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Travelling With Kids - Food Ideas

Children eating meal in back of car FAA019001106

Summer is such a great time to travel but, when kids are involved, the packing tends to be a bit more intensive. You have to pack all the kid-friendly extras like toys, books, car/plane activities, baby monitors, etc. But one of the most important items to remember to pack is a giant bag of food. Traveling means lots of snacks if you want to have a peaceful trip. And because kids eat up to 6 times per day depending on age, packing snacks and food is essential for keeping the kids happy. (And keeping your wallet in check!) 

Although while giving snacks while in the car is hard to avoid, especially if you want some peace and quiet at times, I do recommend stopping and having a rest stop picnic whenever possible. My best advice is to pack a large bag and chilly bin (frozen water bottles will serve double duty as ice packs and water as they melt) with healthy options that can keep the kids energized, and avoid the stress of finding healthy foods on the road or in the airport terminal. Don't forget to pack napkins (a roll of paper towels is even better), plastic utensils, and paper plates or bowls. Anti-bacterial wipes are another good idea for before and after eating. Don't forget grocery bags to use for trash. A beach towel or folded sheet will protect the car seats from stains. If you plan on stopping to picnic, bring a mess mat for the picnic tables, which are often less than sanitary!

Some of my food safety tips:

  • If you're traveling in the car longer than 30 minutes, place perishable food such as meat, chicken, eggs, cheese and salads in a cooler with ice or freezer packs.
  • Pack perishable food directly from the refrigerator or freezer into the cooler. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one.
  • Stow the chilly bin in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car, rather than the hot trunk. Limit the times it is opened, and make it quick.

Healthy Snack Ideas:

Fruit and Veggies:

These are just a few snack ideas that I think 'travel' well.  For more inspiration on healthy snack ideas check out our article dedicated to just this.  It is packed with lots of different are sure to find something your kids will love!
  • Make a fruit salad with fresh fruit ahead of time and keep it in a thermos food jar to keep it at a food safe temperature. Bring toothpicks to make it fun to eat!!!
  • Bananas and apples are the perfect pre-wrapped snack.
  • Raisins or other dried fruit are great for little fingers to pick up.  Store them in re-usable snack bags for easy access.
  • Carrot, zucchini, capsicum, cucumber and celery sticks pre-cut with peanut butter or hummus are great to dip.  Choose a container with a divide - store the chopped veges in one side and the dip in the other.
  • Mini muffins are a great option too - both sweet and savoury go down a treat.  Or perhaps a slice of our banana and prune loaf?
Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner
I recommend that whatever you choose to give the kids for breakfast, lunch or dinner try and include a serve of protein.  This will help keep them fuller for longer.  Remember, protein comes in lots of different forms and is not just meat but also dairy, eggs, beans etc etc.  So be creative.
  • If your child is still on the early solids phase (not quite at the finger food phase yet) you can still take home made food.  Just ensure you keep it stored in a Thermos Food Jar (especially if you want to keep it warm) or in a chilly bin.  I recommend you serve it that day and don't leave it over night.
  • Sandwiches:  Peanut butter, egg or honey (for kids over 1 year), hummus and cheese, chicken and avocado, ham and cheese.
  • I have fond memories of fresh egg sandwiches for breakfast on one of our long road trips from South Africa to Zimbabwe!  I think they were the highlight of the trip!
  • If you want to avoid soggy sandwiches but love the idea of lots of different fillings – keep them separate and when you stop let the kids ‘build’ their own sandwiches.
  • Pasta or bean salad with veggies and an herb vinaigrette, adding some chopped ham or chicken too to up the protein content of the meal.  I again suggest packing this into a container that is stored in a chilly bin or using a good quality thermos food jar/flask.
  • Left over risotto etc from the night before can go down a treat too!
  • Soft meats cut into strips or chunks/strips of cheese make great finger foods.  You can store these in re-usable snack bags and pop them in the chilly bin if they contain meat etc.
  • Pre-made frittata.  Pre-cut into slices or make them in muffin tins and you have them all pre-portioned.
3. Packaged Foods

  • Pre-made toddler and baby foods, especially those that can be eaten directly from the squeezy pouch!
  • Whole wheat crackers, soft bagels, no-salt pretzels, rice cakes, dry cereals are all foods that can be snacked on and picked up with little fingers.
  • Small pottles of yogurt or dairy food (pop these in the freezer the night before).
Most importantly try and enjoy the trip even though travelling with kids can be very trying on the nerves and patience (what patience I hear you say) at times it is all part of the holiday experience.  The more organised you can be the better the whole experience, for both you and the kids!