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Post Per Diem Maximization; Healthy Inexpensive Eating While Traveling
Old 01-16-2018, 05:23 PM   #1
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Post Per Diem Maximization; Healthy Inexpensive Eating While Traveling

Here are my tips to max per diem and eat healthier on the road (not in any particular order):

1) Although it means skipping the per diem for breakfast, hotels with free breakfasts are great because I eat really well and donít need a big lunch. And I grab a piece of fruit on the way out for a snack later. I really like Hyatt Places, always reasonably priced and great breakfast.

2) Request a refrigerator in your room. It helps if you have a "medical condition" you can claim, but usually just a request will get you one without argument. I always call when I book and request.

3) Go to the grocery store and stock-up on snacks. I buy fresh vegetables, greek yogurt and some fruit. If itís a good store and I donít have lunch meetings, Iíll also build some salads at the salad bar for lunches.

4) The morning or evening before a trip, I go to Whole Foods and make myself a salad with tofu as the protein and salad dressing on the side. My theory is (and I havenít been proven wrong yet) that tofu can be out of the fridge a lot longer than meat (2 hours max for meat), so thatís a good protein choice. Then I walk that salad right through TSA and enjoy on the plane.

5) If the hotel doesnít have breakfast, high protein oatmeal packets make with coffee maker hot water and nuts works. Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Corner Bakery, and Chick fil a all have breakfast sandwiches that are pretty healthy and not very expensive if you want something like that.

6) Find the local hole-in-the-wall vs. the touristy places. People who travel with me often joke about my ability to find the most hole-in-the wall restaurant with killer food. I donít like Yelp as a company, but I have to admit they are great for this. For example, in San Franciscoís China Town, I found this bakery with amazing pork buns. A fellow customer had to translate for me, but I got 2 pork buns and a red bean bun for dinner for $6.

7) I pack kind bars, nuts, peanut butter and graham crackers with me for quick snacks. The peanut butter is also good on fruit I find at breakfast.

8) Request a room near the gym and take a water bottle. They almost always have filtered water in there, so I continually fill-up my bottle in there. Speaking of water, down as much as you can, especially on plane travel days.

9) Do a little recon before you go, what grocery stores are within walking distance? What restaurants are nearby that are healthy? This keeps me from making bad decisions when Iím starving. Even though Iím not vegetarian, I search for vegetarian friendly restaurants because they usually have great salads.

Iíd love to hear what others do as well!
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Old 01-16-2018, 08:18 PM   #2
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Not me, but hereís a YouTube playlist by a lady from Vancouver called Flo Lum. She and her family did a road trip across Canada last year in a Jeep outfitted with a fridge and an Instant Pot.
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Old 01-16-2018, 09:13 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Meadbh View Post
Super...I'll have to watch more of them......kinda reminded me of this couple, whom I met in Tsawwassen 20 years ago:

Still on the road 28 years later, Swiss couple attends Dubai Travellers Festival |
"Exit, pursued by a bear."

The Winter's Tale, William Shakespeare
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Old 01-17-2018, 07:42 AM   #4
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I was a road warrior for several years before retiring. Long work days, heavy travel and a lack of focus resulted in my weight creeping from ~160 to ~200. In 2014, I adopted a similar approach as OP to eating on the road. I tried to stay at hotels with a full kitchen when possible. Minimum requirement was a fridge and a microwave (except Europe - often not available). By eating healthy and adding a modest fitness routine (walking and calisthenics), I got back to below 160 and have kept it there. An added bonus when I was working was the extra free time, as I didn't have to go out for dinner. My leadership team was happy as well - - - my spending for meals collapsed by 75% (and my grocery bills always included a couple bottles of decent wine). Now, six (+) months into retirement, I'm maintaining my weight, walking a lot, but having to pay for my wine. Okay, actually more like this.
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Old 01-17-2018, 07:56 AM   #5
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I once took a position that required a lot of travel. Another woman, also about my age (late 50s at the time) confided that she'd gained 20 lbs. since she'd started. I was determined that wouldn't happen, and it didn't. I used many of the same tactics you did- the hotel where I stayed in Westchester was close to Whole Foods, with a great salad/hot foods bar. My London-based boss couldn't believe how low some of my costs were. Most of the time I enjoyed settling into a quiet hotel room at the end of a hectic workday.

There were still group restaurant meals, of course. I almost never had dessert- I just enjoyed the last of my wine. I ordered steamed or other minimally-sauced vegetables with my entree. (Once, in a high-end steakhouse in Westchester, I had a sliced beefsteak tomato. It was $10.) I got to the gym or the pool first thing in the morning. I hated early AM workouts but sure didn't want to work out at 9:30 PM after a long dinner.

And I didn't gain weight!

I pretty much use the same tactics now that I'm traveling alone for pleasure, with fewer restaurant meals. Subway is my go-to stop on road trips.
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Old 01-17-2018, 12:27 PM   #6
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Since I was located in 1 city for months at time, with weekly fly in/out , I would rent a hotel with kitchen the first week.
Then I'd rent a room in a house for $500/mo with kitchen and laundry privileges, and live like a local. Saved a ton of per diem.
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Old 01-17-2018, 12:32 PM   #7
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I was lucky and never had to suffer per diem. Still had to "spend the Co's dough like it was my own" and I did. I slept in cheap hotels and ate really good food -

Now that I no longer have to be frugal I stay at expensive hotels and eat magnificent food!
Retired at 59 in 2014. Should have done it sooner but I worried too much.
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Old 01-17-2018, 12:47 PM   #8
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In Europe we often go into a small grocery or deli. They will make a great, fresh sandwich. We buy a litre of orange juice or beer. In North America we often go into a large grocery to buy a pre made salad for lunch or some fruit.

Then we go and sit in the square, on the steps of a church, whatever to people watch and see the world go by.
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Old 01-27-2018, 06:23 AM   #9
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We are travelling in Thailand.

This morning we bought a pinapple and had that for breakfast. It was wonderful. Already bought another one for tomorrow's breakfast. $ 1.25 each for a big one. That, plus coffee on our deck.
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Old 01-30-2018, 10:08 AM   #10
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My brother and I are both currently on the road for work at the same site (we work for the same company). He's been here for over a year (1 month extensions every month..), I'm scheduled to be here for 2 months.

He has a truck with trailer he keeps stuff in (like his motorcycle etc). Part of his "travel stuff" is a small grill that we use on the back of his truck, a small propane smoker, a crock pot, and an electric pan with lid. We're grilling chicken, pork, etc that we get from the grocery store and pairing it with sides such as potatoes (diced and seasoned along with some onions and/or green peppers), canned or fresh vegetables, etc. Grill 2-4 meals for each of at a time and then portion them out, eat dinner and put lunches in the mini-fridge. I keep fruit (apples etc) in the room for snacking and take some to site each day in case we get hungry during the morning or afternoon (working 10 hour days).

Hot breakfast is available at the hotel for free (HIE).

4 meals (two for each of us) runs around $8-16 for protein, another ~$2-4 in sides (depending on what we're having). That gets us to $10-20 for 4 meals on average. So we're eating 3 meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) for about $10/day. Not bad when we expense hotel costs and get $60/day flat rate for food/incidentals (plus get paid mileage for travel).

Granted, there's also upfront cost getting the equipment (grill etc) (not that pricey though). Plus the cost of propane or charcoal (propane smoker, charcoal grill) but that probably has averaged out to a dollar a week or less at this point.
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Old 02-01-2018, 12:59 AM   #11
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We are currently traveling in the Thai Andaman sea island-Koh Ngai, etc.

Our average spend is $90-$100 CAD per day. Meals, drinks, and accomodation. Nothing fancy. Just small beach front chalets. We eat Thai food since we like it so much. You will spend more for North American type food but it is not nearly as good or well prepared.
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budget, food, healthy, per diem, travel

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