Tips For Dining Out While on Vacation

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Photo credit Nita Ettinger

Dining out in Southwest Florida during what residents refer to as “Season” and especially during Spring Break can test your patience. You can expect to wait anywhere between 15 and 30+ minutes for a table at most popular restaurants. If you’re traveling without kids, you can always head to the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail while you wait for your table. Here are a couple other tips to make dining out less stressful while on holiday.

My first piece of advice – relax, you’re on vacation!

If you’re planning to dine with a group of 6 or more it makes good sense to make a reservation and for those restaurants who don’t but rather, fill their tables on a first come, first serve basis it doesn’t hurt to call the restaurant ahead of time to see if they have a “call ahead reservation” list, this will at least get your name in the queue and cut down on your wait time when you arrive.

Have young children with you? Be sure that you bring along something to keep them occupied until your table is ready.  Yes, this is when the hand-held video games come in handy.  When my daughter was young we used to play games like Name a famous person whose name begins with… and we’d make our way through the alphabet, we did this with colors, animals, you name it. If you’re dining at a family-friendly restaurant you can count on the usual crayon & coloring option once you get to your table.

Early (generally between 4-5:30 p.m.) or late (after 8 p.m.) dining can offer a buffer between the busy dinner hour and many restaurants will reward you for choosing this time by offering dining specials not available during the peak dinner hour.

Another option is to take advantage of Happy Hour appetizer and small plate specials. If you’re traveling without children you can opt to eat in the bar. Most casual restaurants offer family-friendly dining options though. Order up a variety of things for sharing. It’s a great way for your kids to try something outside of the usual chicken nuggets, burgers and mac-n-cheese found on the children’s menu.

When you start to stress out because it’s taking forever to get seated, or the kitchen is backed up…. refer back to my first piece of advice – relax, you’re on vacation.

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Nita Ettinger is the co-publisher for Siesta Publications and the Editor in Chief for Must Do Visitor Guides. Must Do Visitor Guides provides Southwest Florida visitor information through printed publications and the website MustDo.com. Must Do Visitor Guides are published bi-annually and are available at no cost in Sarasota, Lee, and Collier County chambers of commerce, visitor information centers, select Southwest Florida hotels, and wherever free publications are found.

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