So, staying in your hotel to eat is pretty expensive. We knew this going in, so Jess and I had to come up with plans and strategies to keep food costs down. Today I’m going to talk about our strategies and how we tried to keep costs down. Bora Bora is an obvious extreme, price wise, but I think you can save money on travel anywhere with these eating tips. Here’s how we approached things.
Our Strategy for Saving Money on Food
Our strategy for saving money on food boiled down to a few simple things:
– Bring food from home that doesn’t need to be heated up or can be heated up with boiling water
– Try to get away with only paying for two full meals a day whenever possible
– Eat on the main island whenever possible (while avoiding night shuttle fees)
– Eat dessert as much as possible. Okay, that last strategy ended up costing us more money. But the other three were really useful!
Strategy 1: Bring food from home that can be heated up with boiling water
There are a lot of websites out there that discuss how you can heat up food in your hotel room. A lot of the next level stuff involves using an iron as a grill and stuff like that, but we were too chicken to try that. Instead, we mostly brought instant noodles and food that could be heated up with boiling water. In some cases, you can even use boiling water to heat up stuff that is designed to be heated in a microwave (like easy mac and cheese). Reheating food with boiling water boils down to two basic principles: you need to have a heat source (the boiling water from a kettle which most hotels provide) and you need to find a way to retain the heat long enough for your food to cook. If you remember those two basic points, a lot of options open up in terms of heating your food.
I snagged a few cup noodles from the lounge in LAX, so those of course were easy to heat up. Regular packaged ramen is pretty straightforward too. I brought a simple tupperware from home, one of those takeout containers you get soup in. What I did was boil water, break the noodles in half, and then fill the container up with water so the noodles were completely submerged (note this is more water than the back of the package calls for. Then, by placing the lid on the container, I’d minimize heat loss so the noodles cooked evenly and quickly. Once they were cooked to my liking (I’ve cooked enough ramen in my life to know this by sight), I poured out all that water, replaced it with new boiling water, the correct amount according to the package (though I also eyeballed this), added the flavor packet, mixed, ENJOYED. All quite simple, and I did this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on different occasions.
Jess brought a bunch of prepackaged Trader Joe’s food. Some of them were of the “heat up pouch in boiling water” variety, so of course she employed the same method. Others were more like cup noodles, just add water. She too made a bunch of passable meals out of these prepared foods – at 1/20 the cost of what we would have paid to eat at the hotel. Overall I’d say 5 out of our 6 days we ate a “home cooked” meal. We supplemented this with various snacks that we picked up along the way (and one night with happy hour snacks), but overall this went a long way to keeping costs down.
Strategy 2: Try to get away with paying for two full meals per day
Obviously, strategy 1 had a direct bearing on strategy 2 most days. Still, there were other ways we did this. It’s important to “go big” on the right meals. On the days we ate a huge breakfast, it was easy to stick to two meals per day (and the room service breakfast I wrote about last time definitely qualifies as a big breakfast). After a big breakfast, you can either eat a big late lunch, or just snack for lunch and then eat a big dinner.
Things were a little tougher on days we ate a light breakfast (that would usually just consist of protein or snack bars that we brought from home. Or cereal that we brought and mixed with milk we saved from our room service breakfasts). I think the key on those days was to eat a little more for lunch and maybe hold back (to save money) on dinner. Another big money saving measure was to buy supplies on the main island. As I’ve mentioned before, there is a shuttle boat between the Intercontinental Thalasso and the Intercontinental Le Moana. The latter hotel is located on the island. Now is a good time to mention that the shuttle runs VERY infrequently – five times a day for free and five times at night for a price of $12 round trip.
If you hang a right outside of Intercontinental Le Moana there is a little supermarket called Tiare Market less than a ten minute walk away. This is a great place to pick up supplies – water, snacks, ramen, whatever – to keep your costs down. There are also supermarkets in the main town of Vaitape but they are harder to get to. Buying food at the grocery store really helped us to stick to two “full” meals.
Strategy 3: Eat on the main island while avoiding shuttle fees
We went in to the trip with a goal of minimizing the number of times we paid for the shuttle to the island. In the end, we ended up never taking the paid night shuttle – the one night we had dinner plans in town it was pouring rain and we didn’t want to deal with it. The majority of eating options on the main island are cheaper than eating in the hotel. If you make a reservation, they will generally send a car to pick you up at the Intercontinental Le Moana. There are also multiple places to eat within walking distance of the Le Moana, so a simple shuttle ride over can save you some money on lunch. Not a ton, but every penny counts.
One thing to bear in mind about the shuttle is that it doesn’t exactly run hourly. Yes, it picks up from Thalasso at :15 and from Le Moana at :45, but not on the hour. There are times when you will be stuck without a shuttle for two hours. As always, the early bird gets the worm strategy generally applies. If you can grab the 9:15 shuttle, then you can spend a few hours on the island, grab lunch, and make it back on the free 1:45 shuttle (last free shuttle back). One day we even took the 11:15 over, grabbed lunch AND groceries while still making the 1:45. So as long as you time things right you can prevent yourself from getting stuck taking a paid shuttle.
Strategy 4: Eat dessert as much as possible
OK, this isn’t really a saving money in Bora Bora idea. But, with the French influence, there are a lot of tasty desserts in Bora Bora. We generally take it easy on dessert when in the States, but on vacation, we also make sure to save money for dessert. Cut out a meal, eat more dessert – that’s my motto. Just sharing. 🙂
It can be tough to save money when traveling, especially in a place like Bora Bora where the prices are exorbitant. But with a little planning, a little home cooking, and some discipline, it definitely is possible. In the end though, I try not to worry too much about penny pinching – we’re on vacation after all. Plus, where is the fun in things if you can’t enjoy dessert?
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