On Dining at a Michelin-Star Restaurant While Staying at a Hostel

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Let me tell you a story. On a dark evening in Copenhagen, a woman exited a Michelin-starred restaurant called 108 with two friends. They’d just had a great conversation over Spanish wine and world-class food in one of the best restaurants in the city. After bidding them goodbye, she walked back to her accommodation, over a mile away, in the rain. Upon reaching her room, she climbed a ladder into her bed and fell promptly asleep…

Until her hostel roommates’ snoring woke her up.

It seems almost oxymoronic, right? It doesn’t make a ton of sense to eat at one of the most expensive restaurants in Copenhagen while staying in one of the cheapest dorm rooms…or does it?

In my early days of traveling, I might have looked at myself and scoffed. Now, I know exactly why I chose to spend more than the price of a one-night’s stay on a meal. Before you click away, shaking your head, let me explain my reasoning:

Travel is About Tradeoffs

If you had $100, what would you spend it on? Clothes? Booze? A cheap flight? No matter how you’d indulge with your $100, you have to make that choice consciously. If you go out for a nice dinner, for example, you probably can’t also buy a new pair of running shoes.

The point here is that, like most travelers, you probably have a finite amount of money (and time) that you can spend on a trip. What you do with it is entirely up to you.

So, when I went to Copenhagen, I was curious about trying some of the world-class food in the city. I knew it would come with a high price, but it was an experience within my means, so I tried it since I’d saved money by finding a cheap flight and staying in a hostel.

This can swing in the other direction, too. For example, on a trip to Peru, I spent $100 on a boutique hotel in Cusco (a lot of money for Peru), but ate exclusively in small, family-owned hole-in-the-wall restaurants while I was staying there. Why? Because the hotel I stayed at was one of the cutest I’d ever seen, and the price was still within my budget.

The bottom line? The world is your oyster (within your budgetary means!).

Prioritize What’s Important to You

Sometimes I choose to ‘rough it’ on my travels…

If you take the Peru example, you’ll see that I prioritized staying in a cute, unique hotel over eating at fancy restaurants. This was because I knew I could find some amazing Peruvian food at the smaller, local restaurants that was quite different than the food back in the US. Dining wasn’t one of the most important things on my list for Peru, so I was happy to explore some of the small restaurants and street food in favor of a nice hotel. The reason why I decided to splurge on the hotel in this case was because it was a really unique, hand-painted, artistic place that I knew I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else in the world. I’d also just come back from trekking for 4 days on the Salkantay trail and wanted a comfortable place to rest and recover.

Save On What’s Less Important

The other side of this is being more frugal on the things that  don’t matter. On the Copenhagen trip, I flew economy on a budget airline that didn’t allow any carry-on luggage. I stayed at a hostel, one of the cheapest options in the city. I primarily explored the city through free activities, and I walked everywhere (over 22 miles in a single weekend!). I didn’t party at all. So, when it came time to pay the bill at 108, I didn’t flinch. I’d made choices to save money in other areas so that I could have this experience.

For me, it’s all about putting money where it matters and cutting it where it doesn’t. I didn’t care as much about comfort on this trip because I knew I’d spend a lot more money on eating and activities.

Forget the Haters

If you do things like eating at expensive restaurants while staying with other backpackers, they will inevitably judge. But hey, I’ve also been judged at hostels for not having a backpack, for requesting the bottom bunk, and for not going out to party. People are inevitably going to be confused about your choices, but who cares? It’s your life.

Live A Little

When you’re in a new place, there are going to be things that you want to do that cost a lot of money. Don’t be afraid to spend a little more to get the experience that you want! After all, you may not get another chance to explore that exact same city again. I’m always in favor of spending the money on things that are extremely important to me and saving money elsewhere. If you constantly fret about how much things cost, especially in expensive areas like Scandinavia, you’ll end up missing out. So leave a bit of “cushion” budget for those little splurges, decide what you can cut down on, and make the most of your trip.

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What are your main priorities when you travel? How do you balance them with saving money elsewhere? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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Kay is a full-time working professional located in Washington DC who takes every spare vacation day to get outside and explore the world. When she travels, she loves visiting the most iconic and naturally beautiful destinations in the USA and abroad. You can typically find her wandering the streets of a city, running through a park, taking ridiculous self portraits, or hiking a mountain somewhere. Connect with Kay: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


  1. Yes, I agree 100%, that’s what I do – prioritize and splurge on what I really enjoy and spend very little money on the other things. I’m happy I’m not the only one who would hitchhike to get to a luxury hotel (I’ve done it already in fact) 🙂

    • Wow, that’s awesome Maria! I’ve never quite hitchhiked to a luxury hotel, but I’ve taken public transit to nice hotels plenty of times!

  2. My priorities for Travel is definitely to explore but also to not break the bank! Budget airlines, packing carryon only, etc are necessities for me

  3. That is a very valid point Kay about deciding where you want to allocate your travel funds! I’m low-key foodie haha so I still have yet to dine at any Michelin star restaurants. How was the food/where was it? Do you have pics from that too?! Do you think it was an experience worthy of Michelin stars? I am totally all for luxury food experiences rather than luxury material purchases ;D. In the end it’s the purchaser’s decision haha since it’s their money.

    • Hi Hanna! I went to 108 in Copenhagen (there’s a link in the post!) and YES, I absolutely thought it was worth it. I’m not really sure what constitutes a “Michelin-star experience” haha but it was definitely delicious and beautifully-plated!

  4. I totally agree with prioritizing your budget! I think my priorities change from place to place as well. It also depends on where I’m traveling to, how long I’ve been traveling, etc. For instance, if I’ve been traveling for a long time in hostels and I’m exhausted, I’ll probably want to book a nicer hotel for my next location so I can recharge. One thing I never spend money on though is souvenirs or shopping. The most I’ll buy is postcards to send back home to friends and family, but other than that I never go shopping or spend money buying things when I travel.

    • Great points, Diana! I often try to shy away from shopping and souvenirs too, although I’m kind of a sucker (to a fault) for home goods and clothes. However, if it comes down to experiences vs. things, I’ll always choose the experiences!

  5. Great insight Kay! Well, my husband and I love our comforts. But it does not necessarily mean we are into luxury travel, hence it’s more on the efficient way of traveling. We often indulge (maybe at a restaurant or at a nice resort/hotel) but also do not overspend on unnecessary things.

    • Thanks for your comment, Marvi! Totally agree – it’s all about what you define as “comforts!” I think choosing wisely is a much better strategy than simply trying to cut down on everything, because then you won’t miss out on what’s important to you.

  6. OMG I’ve been dying to eat at that restaurant!!! hahaha the hubs is always trying to dine at expensive places when we travel!

  7. Great post! I couldn’t agree with you more about spending your money how you want to. I love food and wine and love to try new cuisine when I travel. Most of my budget is spent on this. Like you, I usually stay in budget accommodations to offset dining out costs

    • It’s a great way to balance your budget if you love food! Great food can be expensive (and sometimes, it doesn’t have to be!), so it’s awesome that you are aware of your expenses and can cut down on less important things.

  8. Totally agree with you on this. The only place where I didn’t allow myself to splurge on food was Iceland, but the splurge there was to rent a car and just explore at our own pace. It’s all about priorities and trying to make the most out of restricted time and budget.

    • Thanks Eva! And I agree – Iceland is so expensive! I will admit I did splurge on food while there once or twice, but I justified it because almost 100% of my other activities (hiking, exploring, etc.) were free 🙂

  9. I love this post! This is totally me. Staying in hostels is my usual choice for exactly the reasons you have said – I’m a big foodie and would happily spend a decent amount of money on dining out! As you say, its all about the trade-offs!

    • So true, Louise! I definitely don’t mind staying in a hostel because I’m barely there anyway!

  10. This is so true! Everyone has different priorities during travel and determining what is most important to you is what really matters. My husband and I love to spend our money on experiences, so we will skimp other places. I love your post, thanks for sharing!

  11. I agree with you on your priorities on your trip. It depends on what is most important at the point of your destination. If you researched a restaurant that you have to go to then it makes perfect sense. For me, food is always a priority, so I can relate to your choice.

    • Food is a great way to spend your budget! For me, I don’t care about having a luxurious flight or hotel, but experiences, guides, and food are super important to me!

  12. Kay, I think we’d be good travel buddies! Lol, I can completely understand your reasoning for prioritizing different experiences/ amenities when you’re traveling through different places. I think this post will give people new perspectives, though. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Totally agree 100% with everything you said! We travel the same way you do. We save our money towards things that are important to us and maybe are more fragile in other aspects of traveling. I think you did a beautiful job and as you said, forget the haters!

    • Thank you so much Christina! Definitely understand where you’re coming from, and glad to know the post resonated with you 🙂

  14. I would so do this too!

    And on the reverse side, I have also recently gone to a corporate meeting in a 5 star hotel, with my luggage packed into my trekking backpack hahaha

    (I feel kinda bad for the bellboy who found himself without something to do for me, though).

    • HAHA I’ve totally done this too! I love my backpack and have brought it everywhere from $5 hostels to $500 per night hotels 😛

  15. I couldn’t agree more! While on vacation, my husband and I try to spend as little as possible on transportation and accommodations (ok, within reason… we’re 37 and married and don’t do hostels) so we can not think about money when we get to a place. And we took it to a whole new level when we traveled long-term – happily eating supermarket lunches and cooking when we could so we could splurge on more drinks and a few fancy dinners. It’s all about priorities!

  16. Very well-articulated and I couldn’t agree more! Most of us normal people have to deal with budgeting issues and, like everything else in life, you have to prioritise. For me, accommodation is just somewhere to lay your head at night so as long as it’s reasonably clean I’m fine. I’d much rather spend my money going out, doing stuff and experiencing the culture 🙂

  17. Totally relate to this. We have been travelling full-time for 10 months and we’ve had to prioritise every day. That priority usually ends up being food related! Everyone’s travel style is slightly different, and it’s totally acceptable for your own to evolve over time too. Good on you for splurging on what felt good at the time.

  18. This is so true! Travel is all about trade-offs and I do that all the time. Hope you enjoyed the food there? And yes, $100 is quite a lot for Peru but if it is for a cute hotel, then it’s a yes!

  19. A POST HAS NEVER BEEN MORE ME! Hahahah, but forreal, food is life. And I will scrape by on pennies with the rest of life to afford it aha

  20. Mae-Gene

    Kay, I loved reading this! I do this too – I’m always making decisions which seem weird to others when traveling, but hey it’s your trip and your money!