Dining Made Easy: 10 Tips to Save Money on Your Family Vacation
Lunch prices are 20 to 30 percent less than dinner prices in most places, according to Tim Zagat, founder and publisher of Zagat Survey. While diners are less likely to order cocktails when dining with their families, they are even less likely to order them at lunch.
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To save money, diners can order takeout and have a picnic.
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Many restaurants serve hearty portions, so Zagat suggests that the adults order meals and share the excessively large meals with the children. If there isn’t enough food, "You can always order more," notes Zagat.
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Diners who choose to go out on the weekends, which is prime time, are going to pay more, just like travelers who go to destinations in-season. For example, those who head to the Hamptons on the weekends in the summer or to Saratoga Springs for horseracing, will pay more during those times.
Savvy travelers who save these trips for the off-season are treated to much lower prices. If you must travel in-season, dine at places near the hot spots, suggests Zagat, who notes that Long Island has plenty of great restaurants that could be good alternatives to the Hamptons’ hot spots.
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Try to plan your dining out based on the calendar. Avoid Thursdays through Sundays, when dish prices tend to be higher. Zagat recommends booking a table for the beginning of the week.
Navigating a menu is one thing; avoiding the hidden costs is another. Asking for extra items like mushrooms or cheese and adding items like side dishes can cause the bill to add up.
"Be careful of all the extras. They add up," said Zagat. That includes alcohol — alcoholic beverages can add up to $15 per glass to the bill.
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Seek out guidebooks, websites, and others for recommendations on where to eat and find the best deals. The best values for families tend to be restaurants that serve regional and comfort food.
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When the server introduces the specials or makes suggestions, don’t be embarrassed to ask how much it costs.
"You should be embarrassed not to ask," said Zagat.
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The tip should be based on the net pretax price, according to Zagat, who suggests tipping 15 to 16 percent, which could save diners 10 percent.
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As Zagat suggested in tip three, skipping the kids' menu and not ordering separate children’s meals can help parents save money while usually providing enough food for the family to enjoy. Zagat notes that children’s portions are typically small and not always healthy. For restaurants that offer deals where children eat free, Zagat notes that if you follow the advice to share the adult portion with the child, then the child does, indeed, eat free.
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