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USA trip, food budget...

Adelaide
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USA trip, food budget...

Hi everyone,

I'm currently planning a five week trip to the USA for myself and my partner, (both around 50yrs)starting on the west coast visiting San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas, Anaheim, San Diego, then over to NY and Washington DC, before staying in Maui for a few days on the way home.

Just wondering how much money we should allow for food, which is to incorporate, some bought lunches and dinners, as well as some groceries in some parts.

Would $150 a day cover it?

Has anyone been on a similar trip and taken note of these expenses in a basic form?

Thanks everyone!

Kind regards.

Paul.

Adelaide, Australia
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1. Re: USA trip, food budget...

We were recently in the US and found food prices to be much cheaper than they are here at present -so yeah providing the exchange rate stays around current rates $150 should be plenty as long a you dont plan on drinking too much wine as it is quite expensive. (eg $7-$8 per glass)

Moab, Utah
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2. Re: USA trip, food budget...

As a family of four we have regularly traveled to USA and allow $US150 a day spending money. That includes petrol money (we do quite a few miles) and beer and wine from the bottle shops (not too much at restaurants). That is eating bought dinners almost every night, some bought lunches but mostly picnics with supplies from supermarkets and breakfasts usually included with lodging whether they be motels or B&B's.

Most of our experience is west coast and south west not New York or Washington as we haven't been there yet. Haven't been to Maui either but got by on the same budget on Kauai, Hawaii and Oahu.

If a $150 doesn't cover it your eating too much or eating at the higher end of the market.

Arlington, Virginia
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3. Re: USA trip, food budget...

Your food costs can widely vary depending on what sorts of places you like to eat. We generally eat at moderate-budget restaurants when we dine out and here's what it would cost us in the Washington D.C. area:

Breakfast: $13- $20

Lunch: $6 - $15 ($6 represents the fast food option)

Dinner: $20 - $30

All prices are per person with tax and tip included.

Note that many hotels in the States offer free breakfast. These can vary from a continental breakfast (juice, coffee, pastry) to a hot breakfast buffet with cooked-to-order eggs, waffles and/or pancakes. We tend to stay at places like these because it gives you a quick breakfast in the morning so that you can get on the road and start sightseeing.

Uden, The...
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4. Re: USA trip, food budget...

$ 150,-- easily covers it if you stay out of fancy restaurants. Longhorns estimates are spot on although we never spent $ 20,-- for brekkie. After a full American breakfast, just buy (or make) sandwiches or a salade for lunch.

Tet

Mission Viejo...
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5. Re: USA trip, food budget...

One thing to be aware of (especially if browsing menus online)....unlike Oz, menu prices do not include sales tax. A few states in the USA have no sales tax, but most do. It ranges from about 5% to 9%, each state setting their own tax rate. Sometimes local jurisdictions add on their own tax. We do not have a national VAT. The other cost is tips. I'm loathe to open this can of worms but typical tip is 15% to 25% of the pre-tax meal cost. The lower end would be for casual (not fast food) restaurants with a waitstaff; the higher end is at more upscale restaurants if the service is excellent.

I found that all-in, restaurant meals are somewhat (but not dramatically) less expensive here in the USA. $150/day will be more than enough to eat at midrange restaurants.

You also asked about groceries, fresh items such as produce are slightly cheaper here in the States....processed and frozen foods are far less expensive over here. Grocery stores are abundant in the areas you will visit; just find ones where local residents shop. In CA/NV the large grocery chains are Von's, Ralph's, Albertson's, and Stater Bros. Trader Joes is a great chain of smaller stores that carry unique items; they are definitely worth a visit (you will be sad they aren't in Oz).

Hope this helps!

Newcastle, Australia
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6. Re: USA trip, food budget...

We were in the US in October/November and the three of us spent well under $150/day. You will likely find meals in LV to be pretty cheap as they are subsidised by the casinos...still remember the $2.99 breakfast buffet from a few years ago.

San Francisco...
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7. Re: USA trip, food budget...

Cheap sandwiches at Subway, Quiznos, ToGo's can be had for $6 or so.

Kenish mentioned some chains, Safeway is also big here. Sign up for their free club cards at the first store you shop and use it for the discounts on food, fruits, etc during each shopping trip.

One thing we do is to also buy food from supermarket deli sections. Most of the grocery stores mentioned above will have bakery and deli sections that sell fresh baked goods, roast chicken, sandwiches, fries, hot coffee, soups , bagels etc . Buying these will be cheaper and faster than eating same at a diner etc.

Adelaide, Australia
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8. Re: USA trip, food budget...

Good advice from Skateboard Girl. Safeway also gives you fuel discounts which are great if you are driving.

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9. Re: USA trip, food budget...

We spent 8 days in NYC, a couple of days in Washington DC and Las Vegas as well as other places.

Las Vegas

Like others have said, if you go to the high end places, you can expect to pay more. Eg say a late supper of a dessert and a drink each for four at the Bellagio in Las Vegas set us back around $US 50- 60 including tip. At say the Cheesecake Factory where we'd been the night before, it was about half of that.

NYC

Eating from Food Vendors in NYC is a popular thing to do and many of them have won awards - there's the annual "Vendy" award. In NYC, there's also a huge food court area under Grand Central Station with plenty of cheap eats - eg, a half chicken and various salads will set you back about $US8-9 and the amount is plenty for two people. In this particular food course and elsewhere around NYC, there's a "chain" called Hale and Hearty which sells fantastic soups and crusty bread for about $US 5 + depending on the size you order. They also have sandwhiches which are pretty good.

Some of the chain restaurants such as Applebees which you can find in Times Square have special deals on so watch out for them if your interested in eating there. Buying a slice of Pizza is a NYC thing to do and you can find a number of vendors that sell pizza by the slice. ALso buying a slice of Cheesecake is a NY thing to do too and you can find a Juniors - reputed to be the best - in the Dining Concourse under Grand Central Station.

Tim Hortons is a Canadian chain that now has a couple of stores in NYC where you can buy donuts and coffee or hot chocolate pretty cheaply.

There are a few "Food Emporiums" around NYC - one is at 8th Ave and 48th street I think and they not only have breakfast available, but they sell meals which you can take back to your room and microwave - they have a lot of grocery items too so plenty to choose from if you want a feast.

There's another Food Emporium at Union Square and also at Union Square, a fantastic Farmer's Market during the weekend where you can pick up some great food. While you're at Union Square, if you're looking for cheap clothes, go into Filene's Basement. Alternatively, wander down the road called University Ave (??) and you'll get to Washington Park - a lovely little area just near the University where again there are plenty of places to eat that lots of Uni students seemed to enjoy.

When we were with some of our friends, they tended to have a lot of coupons for places to eat at, some of which I think you can get on-line so you could check that out too if you like

And as others have said, try to stay somewhere where breakfast is included as breakfast can add up. I think I said in an earlier thread of yours that you could try to get a "suite" which has more room as well as kitchenette facilities. Try the Embassy Suites - they often have a happy hour at night - free drinks and nibblies.

Have sent you a PM

Edited: 18 January 2010, 02:31
Mission Viejo...
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10. Re: USA trip, food budget...

Forgot about Safeway, which Vons in CA/NV is a subsidiary. Same with Ralph's; Kroger is the parent corporation and there are other regional chains in the family. If you have a discount card for one, any other markets in the group will honor the card as well.

When you buy pizza slices from NY sidewalk vendors, fold the slice lengthwise and hold it in your hand like a sandwich. Watch how the locals do it. :-)