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Travellers Guide to an All You Can Eat Buffet

Food is a big part of travelling and an all you can eat buffet can be your best friend, or worst nightmare. Use our travel tips on your next adventure.

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Vigo, Dessert, All you can eat Buffet

As we grow up our parents often tell us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I always thought it was because they want you to eat healthy and get all the recommended vitamins, nutrients and minerals to last all day at school.

How wrong I was. 

See I think the truth is that they were just secretly preparing us for when we started travelling. They knew that an all you can eat buffet at breakfast is the travellers best investment after visiting local markets.

All you can eat Buffet

 Photo credit

Travellers Guide to an All you can Eat Buffet

I love a good buffet when we are travelling. Sure there is a time and place for them because you may not get the local delicacies in a European style buffet. But usually when you are traveling to different countries they do vary so much from place to place.

Plus, if you are on a budget then a good breakfast buffet can set you up for the rest of the day.

My all time top 3 all you can eat buffets in no particular order are; a breakfast buffet in Olso, a dinner buffet at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and a breakfast buffet in Phuket.

All you can eat Buffet, Oslo, Vigeland Park

Oslo; Home to a good breakfast buffet and crazy statues

Maybe it’s the value for money, or maybe its just the fact you can stuff yourself with a huge variety of tasty food until you are at bursting point that makes a buffet appealing to me.

But over time I have realized there is a certain way to attack a buffet to get the best out of it.

When I went to my first all you can eat buffet I remember grabbing the first thing I saw, and filling up before I could even make it to the hot section.

Amateur hour.

Since then I have refined my skills and now like to think of myself as a buffet professional. And if you follow my expert travel tips below, I promise that the next time you meet an all you can eat buffet, you will leave satisfied and ready to get on with your next adventure.

The walk through

DO NOT start piling your plate sky high at the nearest buffet table.

After finding a seat, stand up and take a couple of minutes to scope out the lay of the land. Find out exactly what is being served. There is nothing worse than hitting bursting point and discovering a whole new section you never knew existed.

Vigo, Dessert, All you can eat Buffet

You don’t want to miss out on the desserts section

Get a table

It sounds obvious, but make sure you get a table BEFORE you get your food.

While we were at a breakfast buffet in Oslo we were amazed at the number of people who would get their plate of food before finding a table. They had to wander around aimlessly trying to find a seat while their food was getting cold! Rookie mistake.

Limit the carbs

I know breads, chips and pasta can look tasty. They are hard to resist and bread has been known to be my downfall at an all you can eat buffet because I love trying out all the different types.

But carbs will fill you up more than anything else in the buffet. It is why why they sneakily put them near the entrance! Avoid them and save room for the other tasty treats on offer.

Bread all you can eat

Don’t fill up on just bread (Photo).

Limit your fluids

Freshly squeezed orange juice, fizzy drinks and ice cold will tempt you to the dark side. But stay away from the fluids as they to will fill you up.

I’m not saying dehydrate yourself, but just try and limit yourself to one glass while you are there.

Juice, Barcelona, All you can eat Buffet

Don’t fill up on freshly squeezed juice

The Sampler

This could be one of the most important rules of all and I promise it is the hardest to master!

Only take a spoonful size portion of everything you like the look of. NO BIGGER! This will allow you to try as many things as possible. And if you don’t like something you won’t be wasting a bucket load of food. There is nothing we hate more than saying food go to waste!

Plus if you really love something you can go back and get another spoonful, or two.

Stagger your trips

This is one of my favorite things to do at a buffet.

If you are travelling as a couple, or in a group of friends then don’t all go up at the same time. Instead try to stagger your trips. This way you can listen to your friends recommendations of what options are the tastiest. You can also act as each others eyes and ears, so when a fresh dish comes out you will be the first to know and ready to pounce.

You only have 20 minutes

We watch a lot of Man vs. Food, and Adam (the host) always explains that it generally takes your brain 20 minutes to register that you are full.

So while you will regret it about 30 minutes after you start an all you can eat buffet, I figure you have 20 minutes to fit as much in as you can before your brain catches up.

Going back for one more plate is usually a bad idea

Need I say more? If you are full, don’t push it! The shame in wandering around sightseeing with the top two buttons undone on your jeans is sometimes too much.

Tell us your favourite All you can eat Buffet in the comments!

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44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. Marlys

    November 1, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    Not to be read when hungry…. but great post. I’ll keep these in mind.

  2. Vera

    November 1, 2012 at 8:14 PM

    How very right you are! …I had so many buffets in my life that it would have been a major fail if I hadn’t learned anything from it – so I did, and I’m happy to announce that I follow your rules pretty much. Okay, apart from that “Don’t go back for one more plate”. It hasn’t been a buffet if I don’t feel a little bit like dying. Unless someone else has already demolished the good stuff – then I walk out of it like a pro. One way or the other: hooray for buffets:)!

    • Cole Burmester

      November 2, 2012 at 8:45 AM

      We don’t really follow that last rule either. Let’s just call it a guideline… We never walk out, we waddle out too!

  3. bronwen burmester

    November 1, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    very funny….yes i have done the sneak 2 muffins into the napkin and shove into daypack and also walked away with the buttons undone! x

    • Cole Burmester

      November 2, 2012 at 8:44 AM

      Haha I thought we learnt that trick from you 😉

  4. Laurence

    November 2, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    lol – this post sounds like something right up Vera’s street. She’s the master of the all you can eat buffet. Normally I skip everything and head straight for the meat section 😀

    • Cole Burmester

      November 2, 2012 at 3:23 PM

      Even at breakfast? I am a sucker for anything pastry and chocolate covered…

      • Laurence

        November 4, 2012 at 9:33 PM

        Depends on the quality and variety of bacon / sausages on offer 😉

  5. Raymond @ Man On The Lam

    November 2, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    I find it hard to turn down the carbs. I also find it even harder to not stuff a few in my pocket for later on. 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      November 3, 2012 at 4:11 PM

      We make sure we wear clothes with big pockets for the odd bit of fruit and a croissant or two 😉

  6. stefania may

    November 2, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    and that is why stretchy pants were invented.

  7. stefania may

    November 2, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    yes i love a breakfast buffet have been known to eat the whole range from bacon and eggs, cereal, to pork ribs , cheeses, miso soup and maybe a danish all in one sitting! Your dad cannot believe his eyes sometimes. Just sitting down to my normal breakfast as i write this – weight watchers museli 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      November 3, 2012 at 4:12 PM

      Haha now I know where Adela gets it from! See you guys soon 🙂

  8. Stephen Schreck

    November 3, 2012 at 1:30 AM

    I agree my mother was preparing me for travel. I always try to book hostels with a free breakfast. Then in the morning I pig out on toast and Nutella so I am not hungry again till late afternoon.

    • Cole Burmester

      November 3, 2012 at 4:19 PM

      The only problem with Hostel breakfasts is that they often just have cheap white bread which isn’t very filling.

  9. Salika Jay

    November 3, 2012 at 5:05 AM

    Hahaha “buffet professional” sounds funny 🙂 I think I’m kind of like that too…lol. I love all you can eat buffets whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. I follow almost all your tips. My secret is following what my hubby eats. Although he doesn’t eat as much (funny, I know especially since I’m really small compared to him), he knows how to pick the tastiest food. Then I go on the “2nd round” 😀 Great read Adela, thanks!

    • Cole Burmester

      November 3, 2012 at 7:35 PM

      Haha Adela eats more than me too Salika! I don’t know where you girls hide it all!

  10. Audrey | That Backpacker

    November 3, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    Haha, I love the sample technique! That’s what I go with as well. Take a little bit of everything, see which ones I like best, and then go back for seconds!

    • Cole Burmester

      November 3, 2012 at 4:53 PM

      It is hard work to master it, but a useful skill to have 😉

  11. Christina @ Packed Suitcase

    November 3, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    All good tips! On the rare occasion when I hit up an all you can eat buffet (Vegas’ Wicked Spoon small-plates buffet is my favorite) I always do the quick roundabout to check everything out first, *before* I go food-crazy. Mmmm….

    • Cole Burmester

      November 4, 2012 at 6:02 PM

      Hmmm never heard of that one in Vegas but they do the best buffets for sure in Sin City 😉

  12. Turtle

    November 5, 2012 at 12:42 AM

    I always knew there was an art to the breakfast buffet but I’ve never seen it described quite like this before.
    The only one of your tips I can’t follow is about the juices. I drink so much at buffets because I want to try all the different fruit juices and coffees and teas on offer. Such a rookie!

    • Cole Burmester

      November 8, 2012 at 4:27 AM

      Amateur Turtle. It’s also a pain if you drink too many juices, because then you are forever looking for toilets!

  13. Matthew Karsten

    November 7, 2012 at 2:13 AM

    Never knew there was an optimal technique! Certainly taking notes on this one for future gluttony.

    • Cole Burmester

      November 8, 2012 at 4:51 AM

      If you have eaten at as many breakfast buffets as we have, then you quickly learn the budget travel tips haha.

  14. Agness (@Agnesstramp)

    November 10, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    Buffet food is one of the cheapest ones when it comes to dining out. I try not to overeat, but it’s so hard so I always end up with a stomachache promising myself I won’t eat that much next time 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      November 10, 2012 at 8:33 PM

      We find ourselves saying that every time we eat at a buffet too. But even if we said that the day before we still always overeat!

  15. Mariana Calleja / TravelThirst

    November 10, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    Sounds like my stomach ranting now…oh oh! Loved this guide 🙂

    • Cole Burmester

      November 10, 2012 at 8:32 PM

      Thanks Mariana 🙂 Glad we could help for your next trip to the buffet haha

  16. Tommy (via Discover . Book . Travel)

    November 13, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Hi Adela,

    Nice and fun tips!

  17. Mary @ Green Global Travel

    November 13, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Too funny! We use the same strategies as well. However we have one important addition, we often specifically look for items that easily fit into a pocket to use as snacks later- single-serving waxed-covered cheese rounds are a a great find!

  18. ANGLO/Dale

    November 15, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    …and suddenly my stomach begins to rumble.

    Someone is to blame, but who? Humm

  19. Joy

    November 19, 2012 at 4:44 AM

    I like the Walk Through. Definitely a good idea! I think I’ll be using the ‘don’t take more than a spoon full tip’. I always overeat at buffets!

  20. Maria

    November 24, 2012 at 4:57 AM

    Really enjoying your post. Anyone who loves food is a friend of mine. 🙂 Your tips are great for the novice. Never overload the plate. A bit of deja vu from our trip just last week. smh. Enjoy eat bite and and sip the liquids so you don’t overload and spoil your meal. Great tips. Cheers!

  21. Dave @ Kamala Beach Hotel

    November 24, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    Some good tips here especially in view of the fact that I am trying to lose a few pounds right now 🙂

  22. Pingback: Favourite Posts Roundup #2 | Ambitious TravelerAmbitious Traveler

  23. Reena @ Wanderplex

    December 13, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    Spoon-sized portions, avoiding the carbs, doing the walk around – it sounds crazy but I do all these things too! Buffets are also a great place to sample unique local foods that you don’t necessarily want to order a whole meal of at a restaurant in case it turns out to taste awful – so definitely hit up the foods that look unusual.

    • Cole Burmester

      December 14, 2012 at 3:21 AM

      Hahaha there is a fine art to eating well at a good buffet. Good point about trying all the exotic foods too! We definitely do that as well.

  24. Shane Todd- Travel Infographics

    December 28, 2012 at 12:33 AM

    Manchester has some awesome all your can eat Buffets. Try Chinatown or if you’re really up for a challenge, Red Hot World Buffet is a challenge to itself where you can have pretty much anything and they will cook most things for you on the spot!!!!

    • Cole Burmester

      January 16, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      Haven’t been down to Manchester yet! Have to add it to the list of things to do. Especially if they have buffets 😉

  25. Kimberley

    December 31, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Great tips. Carbs are my downfall at a buffet.

  26. Michelle O'Neil

    June 24, 2015 at 4:19 AM

    My husband and I went to Phuket last year. One place we really enjoyed was Phuket FantaSea. Every service area was beautiful and neat. The show was great. And continuing on the theme of buffet dinner, theirs was pretty good, with both Thai and international favorites. Particularly we liked their giant fish ball noodles. The price is 400Baht per person -, which is an upgrade on top of the show ticket, but it’s supposed to be the largest buffet restaurant in Asia. My husband and I do remember as one of our nicest outings in Phuket and do recommend it for its quality evening-into-the-night entertainment. Don’t miss it!

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Food

Top 4 Travel Tips for People with Special Dietary Needs

Top 4 travel tips for People with Special Dietary Needs

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There are many reasons why you may follow a special diet. For example, you may suffer from food allergies, you may follow a gluten-free diet because you have celiac disease, or you may be vegan because you don’t want to contribute to animal suffering and pollution.

Best outdoor activities to do in Luang Prabang

Having special dietary needs can be a challenge, though, when you travel. How can you ensure you’ll enjoy your vacation without going hungry and without having to forgo following your diet? Continue reading for a few tips.

Bring Your Own Food

Bringing along a few small meals and snacks is a great way to ensure you always have something to eat while en route to your destination. You should pack some extra food in case there are any delays, such as layovers during flights. Bring foods that will fill you up and energize you, and make sure that they’re properly stored and packed so they’ll remain fresh.

Gözleme traditional Turkish Food

Choose a Rental with a Kitchen

When booking your hotel or resort, make sure that you’ll have access to a kitchen that you can use to prepare meals using local foods that you can easily purchase. When renting a vacation home, you’ll get a great kitchen that you can use to feed yourself and your family, and you’ll be able to control every ingredient that lands in your plate.

While cooking for yourself during your vacation may not seem like a great thing, it will actually help you save money that would otherwise be spent on expensive restaurants, and you can ensure your meals will be fresh, healthy, and appropriate for your diet.

Book Your Vacation with a Company That Shares Your Dietary Needs

There are vegan cruises that you can find, as well as Kosher vacations that you can book through companies like Leisure Time Tours, in order to ensure your special needs will be met perfectly. In fact, when booking your vacation through these types of companies, you can rest easy knowing that you won’t have to work hard at all to get the foods you crave and that are nourishing to your body, mind, and spirit. Just do a quick search online and you’re bound to find the right vacation package that will suit your requirements and expectations.

Research Restaurants

Prior to even booking your vacation, research local restaurants to find out which ones will be great options for your breakfast, lunch, and dinner needs. If an area doesn’t provide enough eateries to suit your requirements, you may need to reconsider where you’ll stay or your destination on a whole. After all, your vacation could easily be ruined if you can’t gain access to the foods you need, so you should take steps to know what to expect.

When traveling with special dietary needs, you may find that it’s difficult to just go to any restaurant or get the nourishment you need while taking a road trip and stopping at fast food chains. But by properly researching your destination and bringing your own food, you can make the most of your journey.

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Europe

Paris on a Budget: Best Cheap Eats in Paris

While Paris used to be regarded as an expensive city, you can now enjoy Paris on a Budget. Use our guide to find the Best Cheap Eats in Paris.

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Eiffel Tower at Night, Paris

Although Paris has a reputation for being one of the most expensive city in the world, the rumours are now unfounded. In 2012, Paris dropped ten places in the Mercer cost of living survey. And with the Euro looking weak, now is probably pretty good time to find some cheap flights and discover the city of love on a budget.

Best Cheap eats in Paris, Eiffel Tower at Night, Paris

Eating in Paris can catch a lot of tourists out. Avoid the expensive restaurants and snooty maître d’s on the Champs Elysees and follow our guide for the best cheap eats in Paris.  Spend less on food and possibly splurge a little on a nice hotels in Paris instead!

Best Cheap Eats in Paris

Head to the Marais

Famous for its selection of ethnic eateries, the trendy Marais area of Paris is perfect for picking up a quick snack.

Check out L’As du Falafel where you can grab a flatbread filled to bursting with golden fried balls of falafel, smothered in hummus, and accompanied with red cabbage. For €4 to take away, you can’t really argue with that. If it’s too busy, simply head to Chez Hanna down the street for equally tasty food at equally low prices.

Best eats in Paris, The Louvre, Paris

Enjoy an Oriental baguette

Vietnamese food is popular in France, and nowhere can you see the fusion of two cultures more clearly than at Saigon Sandwich in the Belleville district of Paris.  Their speciality, banh mi, is a light and crusty French baguette filled with flavours of South East Asia. 

There are only a few options (poulet, bouef, maison and special) but for €3 a go you could happily sample them all.

Find French food on the cheap

Believe it or not, there are some restaurants specialising in French cuisine that won’t see you stumbling into your overdraft. Les Temps des Cerises is one of them.

Described by Yelp as a “Dive Bar”, nothing could be further from the truth.  Run by a cooperative, it attracts a distinctly bohemian crowd. The menu is small, but the food is prepared from ingredients which sing with freshness and high quality.

View from the top of Arc de Triomphe

Eat like a local celebrity …

Rumour has it that Pierre Herme, one of Paris’s most celebrated pastry chefs, makes a habit of visiting the Belleville restaurant Le Baratin. The prices are surprisingly low for the delicious Argentinian fare.

Time Out Magazine recommends the tuna carpaccio with cherries, or the spicy basque lamb. Pop in at lunch time for the prixe fix menu. At €18 for three courses it’s hard to complain.

… or eat like a local office worker

Bistro Victoires is a favourite amongst Paris’s locals. It doesn’t look like much from outside, and the wine list leaves a lot to be desired, but when you sit down to enjoy some of the best steak frites in Paris, all else will be forgiven.

Portion sizes are enormous and the waiters often remind patrons that if they order a starter, they won’t be able to tackle the main course. Despite being a popular location just steps away from the Palais Royal, it still manages to be a hidden gem.

Champs-Elysees Sunset

What are your tips for finding the best cheap eats in Paris?

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Europe

Cooking tips while traveling in Italy

Find out the best ways to live like a local with these Cooking tips while traveling in Italy. Perfect for saving money and eating extremely well!

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Pasta cooking at Casa Artusi, Emilia Romagna, Blogville

This is a guest blog brought to you by Flavours Holidays, a specialist Italian tour operator offering quality cookery courses and holidays in Italy since 1998.

To get the most out of your culinary travels in Italy, do as the Italians do; shop like an Italian, eat like an Italian and drink like an Italian. Speak to waiters, ask locals for advice, chat with shop owners and watch what people buy, when they eat their meals and which accompaniments they choose.

Leaning tower of Pisa, HDR, Italy

Travelling in Italy

Cooking tips while traveling in Italy

Use these travel tips to find out the best ways to live like a local with these cooking tips while traveling in Italy. They are perfect for saving money while travelling, and eating extremely well!

Don’t go big on breakfast

Italians tend to start the day with a strong espresso or a milky café latte, accompanied with a pastry which is often a croissant or crostata (Italian breakfast tart).

If you’re cooking your own breakfast pastries then bear in mind that the Italian croissant, known as acornetto, differs from the French version. It is less buttery, a little lighter, tends to be smaller and is usually finished with a delicious orange glaze.

Abandon stereotypes

Many of the Italian dishes you might be used to at home are variations of traditional dishes, adapted to suit the western palate.

For example; did you know that Bolognese sauce is traditionally served with tagliatelle rather than spaghetti? Or that an authentic carbonara sauce isn’t made with cream? Trust the chefs you meet and learn to cook authentic dishes the traditional way.

Pasta cooking at Casa Artusi, Emilia Romagna, Blogville

Cooking tips while traveling in Italy – Cook like a local

Cook two courses for lunch

The saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” doesn’t apply in Italy. Lunch is the main deal in Italy and you’ll notice that many shops and tourist attractions shut for several hours during lunch time.

To cook lunch the Italian way, prepare a generous pasta course, followed-up with a protein course of meat or cheese, perhaps with some fried veggies on the side. If serving wine, include a jug of water to dilute it with and have fruit or gelato ready for desert.

Shop in local markets

Join the locals and shop for your goods in Italy’s wonderful open-air markets, rather than going to the supermarket. Not only do local markets expose you to the best seasonal foods of each region but they’ll also give you the opportunity to speak with stall owners, ask them questions about their foodstuffs and maybe even taste some of their wares before you buy them.

To get the most out of your trip, go armed with an Italian dictionary and learn the names of the ingredients you plan to buy.

Florence Italy Local Fruit Markets

Cooking tips while traveling in Italy – Shop at local markets

Be regional

Italian cuisine varies greatly between regions and each Italian region has its own speciality dishes, cooking preferences and local ingredients which have been shaped by the local geography, history and climate. You should appreciate this distinction by noticing what’s on sale in local markets, look around at what’s growing in the fields, what people are cooking and what local restaurants are serving up.

For example, Venetian cuisine features risottos, heavy sauces and tiramisu. If you are travelling in Tuscany, expect to be cooking more simply using plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, cheeses and breads, with delicious Tuscan soups a firm feature of the cuisine. While the coastal regions like Cinque Terre will naturally favour seafood and fish dishes.

Riomaggiore photos Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is home to delicious seafood – Cooking tips while traveling in Italy

If you are passionate about Italian food, try a Flavours cooking holiday and enjoy learning how to create traditional recipes like an Italian.

What are your special tips for living like a local while travelling? Do you have any other cooking tips while traveling in Italy?

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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