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Food Tips For Travelling With Kids

Updated on December 30, 2009

It's hard enough to keep kids well fed at home, but vacation brings with it the challenges of eating on the road. To stop the endless chants of "are we there yet?" or "I'm hungry," the secret is preparation. Here are some parent-tested tactics to traveling with your treasures and surviving.

When flying always call in advance to order a children's meal as most major carriers offer them. Don't presume that the children's meal will be any good. To be safe, pack a little picnic in your child's backpack: string cheese, crackers, apples, baby carrots, portable yogurt or cookies. Older kids can enjoy a picnic too: while the rest of the passengers suffer through mystery chicken, they can pull out a baguette filled with mozzarella and tomato. Yum!

Also, now that airline terminals have been updated with better food choices tanking up prior to getting on board is often a better alternative. Look for the home town favorites such as Legal Seafood at Logan Airport in Boston or Gino's Pizza at O'Hare in Chicago. Even Wolfgang Puck is cropping up in airport terminals.

Landing always seems harder on little ears than takeoff. Have a stash of bubble gum or gummy candies to keep little jaws busy and help pop little ears during landing.

Air travel is terribly dehydrating, and drink-service refills are hard to come by on today's packed airplanes. Make sure every family member has a water bottle and uses it. If your child resists plain water, fill a water bottle with diluted juice or Gatorade.

It's important to take kid dining precautions while driving Every time you set off for a car trip of an hour or more,  hand each child a Ziploc bag of fresh fruit. If we're headed to a restaurant, this ensures that they get something healthy before the burger and fries.

To stop whining, try pulling out a surprise treat such as a cookie. Always keep a few granola bars in the glove compartment for emergencies. They'll last for years. Likely longer than your car.

After confinement in the car for hours, most kids can't sit still in a restaurant, so don't try. Instead, have a healthier, much more enjoyable lunch or dinner alfresco, where they can run, shriek and generally blow off steam. Seek out the town's best deli or gourmet market and buy ingredients for a picnic in a local park. Eating by a creek or next to a playground is a nice alternative to yelling at kids to keep still. If you stop to eat, do so at spots serving regional food such as lobster rolls in Maine or barbecue in Texas. It's a great way to teach a child about a place and its food.

Don't grant every backseat request for food. More often than not, the kids are simply bored. Instead, start a game of license-plate bingo, pull out a new book or magazine (this even works for teens), or try a round or two of favorite songs.

Breakfast can be a dawdling time for kids, which is a challenge on long-haul car-trip days. Here's how to handle it: Pack the car the night before, get up at 5 a.m., make a quick Thermos of coffee, put sleeping children in the car as quickly as possible, and hit the road. They always fall back asleep, and we get at least three hours of quiet driving done before they're even hungry for breakfast. By 9 a.m., even grownups are content to linger over pancakes for a while.


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      Onyet 4 years ago

      Great post MaryBeth. I'm the budget queen and can acuocnt for everything down to the last cent. I beg of you don't use your gender as an excuse to be ambivalent towards managing your finances. You don't need to be a Wall Street guru but you need a sound basic knowledge. Sorry I'll get off my soapbox now.Great post though, I enjoy catching up with your thoughts every few days.