Dining Made Easy: 10 Tips to Save Money on Your Family Vacation

Tim Zagat, founder and publisher of Zagat Survey, shares his money-saving dining tips

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Tim Zagat shares his money-saving dining tips.

Travelers looking to save money on travel can save on dining without sacrificing quality. Tim Zagat, the founder and publisher of Zagat Survey, shares with discerning diners his money-saving dining tips.

See Dining Made Easy: 10 Tips to Save Money on Your Family Vacation Slideshow

From ordering takeout and skipping the children’s menu to opting for a lunch out instead of dinner, Zagat offers insight into how to save big while on the road.

Though the number of meals eaten out and taken out in the U.S. has decreased from 52 percent pre-recession to 45 percent, the average meal cost has only increased less than 1 percent, according to Zagat’s 2012 America’s Top Restaurants Survey.

This year’s survey covered 1,578 of the U.S.’s top restaurants in 45 markets and was voted on by more than 156,000 diners who dined out an estimated 25 million times in the past year, or roughly 3.1 times per week.

The average price of a meal in the U.S. is $35.65, which includes a soft drink, tax, and tip, according to the annual survey. The most expensive city for dining is Las Vegas, at $47.53 per meal, and New Orleans, at $28.36 per meal. These tabs pale in comparison to the average price in London, which is $69.25, and Tokyo, which is $113.09, when factoring in exchange rates from September 2011.

For those with children, Zagat suggests skipping American and French formal restaurants and paying attention to what children like. Zagat suggests opting for local eateries that offer flavors and ingredients you can’t get elsewhere, like po’boys and Creole cuisine in New Orleans, crab shacks in New England, and family dining restaurants in Houston. Restaurants that serve family-style meals are also ideal dining spots, notes Zagat.

"Look for food you can’t get elsewhere," said Zagat of where to find the great deals. Try a Vietnamese restaurant in Houston or a Chinese dim sum restaurant, deli, or pizza parlor in the outer boroughs of Manhattan.

Lauren Mack is the Travel Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.


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