders that appeals to their nationals.  Nothing off-putting.  Examples: In Venezuela, McDonalds serves arepas as a side order in their meal; and in Canada the widely loved poutine.  This western franchise has connected with its base, all the while wooing the international clientele that is familiar with its staple fare and everybody is happy.

Street food – A vendor cart, food truck, or person with a coal-pot stand qualify for this category.  They set up anywhere and offer quick and easy, no-frills dining that complement the tourist on the go.  Not much expectation for a satisfying meal.  Just a stop-gap measure until a better meal can be obtained later in the day or evening.  These kinds of meals are never satisfying and certainly not a sought-after replacement to the daily meal because of its nutritional value or the lack thereof.

DIY Dining – This is my favorite and highly recommended option.  Food is a choice and not a chore.  Managing your own catering can be a pleasurable activity all by itself.  Seeking out places to shop for your food, challenging yourself to purchasing items within a fixed budget, getting creative with the menu and interacting with the people you meet in the markets and supermarkets are all positive benefits to your vacation.  When you cook for yourself/family you have no worries, no complaints (hopefully) and practically no downside other than the time you take to prepare and clean up after each meal.  Total prep, cook and clean up, if you are smart about it can be limited to less than an hour of your vacation time, two days in a week.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It is possible to eat an appetizing, healthy meal whilst on vacation, and save enough money to splurge on other things.  Planning is the key to solving those issues.  Here are some additional tips to help you:

  1. Research your location and know what fruits and vegetables are in season.
  2. Plan menus that are affordable, quick and easy to prepare in 30 – 40  minutes tops.
  3. Shop for your groceries.  Fresh is best.
  4. Cook meals in one pot and enough to last for two to three days.

If you follow this plan, you may be able to afford at least one or two nights of fine dining at a restaurant of your choosing.  You might ask, “What’s the point of a vacation if I can’t get away from the kitchen?”  My answer to that is simple.  You can pay attention now or pay expensively later; after all, the dining choice is yours.

Readers, what are some of your food challenges when you travel and how do you solve them?  Would you like to make a recommendation not mentioned in the post?  I’d be happy to include it in a follow-up post.  Thanks for reading.  Hope you learned a thing or two, and I look forward to hearing from you either in one of three ways: click follow, like or comment in the box below.  Keep it real folks.

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