Planes, trains, and automobiles. Remember when you used to just pick up and go? Now you have to make sure you have the correct car seat, travel crib, 40 changes of clothes, diapers, feeding gear, and, oh yeah, not driving off without the kids in the car!
As parents, most of the trips we’ve planned for our families include packing what feels like everything in our home. And we’re just going somewhere for the day! So, how can you enjoy a nice family meal when you are on a day trip or vacation without packing everything and the kitchen sink?
Some basics will help make dining out with babies and children a fantastic experience:
Try to go during off hours: Arriving during the lunch/dinner rush means that the restaurant will be loud and meals will take longer to prepare. Noise + long wait = unhappy baby.
Stock up: Stock your diaper bag with extra diapers, wipes, snacks (to munch on before the meal comes), extra clothes, bib, sippy cup, and whatever else is needed.
Be prepared: Ask the waiter/waitress to bring the check when the food arrives. This way, you can enjoy your meal, pay, and be ready to go in an instant — you never know what will happen next!
If you are planning a family vacation, preparation is a must! Bringing your little one’s feeding essentials will make the trip much smoother — transitions and changes can be hard for kids so some familiarity from home helps. When traveling you might encounter new tastes, textures, smells, and flavors. If your little ones don’t jump right in and devour the food, don’t be discouraged. It often takes 10 to 15 times of tasting a new food before a child might develop a preference for it. So sit back, relax, and offer these new exquisite tastes from your plate.
For infants, bring all your nursing essentials, bottles, formula (depending on your baby’s feeding method), and any other baby food (especially if you’ll be in a remote area without access to a market). Call ahead and ask for a refrigerator in your room so you can store all of these essentials safely. If they do not provide refrigerators, bring a cooler and fill it up regularly with ice.
Making your own baby food? This is a bit more difficult on the road, as you’d need to bring your equipment with you and ensure you’re washing all of the items well before using them again. Traveling is a good time to reach for a good quality organic baby food for convenience’ sake.
For toddlers and older children, it helps to bring some of their favorite snacks for down time in the hotel room — remember little ones need to eat frequently due to their small tummies. At this age, it’s really important for them to learn to eat what the family is eating. Try sharing a meal with them rather than ordering from the typical fare on the kids menu. Think about ordering a meal that contains all of the food groups: Veggies, grains, and protein for a nice well balanced meal.
If you are traveling (or dining out) with a kiddo with food allergies, make sure to call ahead and speak with the manager or chef about their menu and food preparation to ensure your child’s safety. If they don’t know the answers to your questions or you don’t feel comfortable with that location, go elsewhere. Safety always comes first.
Stay calm and enjoy the experience; family meals are not only about nutrition, but a time to share stories, learn about each other, and have fun.