I get emails from people asking for advice when traveling with kids: What do I do about jetlag? (Sadly, you only can suffer through it. No shortcuts. Expect one day for every hour in the other timezone before life gets back to normal.) What's the best stroller? (Quinny Moodd is great, in my books.) Do most places have highchairs in Europe? (England, yes. France/Italy, no. Stuff a cloth one like this in the bottom of your stroller.)
But over the past few years, I have come to develop a theory on dining out with children while traveling. You see, it's not that scientific, and I have a suspicion that other parents would feel the same... but it goes towards how to eat out with kids in a way that leaves everyone without trauma (you, them, other diners, and waitstaff!).
Basically, as parents, we know that children peak early in the day. As the day progresses, the behavior becomes less and less reliable and long dinners out seem nearly impossible. I would agree with this, too. The thought of bringing Harrison to dinner at 8pm in Paris makes me sweat. So where does that leave us? Sititng at home and never leaving the house? Packing sandwiches to eat in a corner of a park for every meal?
Nah. I couldn't get all those croissant shots for Instagram from my house. Here's what we do. I'll break it down meal by meal to help talk through each section of the day.
We eat out at the most gloriously gorgeous place for breakfast when we travel. Gorgeous hotels, amazing restaurants, fancy sunlit spots... you name it, we gladly haul our crew there. First, because my kids can be the best behaved. Second, because those around us have different expectations for who "should be" dining around them at this meal. If a kid is rowdy in a candlelit room at night, eyes rolls. If kids chatter and wiggle at breakfast, it's no big deal. Third, we like this because breakfast- no matter how nice the place- is never going to break the bank. Even at the poshest of hotels and places, breakfast items stay around $10.
Lunch is always on the go when traveling. We don't want to go back to the hotel or apartment to do lunch, so it's going to be out. Since we have typically done something bigger for breakfast, we can get by with something a bit more casual for lunch. Cafes, picnic in the park, sidewalk tables... something easier that isn't too stuffy and won't mind kids being there.
Tuck and run. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not put your familiy through the chaos of sitting through a long multi-course meal. I mean, if you kid is tiny enough to do it- go you. We took Viola everywhere for ages no matter the hour of the day and she did fine. Additionally, if they are old enough to not flip out from a detour from normal bedtime- enjoy it. But if you have more than one that is mobile and not logical, know your limits.
This is a big selling point to getting an AirBnB when you travel. It just gives you the option to go to the local markets (so fun!) and get stuff to cook dinner at home. After dinner, toss the kiddos in bed and unwind with your spouse. Besides, you know you need an early night in to usher in the next day and the inevitable early wakeup.
So there you have it. One of our secrets for sanity in traveling with kids: start big in the morning and work your way down throughout the day. It's better for everyone and still lets you do great eating without the risk of tears!
* * *
Traveling with kids is so fun- you just have to adjust your expectations and rethink what normal looks like. It doesn't mean to skimp and go without on everything. (Okay, some things have to go like sleeping in.) This is an easy way to still eat well and keep that integral part of the travel experience still on the table... just with a twist that helps it work for young families.
Please share some tips that help your family when traveling/eating. I'd love to hear the success stories from others!
*Images by Grant Schol. Original to Aspiring Kennedy.