Once the little ones come along, you may find yourself vacationing family-style instead of jetting around in carefree style from place to place. Toddlers can be challenging little people in their home environments -- put them in a strange place out of their comfort zone and you may be in for a wild ride. Make sure you plan a yummy vacation food menu for toddlers to keep those little tummies happily full.
A good breakfast can be the key to a great vacation day, so make sure your toddler sees some of the breakfast foods he knows first thing in the morning. Many hotels feature small refrigerators and microwaves as standard fare, so use these amenities to give a toddler a standard breakfast the same way you might at home. Stock yogurt, milk, juice, fresh fruit, bagels, bread and cold cereal -- whatever foods your child likes best. Serve a combination of these easy foods to your toddler in your hotel room while you get ready for a day of vacationing. Another option -- avail yourself of the continental breakfast that many hotels serve. You will probably find many of the foods your toddler likes -- juice, cold cereal, toast or muffins -- available in the hotel's breakfast room.
Pack plenty of snacks to serve your toddler. Toddler's have tiny tummies, which means they must eat often to stay happy. A bite of food can also be a welcome distraction for a toddler who is bored in his car seat and tired of sightseeing. Bring along a tiny cooler and stow away a cup of juice, some string cheese, a few graham crackers, a cereal bar, some fresh fruit or a muffin.
When you're out and about over the lunch hour, try to keep lunch casual and kid-friendly. Find some take-out and eat in a park. Make a lunch out of sandwiches, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, chips and juice and let your toddler burn off some energy after eating. If your toddler has very specific sandwich tastes -- peanut butter and jelly, perhaps -- buy the ingredients to make your child's favorite and pack it in your cooler. Buy convenient, shelf-stable single-serving packs of creamy ranch dressing to use for dipping vegetables and also as sandwich spread instead of mayo.
Chances are, your wee one won't want to sit in a stuffy restaurant with white tablecloths. Save that meal for the night you get a babysitter. When you're eating as a family, keep it on the casual side. Casual doesn't have to mean boring, though. Ask for local recommendations for restaurants that serve healthy food in an atmosphere suitable for small children. You need a menu featuring entrees your child will eat -- grilled chicken breast, hamburgers, stir-fries with fresh vegetables, baked fish -- look for restaurants that feature foods your child gets at home for the best dining results. Request a side of creamy salad dressing for your little one to dip finger foods. A child's menu isn't necessary for a toddler -- most toddlers can eat off mom or dad's plates easily because they don't eat much. Wait staff are usually happy to bring an extra small plate, spoon and extra napkins to accomodate your toddler's nibbling. Be sure to remember it when you leave a tip.
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- Christian Post; 10 Great Vacations for Babies and Toddlers; March 2011
- "The Three-Martini Family Vacation: A Field Guide to Intrepid Parenting"; Christie Mellor; 2007
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images