Oh the joys of traveling with children, am I right? Is it just me or do you always think it’s going to go better than it actually does?
I recently returned from a trip to British Columbia with my wife and son to visit a few of my wonderful cousins. I imagined my 7-year-old having a glorious time staring in awe at the magnificence of the mountains and frolicking in picturesque lakes.
I know you’ll be shocked to read this – but that’s not how it went down. He mostly sat in the back of the jeep with his Lego asking how much longer till we arrived at our destination.
“Hey Coop!” I said. “Check out these awesome mountains! Aren’t they amazing?”
“Mom, he replied unenthusiastically, they look like all the other mountains you’ve shown me.”
Bottom line: he didn’t give two shits about this beautiful country of ours. What he did care about however, was food. And he especially cared when I didn’t have any.
Now here’s the deal: I am, for the most part, on top of my shit when it comes to packing. I like to write lists. A lot. So packing is just another excuse to write things down and then cross them off. When it came to packing for our BC trip I planned on arriving in Calgary, heading to a grocery store as soon as we landed and packing lunches and snacks for our drive. Seemed pretty smart to me.
Unfortunately, our condo was nowhere near a grocery store and I couldn’t pack the food as planned. (That last part was a total lie. You’d have to be in the middle of the tundra for there not to be a grocery store around and even then I’m sure you could find a Macs milk or something. I’m just wicked lazy and didn’t want to do it.)
What ended up happening is we drove for 3 hours before finally stopping at a gas station in the middle of nowhere only to spend $27 on a few apples and a box of crackers. Monster fail.
Because I don’t want you to suffer the same fate as me, I have compiled a list (my fav) of the best foods to travel with. Do not wait until the last minute to figure out what you’re going to eat because I promise you it will not be pretty!
Number one on my list and most important: make sure you have some kind of sustenance for your spawn. If you do not you will regret it like you regret plucking your eyebrows to nothing in grade 12. Seriously, there is nothing worse or more irrational than a hungry child.
Number two: Some kind of cooler. I know that coolers are not cool. I know they are clunky and just one more thing to pack but I promise you that you will save time and money if you simply suck it up and get one. You can get super cute ones now too. No more gigantic 1980’s cooler for you, no thank-you! They come in different sizes and colours and this one even has a spot for wine! It’s like it was made for you!
Along with the cooler you’ll want some containers to pack all of their food goodies in. I’m partial to the ones that have compartments because they make my life easier. These ones are pretty fab – I use the adult sized ones for my adult sized meals.
Number three: Forget about ice packs, you don’t even need them. Instead, freeze water bottles or juice boxes and use them to keep your perishables fresh as a daisy. When they melt you can drink them. That’s what I like to call killing two birds with one stone. I just made that up. Feel free to write it down and use it.
Number four: For the love of God just pack things you know your kids like. A 2-day car ride to Florida is not the time to experiment with your kid’s diet. Just save yourself the headache and pack them their favs: fruit, crackers, veggies and dips etc.…
Number five: Prepare for cleanup. Eating in the car or on a train or on a plane is bound to be messy. Make sure you’re prepared for the inevitable disaster by packing the following: a small garbage bag for the garbage, napkins, wet wipes, extra straws and cutlery. Trust me here. It’s worth the extra packing.
WHAT TO FEED YOUR LITTLE DEVILS
As I said before you’ll want to stick with snacks and meals you know that they like. Now isn’t the time to get fancy. You’ll generally want to go with snacks that are easy to transport, come in their own package like a banana or can get easily packaged like blueberries. Finger foods are awesome for all ages but here’s a breakdown of what your little ones might enjoy. Remember- we live for their happiness, dammit.
If you’re breastfeeding you’ll want to make sure that you bring your boobs along with you. There is nothing worse than being halfway to your destination only to realize you’ve forgotten your breasts at home. A good way to remember is to give your girls a good squeeze before you leave the house each day, that way you’ll never forget them.
If you’re not breastfeeding you can get smaller packages of ready-made formula to bring with you. Just remember that heating it up will be a challenge if you’re on the road. Although, I guess you could try sitting on it to warm it up.
6 months- 18 months:
- Jars of baby food
- Dry cereal
- Diced fruit: avocado, mango, bananas, kiwi, peaches
- Finger foods
- Hummus and veggies
- Whole-wheat wrap with ham and cheese or PB & J
- Unsweetened applesauce
4 and up:
- Anything and everything. Look, I’m not suggesting soup or something that ridiculous, but I’m saying if you can feasible pack it and it has minimal mess well then go for it! My son’s favourite’s are:
- Green apples (Yes, they have to be green. Red ones are obviously poison.)
- Granola bars – THESE are his favs
- Cucumbers and carrots
The bottom line here is that preparation is key. To avoid a hungry child meltdown you need to plan ahead and be sure that your little ones are fed while on the road. Then when they have a meltdown you can be confident that it’s about something reasonable like, their sock falling off or their sister touching them. You know, the stuff that really counts.
If you have any great snack ideas for your little ones I’d love to hear them! Good luck!