Eating with kids may or may not be the first topic on your mind when it comes to all of the things that come into play when traveling. When traveling with children though, you must plan ahead for everything- food included. Eating is one of our most basic human needs so it seems simple enough to be able to grab something to fill your stomach wherever you go, right? Well, not always… Nothing can derail your day’s itinerary faster than when your child says they’re hungry and you’re in the middle of exploring with no opportunity of grabbing food nearby. Adults are able to continue on and push through until they are able to find food, but most children need food the instant their stomachs start feeling hunger pangs. If you’re not prepared and careful, you can find yourself in a situation that escalates to meltdown status within a matter of minutes.
Additionally, it’s no secret that many kids are picky eaters. Some kids (and adults) even have food allergies which take the challenge of finding food to a whole new level. Our family is no exception! Below are our tips for how to handle eating with kids while on-the-go that take away the anxiety of whether your child will find something to eat or not.
*Note: This article does not contain specific places of where to eat in different destinations. We will link to those suggestions as we publish them!
1. Bring snacks and reusable water bottles.
This is probably the most important thing we do. We try to travel as lightly as possible, but snacks are an absolute necessity. Before we leave for our trip, we make sure to have our favorite healthy snacks packed in case of emergencies. This insures that we will at least have some nutritional sustenance if we find ourselves bakery hopping wherever we’re headed…which we often do. 🙂 Not to mention, it is most likely way cheaper to purchase your snacks at home than at the airport or a store whose prices you are unfamiliar with.
We pack all of the food in a specified snack bag which we place inside our larger carry-on. Packing them this way will greatly speed up the process of going through security at the airport! We always take the snack bag out and put it on the security conveyor belt by itself before any of our other items in case they want to check the food. This is especially handy if your little one is rather small and snacks on food purees. A security officer will most likely want to screen the packets once they go through the machine, but don’t worry- they won’t break the seal. You don’t want them having to dig through your entire perfectly packed carry-on just to check the food if you can avoid it! We know from experience. 🙂
Some of our favorite snacks to buy ahead of time include (pictures are linked):
*(Bryan loves to put the almond butter on the protein bars and London is OBSESSED with the Happy Baby packets!)
Additionally, make sure to bring some reusable water bottles to fill up any time you get the chance. It is very important to stay hydrated, especially if you plan to be out exploring all day. Many countries have clean fountains and water spouts where you can stop and fill your bottles up! Here are our favorite water bottles to bring with us (pictures are linked):
2. Find a local market when you arrive.
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with bringing snacks. Some of our favorite healthy foods to snack on throughout the day are not exactly easy to bring or keep fresh on a plane. In fact, many countries will not allow you to bring in food that was grown in another country for health or contamination reasons. Buying things like fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, etc. at a local market right when you arrive solves the problem! We also buy a few gallons of water to fill up our water bottles each day just in case we can’t find any clean water nearby, which is sometimes the case.
3. Do your research.
We cannot emphasize this enough! Simply type in “best restaurants in
———-– ” or “best places to eat in ————” in Google and a whole list will come up. You can be as specific or as vague as you need to depending on what type of food you are looking for. If you or your child has food allergies, you will obviously need to be more specific. We try to scout out restaurants in all areas of town because we do not always know what area we will be in at what time. Having a list of places we would like to eat at means we are not having to walk all over town searching for something that sounds good while we get hangrier and hangrier. (We know we’re not alone in getting grumpy when we’re hungry! 😉 ) We will share the places we have eaten at and loved in the destinations we’ve visited soon!
4. Allow your child to come to the table hungry.
Knowing that we love to immerse ourselves in the culture wherever we go by eating at restaurants within the community, along with not wanting to upset any of the locals with a loud, energetic child, we planned ahead in training our kiddo. We worked hard to teach proper mealtime behavior and manners at a very early age so she would know what is expected of her and we have seen it pay off. Of course, children are still children so this behavior isn’t mastered perfectly at every meal and it is a constant topic that has to be re-visited as they age, but it is still important to emphasize! Our biggest tip for good behavior in a restaurant is to allow them to come to the table hungry. Your child might be a little cranky as they wait for their food, but once the food arrives they will be engaged in eating, not misbehaving. For us this is HUGE!!! We have to keep her entertained in the beginning, but once the food arrives we are *usually* all able to eat in peace. It’s a win for everyone, including the people around us!
*Note: If you are American, the wait times will most likely be very different than you are accustomed to. In the U.S. we are used to quick service and waiters checking on you frequently, but in most other countries dining is done at a different pace. If you desire to have a nice sit-down meal, plan your schedule accordingly knowing that you will spend a decent amount of time at the restaurant and will need to entertain your child there longer than what is probably typical for them.
5. Eat on the go as often as possible.
As a pretty self-explanatory tip, grabbing food on-the-go has saved us so much time and sanity. Since we are only in each location for a select number of days, we try to maximize our time sight seeing. We try to balance our schedule with dining in the best local restaurants and grabbing quick meals that allow us to spend more time exploring. Some of our favorite finds have been places we could pop in real quick and take our food to go! This works especially nice if the thought of eating with kids in a restaurant stresses you out or if you’re worried about trying to entertain them while you wait. Just make sure you grab plenty of napkins with you before you leave. 😉
6. Be flexible with dietary rules.
This one can be hard to let go of… Trust us, we know! In our normal day-to-day routines, we encourage healthy eating and very rarely allow sweets or “junk” food in our diets. When we travel, however, this has to go out the window- but not entirely. If you bring snacks, stop at a local market when you arrive, and choose nutritious meals at the restaurants you visit, your body should be filled with enough fuel to have the energy needed for the day’s demands. Because we eat this way throughout the day, we allow ourselves to splurge here and there. In fact, one day when we were in Italy, our little one had chocolate with breakfast and ice cream with dinner! The Italians love children so much that it makes it REALLY hard to say no to them when they hand your child a free sweet. 🙂 For example, on multiple occasions in Italy, waiters and waitresses asked us if they could carry London around the restaurant to entertain her while we enjoyed our meal. As we left one restaurant, the owner handed her a gigantic chocolate bar to take home with her! We might not have felt like the parents of the year every day, but in the end our little girl was able to try new things and, most importantly, we didn’t offend the people who were so kind to us. Sometimes you have to let things slide every now and then and just enjoy life!
In short, don’t let eating with kids in a foreign place where they may or may not love the food deter you from traveling. If you follow the tips above, especially if you come prepared with snacks and flexibility in your diet rules, eating with kids in a different culture will be no sweat!