Earlier this month, we went on a 10 day trip to Montana. We saw family, explored Glacier Park, and ate well—except the littlest one. She survived on mostly fruit and cheese and almost never ate dinner. For the first few days it really stressed me out and now that we’re home and back into our routine, I thought I’d share our experience. So if you’re heading out on a trip, here are 10 things you might not know are normal about feeding toddlers while traveling.
Traveling with Toddlers: 10 Feeding Tips
- A different seating arrangement can throw them off. We decided not to pack a small, portable booster seat because we had two carseats, a pack n’ play, and our luggage and it was borderline ridiculous as it was. But that meant that T sat on my lap for some meals…which never resulted in her eating much and it made a giant mess of both of us. If you have space, try this portable seat if you’re short on space or this one if you’ve got room in a car, borrow a highchair, or use one if there’s one on site.
- They may not eat dinner. Out of ten days, there was only once that T ate more than 1-2 bites of dinner. Sometimes the foods were new, sometimes they were familiar. She didn’t wake up more than normal and she survived, so don’t worry too much if this happens!
- Give them the chance to try new foods. T mostly tried new kinds of fruit (including cherries straight off of grandma’s tree and huckleberries off of bushes), but hey, that’s something and your little one might surprise you!
- It’s possible they will only eat a few types of foods. Despite my attempts to offer a variety, T really did mostly eat cheese and fruit. This was partly due to how easy these things were to pack on days when we were on the go, but also because they were familiar when the rest of the meal wasn’t. But with so many new experiences while traveling, it makes sense that a toddler would want to eat foods that are safe and known.
- They may not eat foods they eat at home. We had pasta, oatmeal, bread, and chicken thrown onto the floor, which surprised me since T eats them regularly at home. This can be especially frustrating if you order food at a restaurant that your little one won’t eat, but remember: If your toddler is really hungry, they’ll eat. (At least in most cases!)
- Silicone placemats are really handy in restaurants. I tried to keep one folded up in my diaper bag so we could let T feed herself in restaurants. I highly recommend this.
- Snacks can save the day when sleep is short. We did a few hikes with T in the Ergo, which we don’t tend to use much at home now that she’s so mobile, so I often paired it with a simple snack (like O’s, puffs, or raisins) to help keep her happy. And I also admit to feeding her Veggie Straws during two particularly long afternoon drives when we were all done with being in the car…which worked wonders to quell the screaming!
- They’ll survive without their usual tableware. Other than a travel cup for water, you don’t need any other special feeding gear. You can make do with a small spoon and whatever tableware you have where you are! We also learned that T really likes to sip smoothies out of a regular glass, so that was a helpful revelation.
- Peek-a-boo is really fun with cloth napkins. And scarves. And hats. Which is to say, you may need to get creative with entertainment when waiting for restaurant meals…or if someone else is serving dinner and they don’t know that your kiddo needs to eat at 5:30 on the dot. We had endless fun playing with my sunglasses, glasses case, the overhead light in the car, my water bottle, and opening and closing empty food storage containers.
- You probably shouldn’t expect your toddler to sit through a restaurant meal. I know French kids can do this, but mine sure can’t, so my husband and I would alternate taking T for walks while we waited for our food to come. Then she was usually content to be in the highchair or on our laps while eating and a little bit after so we could finish our food (though there was one meal that I ate almost entirely by myself because everyone finished way before me…which was actually pretty nice!).
Almost immediately upon getting home, T started eating dinner, she’s been eating all sorts of foods, and she hasn’t had cheese at every meal. I am relieved that we didn’t have an issue getting back into our normal routine and I bet you won’t either. Relax while you’re on the go and enjoy those new experiences with your littlest family members!