Whether in our home town, across the US, or on our international travels, we love experiencing food – and learning about a place, its people, its history and more through our palates. Locally, we’re known for our food tours. Internationally, we’re known for bringing folks together through shared experiences of food. Here we break down some of our best tips for seeking out special food moments.
While we’ve labeled this a Top 10 Travel Tips for Food Lovers, our intent is to make this an evergreen document and update it when a new idea pops into our heads. For that reason, we’re not promising to limit ourselves to just ten tips. Secondly, we let our kids, Everett and Elia, help us create and craft this list. Have additional tips? Please note them below or send them our way. We’d love to include your suggestions too. Hope you enjoy and that this list can lead you to your next amazing meal. We’ll be with you in spirit!
(1) Seek out local farmers’ markets. This is the best tip we can give anyone. You’ll meet local farmers and makers, literally get to taste the best of what’s in season, find some new fruits and vegetables probably not available in your hometown, and hopefully walk away with perfect “picnic food.”
- Oftentimes, there are also standing open-air or covered markets. Hit those up too!
- Pro tip: Aged, hard cheeses often do not need refrigeration; nor do most cured meats. We always grab a hunk of hard cheese, a stick of salami, and some fruit for car munching. This has saved us so many times when we find restaurants are closed down during naptime or it’s a random national holiday.
(2) Stop at roadside vendors with popup stands. It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. So take the time to stop along the way. We’ve picked up the best cherries we’ve ever eaten and sampled pineapple liqueur, to name a couple.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that food produced in certain countries and/or with water you’re not used to may not settle with your gut. While we choose our food vendors intentionally, we feel pretty good about fruit stands. (Just plan to wash your fruit with your bottled water if needed.)
(3) Check out local bulletin boards for events and festivals. Where there’s a party, there’s local food. Miraculously, on our family trip to Spain in 2019, every town we came to was hosting some sort of festival. In Greece this past June 2022, we happened across a fire jumping festival celebrating the summer solstice. We specifically found out about it by looking at a community events board, and Everett ended up jumping the fire. Memories, right?!
(4) Do your research beforehand. Not only do countries have iconic dishes, but so too does each region have local specialties, including desserts and drinks. It’s a fun game for our kids to get in on the research with us, and we specifically try the local desserts of each region. This can be done en route, the day before you head to a new area. We find it helpful to research in advance; otherwise, we wouldn’t know what we’re missing and what to keep an eye out for. In Segovia, Spain it was ponche segoviano. In Milos, Greece, it was watermelon pie.
- You can also check out special food lists, like Slow Food International’s Ark of Taste catalog: “The Ark of Taste is a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. By identifying and championing these foods, we keep them in production and on our plates.”
(5) Just google it. Honestly, how did we live and travel before easy and immediate access to information? (Lots of preprinted paper, that’s how.) For us, we always type in “cheese shop” each day we get in a car and head on a new route. In Greece, we weren’t finding anything, until we translated “cheese shop” into “τυροκομείο” – again with a google search. Then we typed that into google maps, and we started bouncing from cheese shop to cheese shop. Not every hunt ends in a pot of gold; however, almost every search gives us a story to tell and definitely leads us on new adventures and down roads less traveled.
(6) Ask the locals. Language barrier? We never let that hold us back. Through some sort of embarrassing pantomime of scooping food into our mouths, we’ve always gotten great local food recommendations. If you’re asking a concierge, note that they’ll tell you where they think tourists will like. If it’s important to you to go where the locals go, make sure you mention that. Both provide different experiences.
(7) Be adventurous and have fun with your food. Hey, we get it. You like what you like and you know what you want. But honestly, if you’re looking for new experiences you couldn’t have dreamed possible, then you have to be open to new tastes. It’s not that our kids are super adventurous at home, but when they travel, they know to be open to what local hosts offer. In Nepal, that meant graciously accepting a cup of yak butter tea (which tastes more like savory broth) and taking a few sips. In Greece, it meant we literally had one of the best meals of our life enjoying a local specialty of sundried mackerel…and all ending up with food poisoning that night. (Hey, it was still worth it, and we’d do it again. It was THAT good!)
(8) Keep an eye out for a perfect picnic spot. Some of our best meals haven’t been at Michelin star restaurants. Sure, those are good and fun (if we ever plan far enough in advance!). But we also put a lot of pressure and expectations on those meals. Don’t forget the magic of a good meal is often about the people and place. Remember those farmers’ market goodies you stocked up on above? Next time you’re driving and you see that picnic table at a beautiful lookout and you think, “Who stops right there?” Respond, “I do!” Pull over, make a beautiful spread, and enjoy the ability to taste a place in that special place with nowhere to be but right there in that spot at that moment.
(9) You can never eat enough dessert. We don’t live this way at home; our kids have enough energy as is, without the added sugar. But when we’re traveling, the kids may have up to three gelatos a day. Yep, we like to indulge in food!
…And the list keeps growing. Check back for updates. Have an idea? Let us know or drop a comment below.
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