Follow the locals and ask the “best friend” question
We’ve all seen them: the eye-candy spreads in magazines, talking of this high-falutin hotel, restaurant, or shop. And we’ve picked up the travel brochures packed with them—expensive destinations, expensive experiences, and expensive schwag in the accompanying gift shops.
And we can ignore them.
It can be hard to get past the chain restaurants and find good honest tasty American food. But the key to managing your food budget well is simple: follow the locals and ask the “best friend” question.
Follow the locals
Here’s the thing: most Americans aren’t doing the things in the glossy magazines and brochures. That new Swishy McSwishy’s place in the lower-upper-west-eastern-side of Manhattan, you know, the one that was in this month’s Posh Tosh, which featured their $50 glass of house-poured water? You can ignore it. That’s exactly what most Americans are doing.
Besides, next door or down the block is probably some awesome bagel or pizza shop or something. Your budget will come out much better and your belly much more gratified.
The locals here are the same workaday folks who, once you scratch the skin of their particular nationality, are the same as the locals at home. They’re trying to get through the day, they’re trying to make things better for their kids, and they care far more about filling their belly than worrying about who sees them tanking up where.
If you’re out and about and looking for a place to eat, follow the locals. Not into anything with yellow archy loop-da-loops, either. See someone eating something that looks good? Ask ‘em where they got it—and go there. See a line of people who look like they’re on their lunch break? Get in line.
Bonus points: stretch your budget and buy lunch for the person behind or in front of you. You’ll make their day—and there’s a good chance you can pick their brain for a while on more things to do and see that will save you money.
Which leads us to…
Ask the “best friend” question
So you’ve bought lunch for the person behind you, and this leads to you having a chat. Naturally, you’ve explained you’re traveling from overseas, and you’re trying to find good places to see and things to do where you are. Ask them this:
“If your best friend had never been here and was visiting, where would you take them?”
This question is powerful. Everyone wants the good stuff for their best friend—and by framing the conversation this way, you’ve primed the pump for some amazing tips.
The USA isn’t the cheapest place to visit, and it can be spendy, especially in large cities. But you can find ways to keep to a sane budget. Just follow the locals. And then ask one of them what they would do with their best friend.