Depending on your dining habits the cost of eating and drinking can be either the major expense of your vacation or a small percentage of overall costs. If you are anything like me, chances are it’s the former. After all, I love my food and on vacation that love gets cranked up to eleven. The problem is, there can be a massive price tag that comes along with being a food lover.
Boasting nearly 200 restaurants on the island if you aren’t careful the need to try something everywhere can get you into trouble. So what I have done is made a list of some of my top ways to cut costs on food in some places so you have more to spend in others.
Prepare your meals at your timeshare or rental
In Aruba, we rent a villa or condo for our stay. One of the major draws in doing this is having a full kitchen at our disposal. I would say I use the kitchen for some meal every single day of the vacation. Whether it’s whipping up a quick breakfast to start the day, preparing lunches for a trip to the backside of the island or the occasional dinner in, our kitchen gets plenty of use. Those of you who rent timeshares also have that very same advantage. Being that Aruba is more of a timeshare island than a hotel destination, most visitors have the ability to use the kitchen they are already paying to have to save money on food.
Make Happy Hour your favorite time of day
When I am vacationing, drinks play an important role in the overall experience. Luckily for me, in Aruba, during the late afternoon and early evening hours you can’t throw a stone without hitting a great happy hour special. 2 for 1 drinks and special happy hour menus abound. One of my favorite happy hour gimmicks is when they run specials where you can pay the Florin cost rather than the dollar price. For instance, a drink is listed for 8 dollars on a menu but instead, a special is being run where you pay 8 florins instead. Since 8 florin equates to roughly 4.50 it’s obviously a fantastic deal. The best part is when that deal is being run it usually isn’t limited to a special section of the menu. By choosing the right happy hour you can say a ton of money on drinks.
Eat local because it’s not only cheap but cool
Eating along the main Palm Beach strip is expensive. But you know what isn’t expensive? Heading inland a bit or anywhere out of the hotel zone and dining on some authentic Arubian cuisine. We all have our favorite tourist traps to dine. However, eating at that restaurant that looks as if it’s been transplanted directly from… insert your favorite city… does come at a price. So does eating at a restaurant that looks like it doubles as someone’s house, but the price there is a lot lower. I really like eating local because the smells and flavors just seem so authentic. A steakhouse or Italian restaurant usually looks and smells like something I can visit 10 minutes from my home. When I go to an authentic Aruban place it looks and smells like something I can only get on the island… and that’s cool.
Drink the tap water you aren’t in Mexico
We all know that Aruba has some of the best drinking water on the planet. The desalinization process the island uses is state of the art and it shows in the product produced. That’s why I never will understand why they ask if I want bottled water in a restaurant. No! Just give me the stuff that comes out of the tap as it’s just as good… and free.
Leftovers! Nuff said
One thing I love about even the touristy places in Aruba is portion size. On the island, restaurants tend to serve portions that range anywhere from plenty to oh my god, you expect me to eat that. In other words, there will be plenty of times where you are taking home leftovers. For me, leftovers make the best lunches. We usually beach hop during the day so when we go to make the switch from Manchebo beach to Arashi, stopping by the villa to reheat last night’s dinner makes perfect sense. Honestly, when you think about it, with the price you pay at some of these restaurants you should be getting two meals out of it anyway.
BYOFWBE (Bring your own flask, water bottle, Bubba keg, etc.
We’ve all heard of BYOB but how many of you know that BYOFWBE means bring your own Flask, Water bottle, Bubba Keg, etc.? When you visit Aruba, if you aren’t bringing down booze from home or hitting the duty free before leaving the airport, you aren’t doing it right. By having a supply of your own alcohol you are able to have uber cheap drinks by the pool. This is also a great way to combat weak drinks. Although it’s been my experience that Aruba bartenders are usually on the heavy-handed side when it comes to pouring, occasionally you will encounter a drink that just isn’t up to snuff. If you have a supply of your own hooch at the ready… problem solved.
Food trucks are like restaurants but on Wheels
When I say food truck, some of you will turn your nose up. Perfectly understandable since a huge percentage of people have images of the old school construction site roach coach serving god knows what to hungry welders. Well, this isn’t the 80’s and food trucks have really raised their game. These days food trucks are out there serving restaurant quality food but at a great discount. In fact, in the restaurant industry margins are so thin that many great restaurants are starting out as food trucks. Then once the concept is proven and there are coins in the coffer a more permanent location is found. A classic on island example would be the El Mexicano food truck giving birth to Chihuahua’s, the best Mexican Restaurant on the island. So the next time you see a food truck that looks interesting go ahead and give it a go. That line of locals isn’t wrong.
Don’t eat when you aren’t hungry
We’ve all been guilty of ordering dessert because there is something on the menu we decided we wanted as soon as we sat down. Then by the time you get to the end of the meal, you are stuffed but made a promise to yourself that you’d try the Nutella cheesecake. So you order the dessert, absolutely love it (the one bite you had), but can’t eat it. It’s a complete waste of money and now you have to make a special trip back to the rental to put it in the fridge. I’ve also been guilty of ordering when I wasn’t hungry while meeting friends for drinks. Someone orders nachos, then someone else orders wings and the next thing you know you are stuffing the last bite of a burger you never wanted into your mouth. Complete waste of not only money but precious calories that could have been allocated to more beer.
Know who includes the 15% surcharge
Let’s be honest, the service charge some restaurants charge sucks. Being an adult I am perfectly capable of determining how much above the price of the food I should give the staff. Even worse is those restaurants that don’t make it easily apparent they automatically add 15 percent. On more than one occasion I ended up tipping my regular amount on top of the 15 percent due to not reading the small print on the menu. Now I have never received bad service in a restaurant in Aruba, that being said I’ve also never been catered to at a level that deserved me paying 40 percent more than the cost of the food.
I’ve listed only 9 tips because I wanted to give you guys a chance to supply tip number 10. I’m curious. What is your best food-centric tip for saving money in Aruba?