Tips for feeding a child while traveling

Recently we did a long weekend to Sydney, which is about an 8 hour flight and a 3 hour time change. I am fortunate enough to have traveled a fair amount with my little one, we have a routine when on the road. (No, that does not mean that there are not tantrum and struggles that occur, I am traveling with a toddler!) But for many people, because of the stressors, they postpone traveling with kids, especially if you have a child who does not adapt well to change.

In a Facebook group that I belong to, parents were recently talking about how to get their children to eat when traveling, so I thought I’d share some of my learnings.

Image (C) 2018 Eidan Wong

Traveling with children can be a challenge: dealing with potential sleep issues, a new environment, schedules which are not consistent, excitement, and so many other factors. It can be stressful for a little one as well as on the parent(s). New foods, eating at restaurants on a regular basis and different meal timing, (if not time zones) makes eating on vacations more stressful for many parents

Here are some tips that I have found to be helpful when traveling:

** these tips will be determined by the time changes, length of trip, and age of child.

1. Try to stick to the normal meal/snack schedule.

Meal regularity and setting expectations for when food is available is important for kids to be able to regulate their intake.

** If time changes are involved, often I gauged the time difference and the length of the trip to determine if I would adjust meal times.For large time zone differences (example 12 hours) and a week trip, there have been times I never changed mealtimes.This is dependent on the age of the child.Once a child is active and has a desire to experience activities (around age 2-3 years old this starts to occur depending on the child), then they will want to adjust and explore the location.

2. Take a couple snacks that are familiar for your child when travelling and keep them in your bag. In case you end up in a location you can’t get a hold of food and your child is hungry, you want to have something that they are familiar with and will likely eat.

3. Always have a “safe” food on the table at every meal

Have a food you are confident your child will eat if they are hungry and cannot find anything else on the table that they are comfortable with eating. This is often something plain like rice, bread, or fruit.

4. If your child has a favourite cup, make sure you bring it and maybe a spare. Although my toddler can drink from a cup now, I always travel with a spill proof cup. This decreases a stress during travel in planes, trains, and cars. It is also something familiar for your child.

5. Do some research before the trip and have discussions with your family about different foods you may experience, so they have some expectations. This may even include videos of their favourite cartoon, if available.

6. On the topic of research – research a bit about the location you are going to prior to traveling. Knowing things like if the water is safe to drink from the tap, the temperature (so you can pack right), and ease of finding a grocery store are important to know to plan accordingly. It can also prevent some tummy issues when on the trip so you can eat safe foods.

7. Model trying local cuisine for your children. Try the different foods that are unique to where you are visiting and let them see you eat it. Sometimes they may surprise you and ask for a try.

8. Try to relax during mealtimes. If your child senses you are stressed and worried about eating, they may pick up on the stress. Enjoy the location, the food, and the company. It’s a vacation after all!

Traveling is fun and educational for everyone! Try to enjoy yourself!

If you have other tips which have been helpful to you, I’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment!

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