This article originally appeared in the latest September issue of Foodie: Cooking with Jamie Oliver. Read it here!
Food, Kids & Travel
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in a new destination is through its cuisine. Pre-kids, I would spend time researching a city’s best food joints, securing tables at hot new restaurants and sampling all kinds of weird and wonderful cuisine. Nowadays, I have two pint-sized food critics in tow, and whilst we still try to experiment with their tastebuds, invariably fries and ice cream are involved at some stage of the journey.
When it comes to feeding kids on your travels, preparation is key. Contrary to what you may believe, traveling with a baby is relatively easy. Whether you’re breastfeeding or formula feeding, as long as you’ve packed sufficient bottles, formula and sterilising equipment, you’re good to go. If you’re ‘weaning’ (beginning to introduce food), fresh fruits and vegetables should be available at your destination. If you’re traveling around Southeast Asia, you’re spoilt for choice with easily mashable fruits from bananas and papayas to avocados and mangoes. Many hotels and restaurants will steam and puree food on request. It’s also worth packing plenty of organic food pouches, which can be a lifesaver when you’re on the go.
Trickier times arise when toddlers start to have an understanding of what they like and don’t like. I’ve always found traveling through Asia with fussy kids fairly easy, as you can always get a bowl of steamed rice or plain noodles. As long as you are mindful of food hygiene, there is no reason why you can’t offer your little ones a taste of what you’re having. This will get them used to varied tastes and textures. On a recent trip to the Deep South of the United States, my six-year-old sampled alligator and frog… even though I told her she was just eating fried chicken!
As kids grow older, this is prime time to encourage them to become budding foodies. I will often show my kids pictures of the local food in advance of our trip and get them excited about trying it. In particular, they love the bustling street food stalls of Thailand, watching the cooks whip up something exciting, particularly if it comes on a stick. If all else fails and your kids really aren’t interested in trying something new, see if bribery will work! Reward them for trying something exotic with the promise of an ice cream.
Whether you’re lounging around a tropical resort or exploring a city, you will need to come armed with snacks. It’s always best to pack sufficient snacks from your home country that you know your kids will enjoy, made with ingredients you are comfortable with. For those staying at a hotel with a vast breakfast buffet, it’s worth taking a Tupperware box to squirrel away things like breakfast muffins for use later in the day!
Regardless of age, we all need to play by the rules of food hygiene. Use common sense to determine if the food is fresh, hygienic, and thoroughly cooked. Make sure everyone’s hands are washed (even if it’s with hand sanitiser) before sitting down to eat. It’s also worth getting recommendations in advance for family-friendly restaurants or popular street food stalls.
It’s important to have realistic expectations about mealtimes during family vacations. They may not be as relaxing and enjoyable as they once were, but with a little preparation, they can still be incredibly fun. Be sure to bring plenty of activities along, whether it’s a sticker book or a favourite toy. If you think you might have to wait a long time for your meal, feed the kids a snack before you head out to the restaurant. And if you really want to enjoy a culinary experience, it may be best to leave the kids at home or book a babysitter!
Things To Pack
- Sterilising equipment (steriliser, microwave sterilising bags, sterilising tablets)
- Weaning spoons
- Sippy cup / Water bottle
- Baby food
- Cooler bag
- Snacks (dried fruits, cereal bars, teething biscuits, crackers)
- Baby formula
- Dishwashing detergent and brush
- Plastic cutlery
- Portable high chair
- Hand sanitiser
- Oral rehydration salts for kids (in case of upset stomach)