With Mother’s Day coming up next Sunday, I’ve decided to dedicate each day this week to offering tips, inspiration, and stories to all the traveling moms out there, especially those who might be questioning how, where, or why they can bring their children out into the world. And I won’t be doing it alone. Each day other fabulous traveling mothers will offer their own words of wisdom. I’m so excited to bring you the collective experience of this truly amazing group of family travelers who have been round the world and back with their little ones.
Next to airline travel with babies and toddlers, dining out may be one of the more fraught topics of conversation for new parents. And I’m not going to sugarcoat it – I love to eat out, but during the toddler years, it’s really tough to do so. Mobile children don’t necessarily want to sit still to eat and their concept of an “inside voice” is limited at best. You may find during this time that the wine you used to sip as a complement to your meal has become more of a tool to loosen the tension in your jaw.
Even nursing infants can be a challenge when it comes to restaurants. We embarked on a 3-week, 4000-mile road trip with Tommy when he was a few months old, assuming that dining out would be no problem as up until that point he would usually happily doze in his car seat carrier while we ate. Of course he chose to make that the moment to start fussing at dinnertime. After a long day of driving, we’d find a place to dine and then one of us would have to walk around with a crying baby while the other one ate. We didn’t have a conversation over dinner for the entire trip.
When your child is between the ages of about ten months and two years old, my best tip is to be realistic and patient. Don’t avoid restaurants altogether (I believe that children only learn how to dine out by actually doing so) but try to be sensible in your choices. Eating outside is almost always a great option if a restaurant offers it. Large markets with food stalls and dining areas like Quincy Market in Boston, Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, or the Farmers Market in Los Angeles are also good choices – not only do you have lots of options when it comes to what you’ll eat, but since these spaces tend to be loud and full of movement, your child isn’t going to attract any notice.
And a little bribery can go a long way – when my children were little I wasn’t above pulling a new toy out of my purse that I had purchased just for the occasion or letting them have goldfish crackers for dinner, making up for it with something health later on.
So what do other traveling moms recommend when it comes to eating out with baby?
Corinne McDermott of Have Baby Will Travel says that traveling and dining out with baby can be a snap with a little preparation:
Not finding anything appropriate on the menu for your child? Rebecca Darling of R We There Yet Mom? says don’t suffer in silence.
Traci Suppa of Go Big or Go Home suggests finding alternatives to traditional restaurants:
As with many things having to do with small children, being prepared is a key part of success when it comes to dining out with babies. Colleen Lanin of Travel Mamas suggests stocking your bag:
Nicole Wiltrout of Arrows Sent Forth uses a similar approach:
And finally, Keryn Means of Walkingon Travels says to be bold when it comes to feeding your child (and yourself) on the road
I have to agree with Keryn – food is such a great way to experience and expose yourself and your family to different cultures. And starting at a young age means your child may be more open to trying different foods in the future.
For more tips about dining on the road with children see my suggestions in Road trip tip: Eating on the road. I share this post also as part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick – if you’re feeling hungry for some great food writing and photographs be sure to check it out.
And feel free also to share your own tips for eating on the go with babies and toddlers in the comments below.