Food and other expenses while working


Well-Known Member
How do the professionals out there save money while working on the road in terms of food and other expenses that come up?

I am sure the $9.00 airport meals (and even more expensive hotel meals) do add up and what do you do to save that per diem and put some extra cash in your pockets?
I usually average about $20/day on the road. And if I've got a long layover in a cool city, it'll be a little more, but not much.

But we're paid per diem and it's about $40/day I think so I usually come out ahead.

In terms of saving money, hmm, it's fairly impossible to save money at the airport because they're so heavily taxed by the city plus there's always the 'gouge factor'. But in the layover city, I always avoid chain restaraunts because I can eat at Chilis anywhere. But I'll generally find somewhere that I can only eat in that particular city and normally the prices are reasonable.

Like in GSO the captain and I went to this place called "Gauche" (???) for lunch and the food was fantastic. Great brewed iced tea, fresh baked bread for the sandwiches and amazing soup. I think we both ate a fabulous lunch for under $18 total and he paid.

Which leads to something else. When I was a probationary pilot at Delta, I'd say that 80% of the crews I flew with would not let me pay for my own meals or 'adult beverages' on the road as sort of a 'welcome to the fraternity'-style tradition. We've got a great group of guys (and gals) working for us.
Rule number one is don't eat at the hotel ... like Doug said. As far as airport meals go ... first of all, don't order drinks ... get them from the FA instead! Most airport vendors give a discount to airport/airline employees. Hell, I was at DFW one day a couple years ago in my old "Continental Airlines Flight Operations" golf shirt, and they gave me me the employee discount, even though I didn't work for CO at the time! I was just picking up my mom!

My friends dad is a captain on AA, MD-83, and told me that they get paid $1.80 and hour, for every hour of a certain trip.
For one job, I have a credit card expense account. They ask that I be reasonably thrifty, but don't give me a meal limit. I do have to submit an expense report with receipts.

For my other job, as it stands right now, I have to pay for some meals (when the leftover catering is gone) and get reimbursed later. Hotels are pre-arranged so I won't have to spring for those.
Thanks for the replies.

Not knowing when you will be able to find the next bite to eat, or have a decent enough layover to eat, do you find yourself eating more on the road than you normally would at home?

I try to eat as heathly as I can, however when I travel I tend to find myself waiting in the McDonalds line more than I would like to see myself waiting in it.
I took my own food when I worked for Ealge. I carried a small (6-pack sized) cooler, and had bagels, salad, carrots, yogurt, turkey & other stuff in there that I'd prepared at home. Also in my suitcase I carried a can opener and cans of ravioli & soup. It saved so much money, AND I lost weight because I wasn't eating so much crap .

When I was based in NY after 9/11 pax were restricted to one carry on bag and one personal item (for me that was my suitcase & kit bag). Since I made it a point to never commute in uniform unless absolutly necessary, I couldn't take my cooler with me anymore. If you travel in uniform, you were exempt from the carry-on policy, but commuting in uniform is just irritating in so many ways, so I had to give up my cheap eats!