Summer time is here and with it comes the traveling season. Regardless of your destiny, traveling always requires some planning, especially when there are children involved. For many of us, it can be a time of excesses, especially if we don’t plan in advance and just go with the flow in new places. All these changes in our diets and lifestyles can affect our health even after we return to Doha and to our normal lives.
As a new mom myself, I discovered that traveling with a baby can get really messy if I don't plan in advance, especially when visiting new countries. It is in these new and foreign settings that we tend to make poor choices regarding our food and health in the name of momentary comfort.
However, happy and healthy traveling with kids is achievable, and here are some simple tips to keep in mind to make our next holidays abroad a wonderful, healthy and joyful experience for all!
- If you are staying in a hotel call or email ahead of time and ask them about healthy food options for you and your family. Ask them for Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free or alternatives that you could enjoy in their buffets. Also inquiry about nearby cafes or restaurants with healthy kid friendly menus, etc. They will be happy to support you and let you know what is available and what you should expect from the place, which will give you an idea of what to bring and what is waiting for you!
- If possible, choose in advance the specific menu that suits your family's diet for your flight. Most carriers allow you to choose what would you prefer to eat when you book or check in online.
- If choosing your meals is not an option, you can pack healthy snacks or pre-made meals for your trip, especially for long ones! Remember that once in the airplane, you don’t have the chance to buy something if you or your children get hungry and the food provided isn’t to your taste. Bananas, apple wedges, grapes, nuts, cooked oats, wraps, dark chocolate, homemade cookies, they are all great options to keep everyone satisfied and happy. I ended up traveling with 3 bananas, 2 avocados and many other things in my diaper bag, and funny enough we ate all of it!
- If you or your children have specific dietary needs, bring with you healthy options, specially if you are traveling to a place where you are not sure you will find them. I, for example, travelled to Sri Lanka with at least 40 granola bars because I knew they would come handy when anyone would get hungry and would keep us away from the junk food.
- If you are staying in your own house or with friends and family, bring your grocery list ready, that way on the first day once you have unpacked and your children are relaxing, you can plan a trip to the supermarket to get the basic things to feed your family a healthy diet, this will keep you all eating great, minimize going for junk food and allow you to plan the meals and “treats” better (plus is great for your budget!).
- If your children can be picky eaters or don’t deal with changes well (and that is natural and common in most toddlers and pre-schoolers!) remember to pack their favourites cups, utensils and water bottle. This will give them a sense of home and can make the eating times more pleasant. I packed some of my son’s “eating toys” and they were handy when he was feeling a bit jet-lagged and confused.
- Is very important to keep children drinking water particularly during the flights, as we get dehydrated in the pressurised cabin. Keep in mind that an adult should drink at least 250ml (1 cup) of extra water for each hour flying, and if you are consuming caffeine that can double.
- Check online for options for sports and activities in your destination. Look out for options you can all enjoy as a family, as well as opportunities for you to exercise on your own while the kids are doing something else. Research for new exercises or activities that you won’t have the chance to enjoy back home and see it as part of your cultural experience!
- Review forums, blogs and chat rooms to see what are the best attractions to visit, not only the most touristic ones. Try to find the best restaurants to eat the local cuisine and see if it’s something you and your family would enjoy, sometimes stepping out of the touristic path you can find the true jewels of the place!
- And most importantly: Relax and Enjoy! It’s so easy to get carried away by the stress and hassle of the trip, the long hours waiting in the airport, the packing and sorting, but in the end the only important thing is to enjoy, share the experience with your family and recharge yourself for the next year!
I wish you happy and healthy trips full of adventures, laughter and joy, and see you back on your return!