Sites such as Group On (groupon.com) have daily deals (sent via email alerts) on best deals of the day – customized for the city you're visiting.
How to do it: Register on groupon.com and check your city of choice. Another similar site is Living Social (livingsocial.com), which includes spas, shopping deals, theatre tickets and more.
2. Eat with the locals.
Enjoying local cuisine with a family in their home is becoming increasing popular. It's not a B&B – you're just coming by for dinner. The prices are reasonable and you'll leave with a full belly and lots of memories.
One site that has received lots of praise is Home Food Italy (homefood.it). If you're shy about sitting down with a local family, check out community church suppers, such as Saint Ann's Church Lobster Suppers in Prince Edward Island (lobstersuppers.com). You'll never get lobster at these prices back home! Added bonus: You get to rub elbows with local citizens.
How to do it: Ask at your local tourist office or do a quick web search in advance of your visit. Asking the proprietor of a small hotel or inn is always a good way of finding the best local, non-restaurant meal.
3. Have lunch – not dinner – at fine restaurants.
Most restaurants offer lunch specials that are much less expensive than those on the dinner menu, but the quality and culinary skills are just as exceptional. Treating yourself is part of any family vacation. You'll get to dine at a Michelin-star restaurant mid-day, and then you can have a modest take-away that night for dinner.
How to do it: Simply peruse travel guides and epicurean blogs for the best tips, or visit a serious foodie site such as Michelin Guide (michelinguide.com).
4. Dine outside the main tourist areas.
Food in neighbourhoods outside the tourist sectors frequently costs half as much – and can be twice as good!
How to do it: Ask the locals. If you're out for coffee, or just wandering, simply ask a server or storeowner, "Where would you suggest?" Local food bloggers will have lots of suggestions. But the key is simple: get outside the tourist centre.
5. Fill your tummy at a cooking class.
I've signed up for half- and full-day cooking classes in New York, Vietnam, Cambodia and India, and have always come away stuffed and boasting new culinary skills, a half-dozen recipes, and an amazing cultural experience. The price is certainly less than eating at an upscale restaurant and you get the cultural activity and meal all in one.
How to do it: Ask at the local tourist office – or at a small inn or B&B. They always seem to have a handle on a local citizen who conducts "real" cooking classes in her home. I enjoyed one in India recently that was attended by adults and teenagers, so it's definitely a family-friendly affair.
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