In July we asked our readers “what are your tips for great family meals while on holiday”? (The two winners won an Annabel Karmel recipe book). We had some great responses and I’ve been happy to summarise them into this article.
*The hotel buffet breakfast scored a lot of points with our readers. Make sure everyone in the family enjoys a heallthy, filling breakfast. Then, grab a couple of bread rolls and a piece of fruit on the way out – toddlers lunch done! (Remember to take some resealable sandwich bags with you).
* It sounds obvious, but always ask for a kids menu. Some restaurants have them, but only on request. If there are no kids meals, ask if simple modifications can be made to adult dishes. “A half serve of pasta or a cheese and tomato
sandwich are generally easy for a kitchen to manage”.
* “Another great option which normally appears on an adult menu (but not on the kiddie menu) is soup. Again, ask for a half serve. It is a great way to get veggies into your kids and a makes a refreshing change from the breaded and fried usual suspects on kids menus.”
* “Many kids meals come served with chips. Ask if these can be replaced with a salad or veggies (if your kids will eat salad or veg)”.
* “As far as choosing where to eat out when we did, it was a combination of exploring the local neighbourhood and using Lonely Planet suggestions – sometimes good, sometimes terrible – what is a great venue for a 20 something y.o. backpacker is not necessarily such a great spot for a family meal!”
Bringing some easy food on the road
* “we brought a tube of vegemite with us from home”.
* Disposable bibs – so handy! “and make sure they’re the Heinz ones, the cheaper brands don’t cut it, as we discovered on a previous trip”.
* “Both boys are keen on smoothies (fruit / yoghurt / milk) so we are actually travelling with a stick blender so we can make them anywhere. Come the end of a day where they haven’t eaten much or are too tired for a substantial meal we know we can always at least give them that”.
* “Take snacks that travel well and are healthy. Sultanas and other dried fruits & nuts, well choosen museli bars and fruit (especially mandarins, apples and snack packs) are great to keep tummys full between meals”.
* “There is nothing better than cooking some lamb, chicken kebabs on the bbq and having yiros wraps – lots of salad, hommus, tabouli!! Kids and adults both love it – we did this for our son’s first birthday and it was easy to prepare and cook, healthy and went down as a huge hit for all ages”!!!
* “When traveling with our 5 kids, takeaways can be expensive and not a healthy option ! We try to “cook out” as much as possible. We wrap our potatoes and corn in foil and bake in the coals, We take tins of vegies for the pot and we always casserole or grill. We know we are all getting wonderful nutrition even though we are away from our home comforts. No terrible takeaway meals that leave us sluggish and feeling ill. All healthy food that fills us with GOOD energy and vitality”.
* “When on holiday, there is something special about having fish and chips down on the beach – straight from it all being wrapped up in the paper”!!
We all wanted to ensure our toddlers didn’t miss out on their day sleep time. Some suggested heading back to the hotel was worthwhile, as everyone in the family was generally ready for a break. Others had a travel stroller with them and their little ones were able to have an hour or so nap while out and about.
* “We travelled to Europe 9 months ago for 5 weeks, staying in apartments and self-catering. We tried to learn to say ‘egg and nut allergy’ in each of the languages and used Google translate to print it out and added pictures.”
* “Pre-order children’s meals on flights. Not only are they often more palatable for kids, they arrive before other meals”.
Readers suggest serviced apartments as a “great alternative” to a hotel. There is often more space and can be cheaper than a hotel room. Being able to prepare your own meals can be a bonus – especically when cereal is such an easy breakfast “cereal and milk couldn’t be easier“. As Kylie suggests, “often the kids are up early and ready for breakfast – before the local cafes may be open. You can then also prepare sandwich’s for lunch before you head out”. Then there’s no lines for lunch, you can eat whenever or whereever you want and its generally healthier and cheaper!
* “We looked up supermarkets close to each of the apartments on Google maps before we left, which helped with ease of supplies when we arrived”.
* “Find somewhere to stay where you have access to a full sized kitchen. Check out what cooking tools you have available to use and then source local produce. Don’t forget to take the kids along and try and get them excited about the fresh food and helping with dinner. Nothing like a fresh dinner made from local produce”.
* “When on the road, on thing we have done is freeze up some popular / familiar meals (usually meatballs, pasta sauce or risotto) when we are staying somewhere and then bringing it in a mini freezer bag to the next location on our trip. Then we have a few fast / handy meals available for times on our trip when we know we will be busier”.
Stay in routine
* “I have a 3 and a half year old and a 2 year old. My tips are to keep things as predictable as possible. Get into meal routines quickly and try to give them at least some food they are familar with. Where possible get your villa to buy things in ahead that you know the kids will like and ensure you have lots of interesting, low sugar snacks for the journey!”
* “We’ve been trying to keep the food familiar when we can as well as mixing in new things they haven’t tried before”.
* “We’re currently on a nine week family holiday in Europe with our two children (3.5 years and 22 months). We are staying with family and friends as well as in self contained accommodation. We are moving around around every week to a week and a half and have plenty of quiet days for down time for our children. I think this would be my best advice when it comes to great family meals whilst on holiday as when you move around faster than this it becomes very difficult to preserve the ideal of a family meal”.
“relax and enjoy. If your kids aren’t eating as well or as healthily as you would like them to, don’t fret. Know that they will get into a better eating pattern when they get home”.
Thanks again to everyone who contributed. We love all your suggestions and are sure they will be helpful for all our readers.
Create some wonderful family memories, be flexible, take lots of photos and enjoy your holiday!