10 clever ways to get free food when traveling

Food costs can add up when you're traveling. Here's how you can save.

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Going on a vacation is always exciting, but if you’re on a budget, it can be stressful to figure out how you’re going to afford three meals a day on top of all of your other travel costs. Food can add up, but everyone’s got to eat. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can save money on food when traveling, and if you’re really clever, you can find ways to not pay for food at all.

Here are 10 totally legit ways to get free food when traveling:

1. Attend An Event

There are plenty of free events happening every day that offer food to those attending. Think hors d’oeuvres at an art gallery opening, or appetizers at an open house. Check websites such as Time Out to find free events in whatever city you’re in.

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2. Use An App To Find Leftovers

Apps like Leftover Swap help match you with people who have leftover food they want to give away to reduce food waste. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re down to reap the benefits of someone’s leftover meal, give it a whirl. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

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3. Look For Coupons

Coupons are not only great for discounts, but they can help you get free food too. You can search online, as well as in local newspapers and magazines, which often have coupons for free appetizers or buy-one-get-one-free deals.

coupons photo
Flickr | ePublicist

4. Load Up On Hotel Freebies

If you’re staying at a hotel, you can save money by booking one that has breakfast included. Utilize this spread as much as you can, by bringing slipping bread, bananas, nuts and more into your bag for later-in-the-day snacking. Many hotels also often offer happy hours or cocktail hours with free food.

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5. Find A Donation-Based Restaurant

Some restaurants in certain cities offer “pay-what-you-want” meals, where you can get a lot by just giving one or two dollars. Many of these are local non-profits, but some are run by bigger chains, such as the Panera Bread Foundation.

donation jar photo
Flickr | Dave Dugdale

6. Eat Free Samples

Food fairs as well as farmer’s markets often have vendors who are liberal with samples. If you’re traveling domestically, you can also go to places like Costco and get free samples there.

food samples photo
Flickr | KOMUnews

7. Mention Special Occasions

Traveling for someone’s birthday or honeymoon? You’re in luck. Many restaurants offer freebies for special occasions. Here are some restaurants and stores that will give you free stuff on your birthday.

birthday photo
Flickr | psd

8. Check In On Yelp Or Foursquare

Use social media to your benefit by checking in on Yelp or Foursquare. Many restaurants offer free appetizers, drinks or desserts when you simply check in to their location.

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9. Do As The Freegans Do

This one’s controversial, but you can hit the dumpsters to look for food tossed by grocery stores or restaurants. Often these places throw their food away because it has passed the official expiration date, but many of these items are still in their original packaging, so you don’t have to worry as much about safety. Try this one at your own risk, though.

dumpster photo
Flickr | Fuzzy Gerdes

10. Join A Dinner Party

You can join a free diner party with locals using social networking sites such as Couchsurfing, or apps such as New Gusto or Food Host. Many of these parties are free, although some require a small stipend. Either way, you get to enjoy a cheap meal with locals in your area.

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[h/t: Smarter Travel]

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