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nutrition and travelling with children

Travelling with children can be fun and exciting. It also can present challenges. Travelling can disrupt schedules, routines and familiar activities. Unfamiliar foods are also part of travel.

One of the biggest challenges when travelling with children is dealing with disrupted eating schedules and unfamiliar foods. However, with some planning these obstacles can be overcome. It is also important to keep in mind that, while the goal is to provide nutritious foods, flexibility is critical. Part of the fun of travelling is eating foods that may not be healthy.

One way to make sure children are comfortable is to carry snacks and drinks when travelling or sightseeing. Meals may not be served when the child is ready to eat. Also, toddlers and young children may be picky eaters. Having a supply of familiar foods handy can help avoid problems. Also, stopping at favourite restaurants will break up a trip as well as ensures that the child eats a good meal. When travelling by plane or train, it is a good idea to call in advance to find out if a children's menu is offered. For picky eaters, bringing a sandwich and some favourites from home can avoid disaster.

Children should stay on a normal sleeping and eating schedule as much as possible once the final destination is reached. When staying with friends or at hotels with refrigerators, meals can be made easier by putting in a supply of favourite foods. Getting a list of kid-friendly restaurants in the area is also helpful. If staying at a hotel or apartment make sure high chairs and any other needed equipment is available. Take familiar cups, plates and utensils for little ones.

Travelling with an infant is sometimes easier than travelling with toddlers and young children. If breastfeeding, the mother should try to continue on a regular nursing schedule. For bottle-fed babies, packing premixed formula is easier than mixing it on the road. On long trips, powdered formula can save space. A water bottle should always be carried as well.

If the baby eats solids, the best strategy is to bring small jars of baby foods that do not create much waste and are easy to throw away. Finger foods such as unsugared cereal, crackers, and cheese sticks and triangles are also good to have handy. Bibs and wipes should be packed with food supplies. Some stores sell disposable bibs.

When travelling by plane, babies and small children can have problems with their ears during takeoff and landing. Sucking on something often helps ease the pain. Infants can nurse or drink from a bottle. Other options include sucking on a dummy or drinking a beverage from a cup during takeoff and landing.

Travelling with children in foreign countries can be difficult. Not only can the foods be unfamiliar but food safety can also be a concern. If travelling someplace where safe food handling practices are in doubt, a person should:
  • always use bottled water
  • avoid iced drinks
  • choose fruits and vegetables that can be peeled
  • avoid salads or uncooked vegetables
  • eat food hot
  • avoid eating from outside stands
  • brush teeth with bottled water
  • watch children carefully to make sure they do not put objects in their mouths
Author: Clare Armstrong, MS, RD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 9/1/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.

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