How to Eat Healthy (On a Budget) While Traveling All Posts / Clean Eating / Wellness

I recently went on a (frugal) road trip with friends and had a blast.  It had been seven years since my last road trip with friends, so I was really excited for this one.  As a frugal person who is trying to pay off over $100,000 of student loan debt in three years, I don’t travel very often.  But my hubby has friends and family who live in Iowa, and Iowa is a super cheap travel spot, so we decided to take a mini-vacation.  I knew we wouldn’t spend too much on the hotel or entertainment.  I love how cheap everything is in a small town!  But I was concerned about how much I would spend on food.

A few months ago, I made a commitment to lose 50 pounds.  I started eating a whole-food, vegan diet and exercising daily.  I’ve lost 25 pounds so far!  I was worried about how I would eat healthy (on a tight budget) while on this trip. But I managed to do it!

Here are five tips for how to stick with a diet on a frugal vacation.

Bring a cooler and pack snacks.

Pack a cooler full of fruit and veggies.  Also, bring nuts, dried fruit, and other healthy snacks along so you won’t be tempted to indulge in junk or fast food.  It’s too easy to eat junk if you’re hungry and have no other options.

Buy groceries and make meals at the hotel.

Buy some groceries and make meals at the hotel (if you have a stove or microwave in your room).  This will be cheaper than eating out and it’s healthier.  Win-win!

Find “healthier” fast food.

Many fast food chains offer “healthier” options.  Jimmy John’s has a lettuce wrap “unwich” on its menu, Subway has salads, and Chipotle offers veggie/rice bowls.

Sure, fast food still isn’t healthy, but a salad or veggie bowl definitely beats a burger and fries!

During our trip, we went to the Iowa state fair, which is about the worst place you can go when you’re trying to eat healthy.  There was deep fried food on a stick everywhere, and it took quite a bit of effort to track down the healthier options.  But I did manage to find a frozen banana on a stick and a veggie wrap!  If you can find healthy(ish) options at a state fair, you can find them just about anywhere.


Cheat if you want – but don’t go too crazy.

My favorite restaurant in Iowa makes the most amazing chicken Caesar salad wraps.  I’ve been eating a vegan diet for a few months now, but these wraps are too delicious to pass up (and I only have them about once a year)!  On our recent trip, I got a Caesar wrap but I paired it with a baked potato (no butter) instead of French fries.  Don’t go “all out” with cheating.  Make sure to include some healthy items in your meal.

I’ve always liked this quote:



Explain to your friends what you plan on doing.

This one is important!  Talk to your friends or family members (or whoever you’re traveling with) beforehand.  Let them know that you are on a diet and are going to stick with it even on vacation.  Tell them that their support matters to you and ask them not to pressure you to eat junk food.  Make sure to mention that you can be flexible, you’ll bring your own snacks, and you’ll do your best to find restaurants that EVERYONE will like.


  1. Great tips! I love the dropped phone analogy! I will remember that one for future reference.

    Some of my weight watchers “tips” or slogans are as follows: “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” That’s my favorite one.

    If I have a real craving for something, I wait 20 minutes. It usually goes away. If not, you’re supposed to go ahead and have a reasonable amount of the craving.

    If you’re wanting something you probably don’t really need, its just a craving, go brush your teeth. You’re less likely to eat it with a freshly brushed set of teeth!

    If you’re going out to eat a restaurant with a bunch of friends and you don’t know what will be on the menu and you’re afraid you will not get enough food to eat if it turns out the menu is horrible for your diet, eat an apple and drink a big glass of water right before you leave for the restaurant so you will feel fuller, just in case.

    • I like that idea for eating an apple before going to a restaurant! I also like to check out the menu online in advance.

      I’ve found that when I stop eating something for awhile, the cravings start to go away. I think chocolate is the one thing that took the longest. I stopped eating it months ago (except for that chocolate covered banana in the photo) and don’t really crave it anymore. My friend said that when you drastically change your diet, your taste buds start to change and you eventually crave healthy food. I didn’t believe her at first, but I have actually found that to be true.

  2. These are great tips, and ones I follow when traveling as well! Packing healthy snacks in a cooler and going grocery shopping is a must. Congrats on losing 25 pounds already!

  3. I’m glad you had fun on your trip and managed to save some money while doing so. Also, glad that you managed to lose some pounds and are going for healthier life choices.

    What stood out most for me in this article was that that even though I do occasionally go to fast foods, there are “healthier” options in these fast food places that I should try. For example, the veggie bowls at chipotle or salad options are either mcdonalds or wendys, etc.

    • Thanks Gilbert! It’s surprising how many fast food places have some “healthier” options. When I first started eating a vegan diet, I didn’t think I would be able to find anything at Jimmy John’s. But then I found out they have a lettuce wrap veggie “unwich”. I thought it would be hard to find anything vegan at restaurants or fast food places, but it’s not as hard as I expected.

  4. Thank you for the tips. My wife and I decided we wanted to eat healthier and still be frugal we started looking at portion size. We found that we were overeating and not knowing it. Most people don’t know what one serving is.

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