A Guide to Eating With Kids While Traveling

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Traveling with kids in tow requires thoughtful planning from figuring what to pack in your carry-on suitcase to where you’ll spend the night to which activities should be included on the itinerary. And, of course, dining out with your family is also a big piece of the puzzle. Whether you have a toddler that will only eat buttered noodles, a pre-teen with an allergy, or if you just want your brood to eat something green and healthy while on-the-go, the following tips and suggestions will surely help you navigate eating with kids while traveling.

Bring Healthy Snacks on Road Trips

Taking a long road trip is a quintessential family experience but without proper planning, it can get difficult to schedule regular meals. Gas station snacks and candy as well and fast food restaurants are plentiful along the way but it won’t be long until you’ll find yourself hankering for something healthy, especially after you’ve been sitting in a car for so long.

Pack a cooler full of healthy snacks before you go like: apple slices, sandwiches, fruit leather, protein bars, sliced up vegetables, and frozen yogurt squeezes. If your road trip is a long one, plan on restocking at a grocery store along the way. You may also consider bringing a battery-powered blender for protein smoothies. It requires extra effort, but you’ll be glad to have fresh fruit and vegetables with you on your adventure. Plus, you’ll save money, time, and resources, which are all important considerations. 

Prepare for Food Allergies

Having a food allergy or sensitivity, no matter how severe, can be a challenge while traveling. Preparation is, of course, key. You’ll want to make sure you have emergency medications for anaphylaxis, including epinephrine auto-injectors, antihistamines for gastrointestinal issues or hives, and bronchodilators for relieving asthma-like symptoms.

Before you go out to eat, locate Gluten-free restaurants through the Find Me Gluten-Free app or find a restaurant that caters to allergies through the nationwide Allergy Eats guide. Knowing where to eat if your children are allergic to gluten, wheat, milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, or fish will make the overall trip planning experience much less stressful. 

Know What to Eat in Airports and on Airplanes

You know your child and what they’ll eat. Plan ahead and either pack appropriate foodstuffs with you for your travels or check the airport website before you go to find out what dining options exist in the terminals. Most mid-sized to larger airports have a wide variety of meal choices available, from casual grab-and-go carts to sit-down pubs and restaurants.

Plan for flight delays and cancellations as well. Bring empty water bottles through security and fill them at water stations once you find your gate. You’ll be happy to have a supply of fluids with you at all times.

When it comes to bringing food on the plane, baby food, formula, breast milk, and juice are typically allowed in reasonable quantitates in carry-on and checked luggage. Solid food items, like bread, cheese, cereal, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nuts are allowed in both carry-on and checked baggage. Liquids have to be under 3.4 ounces to be allowed in your carry-on bags. Of, course, different rules apply for entry into a different country. If you have a question about what you can bring on the plane, take a photograph of your item and send it to AskTSA on Facebook Messenger or Twitter and they’ll give you a response. 

Accommodate Picky Eaters

Many kids, especially toddlers, are picky eaters and have a difficult time articulating what they want to eat. Add a change in routine, or international travel with culturally unique dishes, and finding foods that everyone in your family will enjoy can be downright problematic. Learning about diverse foods and tasting distinctive local specialties, however, is part of what makes traveling so indelible and meaningful.

Encouraging your children to eat at least one bite, even if it doesn’t look particularly appetizing, is a good way to get them to try new foods. This rule also applies to adults in order to model desirable behavior. And, who knows, a new type of fare may be added into your meal rotation at home.

Always pack some snack fan-favorites in your to-go bag and plan for the worst. Freeze-dried fruits, Cheerios, bananas, hard-boiled eggs, cheese sticks, and sealed yogurt smoothies are simple to toss in a diaper bag. Also, remember to bring a daily multi-vitamin for everyone in your family and hydrate more than you think you need to. It goes without saying, but everyone travels better when they’re not hungry or thirsty.

Finally, you may want to consider cooking while on vacation. Visiting a local grocery store and coming up with a kid-vetted dinner might be the winning ticket. Plus, you’ll create memories by visiting a market, chatting with vendors, and cooking together as a family. Kids are also more likely to try something new if they were a part of the decision-making process and had a hand in making it. 

Ask Your Server for What You Want

When out and about, no matter where you’re at in the world, be sure to directly ask for what you want—nicely and with kindness, of course. This sounds simple but too often we’re so concerned with offending someone, especially if they’re from a different culture, background, or age group, that we take what we’re given instead of what we need and want to pay for.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or be specific about what your dietary needs and concerns are. If you need to use Google Translate or find an interpreter, do so. If there’s nothing on the menu you can—or want—to eat, feel free to ask for other options or to have something specially prepared. Buttered noodles, for example, is super easy to put together and just because the option isn’t listed on the menu, doesn’t mean the kitchen can’t prepare it for your child. If the chef isn’t willing to accommodate your request, then you can rely on what you’ve brought in your bag.