Eating With Kids on A Family Vacation

One of the tough things about traveling with young children (especially picky eaters) can be mealtime. It is stressful to eat every meal out, unfamiliar foods can be challenging, and long restaurant meals can eat into the time you'd like to spend seeing the sights (not to mention the fact that you want to spend some of that precious good behavior in a museum).

E playing quietly at mealtime
E playing quietly at mealtime

Advance Planning Helps
Before you go, try to choose a few restaurants close to the attractions you will be visiting so that you don't waste valuable time looking for something suitable. We look for restaurants that are relatively quick, interesting for the kids, and likely to have something that they will eat. When we can, we try to dine outdoors or in a space where there is something interesting for the kids to watch. Since we are foodies and want to have authentic food experiences, we tend to dine in local places rather than chains.

We also find it helpful to “practice” by eating some typical foods at home before we go. I try to pick one or two recipes that are common in the place we're visiting that also seem kid friendly. For example, before we went to Spain, I made Paella at home

Also, check out’s helpful tips for dining out with toddlers

Note that high chairs are not available in many European countries (England being a notable exception), so you may want your stroller or baby backpack to double as a high-chair.


We like to have breakfast in the hotel room. It gets us off to a quicker start and gets the kids fed before they get crabby. To avoid high room service costs, pick up pastry or a box of cereal and milk the night before and ask the hotel to provide plates and silverware. Oatmeal packets also work well as many hotel rooms have coffee makers you can use to heat water.

Many hotels have a coffee shop nearby. This is often a quick and inexpensive place for breakfast

Lunch and Dinner with Kids

Here are some great ideas for lunch and dinner on your family vacation that are quick and will satisfy everyone.

  • Picnics (find a deli, supermarket, or best of all a local farmer's market, and pick up what you need)
  • Streetside cafés give kids a chance to watch the city while they wait for their food and tend to be geared around quick service. In Italy and Spain a restaurant on a Plaza will give them a chance to get up an run.
  • Sushi boat restaurants enable even the youngest children to choose their food and are super quick. Sushi bars, and other restaurants where kids can watch food being prepared will often help keep them entertained.
  • Chinese food adapts so well to local culture that it can be fun to visit Chinese restaurants in different countries and see what’s different and what is similar to home.
  • Nicer department stores in Europe and Japan have huge food departments with pre-made items. While they’re expensive compared to a regular grocery, they tend to be cheaper than dining out and give everyone a chance to sample the local food without ordering blindly off a menu. There is often a small dining area in the department store or a park nearby.
  • If you have a rental apartment, you can easily pick up ingredients for lunch and bring them back to the apartment to cook. If you are concerned about food safety, this is a great choice.
  • Pack a jar of peanut butter and bring it along. You can buy bread and jam anywhere.


Occasionally your child might have snack time in the stroller while you have a walking tour (obviously most meals and snacks should be family time, but part of the balance is making time for the things you enjoy)

Shave Ice Made with Fresh Apple Cider at the Santa Fe Farmer's Market
Shave Ice Made with Fresh Apple Cider at the Santa Fe Farmer's Market
  • Roadside stands such as a Crepe stand in paris, a Falafel stand or a Belgian Waffle shop are delicious and fun.
  • We love shopping in local markets for snacks.
  • Bakeries often have savory items and pre-made sandwiches as well as sweets
  • Peanut butter sandwiches can be made at the beginning of the day and carried along.
  • Nuts, dried fruit, and crackers are usually easy to find and travel well.
  • In Europe grocery stores often sell shelf stable milk in juice boxes.
Related Links in our Family Travel Blog
How to find a Kid Friendly Restaurant that You Will Enjoy
Does Travel With Kids = The McDonalds World Tour
Favorite Online Restaurant Guides
Favorite Restaurant Guidebooks
Reader Questions: Eating With Kids In Paris
Reader Questions: Milk in Spain and France
TSA Confiscates Baby Food and Formula