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Travelling on a budget? Bring your own food and drinks.

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Lisi Niesner/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A woman with a book sits on a bench at the departure area at the Fraport airport in Frankfurt in this November 2012 file photo. Snacks from home have the same advantages as a grocery store stop, but without wasting the travel time, Hamm writes.

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Whenever I leave my house and expect that the travel to my destination is going to take more than an hour or so, I pack snacks and beverages. It’s just part of my routine.

Usually, I fill up a water bottle and add a bit of lemon juice to it, and I’ll look in the pantry to see what we have on hand for snacks. My snack of choice on the road is usually unsalted nuts or a low-sodium trail mix (I actuallydislike foods with much salt in them).

I’ll grab these items, toss them in a canvas bag, and head to the car.

Why is this a part of my routine? It saves me money – a surprising amount of money, actually.

When I’m on the road for a while, eventually I’ll get hungry or thirsty. The same is true if I sit in the airport for a long while. I’ll want something to eat or drink, and the longer I travel, the stronger that desire gets. 

So, what are my options? I can hit a gas station or convenience store, where the selection is awful and overpriced, but at least it’s quick and close to the road. I can hit a grocery store, but that takes much longer and is further from the road. I can hit a fast food restaurant, but that also takes a bit of time, isn’t very healthy, and also has a cost.

In both of these cases, I’m spending time and money just to sate my appetite on the road. I would rather just get to my destination, and I’d prefer to do it without spending too much cash.

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Thus, it makes a whole lot of sense to just toss snacks from my pantry and a water bottle into the car.

First of all, a refillable water bottle makes for a very inexpensive beverage. I put a few ice cubes in there, fill it up with water, and it provides me with plenty of water for the trip for just a penny or two.

Second, snacks from home have the same advantages as a grocery store stop, but without wasting the travel time. I try to keep travel snacks on hand (such as unsalted nuts), and I naturally buy them at the grocery store as part of a normal grocery trip. Buying these adds perhaps another minute to a normal grocery trip, but stopping while traveling can eat as much as half an hour.

Even more importantly, I have a nearly infinite selection of food options when I pack at home. I can choose healthy things, or I can choose comfort foods. I can choose water, or I can choose a beverage to pump my energy a bit. If I have these on hand at home, I can take them with me, and if they’re at the grocery store, I can easily have them at home.

Now, multiply all of this by five. Why? I’m usually traveling with four other people – my wife and our three children. If everyone has a water bottle and a snack, we can make the four hour road trip to visit extended family without stopping at all, and that means the fastest possible trip with very little cost for snacks.

Plan ahead a bit when you travel and you’ll find that money doesn’t leak out of your pocket along the way.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. 

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