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Food Tips for Summer Travel with Kids

Contributors: Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND

Reviewers: Academy Nutrition Information Services Team

Published: July 11, 2022

Reviewed: June 13, 2023

Boy is ready for his flight - 5 Food Tips for Traveling with Kids

Long-anticipated summer travel is not without its nutritional challenges, and adding young children to the mix multiplies those challenges. There's more to consider than packing a few extra snacks and baby wipes. Follow these tips for a healthy, happy and nourishing vacation with kids.

Road Trip

Logging a lot of miles in the car may have your kids asking for snacks to ease the boredom. Anticipate this, and be prepared. Work with your kids on a list of boredom-busting activities including games, music, videos, coloring books and more. Before starting the car, review the day's schedule. Explain when and where you'll eat and make a strong effort to stick to your normal eating schedule.

Pack some of these travel-friendly foods for children over the age of 4, as some may pose a choking risk for younger children. If your child is at risk for choking, enjoy your food at a rest stop so you can supervise while eating.

Keep perishable items in a cooler with ice to reduce your chances of foodborne illness when on vacation.

  • Sliced bell peppers, cucumbers or other easy-to-eat veggies
  • Applesauce
  • Dried and fresh fruit
  • Popcorn
  • Trail mix
  • Peanut butter sandwiches
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Low-fat milk boxes*
  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice
  • Low-fat yogurt*
  • Cheese sticks*
  • Cottage cheese*

*If your kids don't eat dairy products, learn more about nourishing plant-based foods you can pack.

Don't forget portable eating utensils and plenty of napkins and wipes.

Have your kids come up with fun meal ideas where they combine their favorite snack with another item you purchase at a restaurant. Kids can combine different lean proteins with whole grains, fruits and vegetables to build a balanced meal or snack that's part retail, part from home. In the end you will save money and eat healthier. Water, milk or a fortified milk alternative are good beverage choices, and even restaurant meals should include fruits and vegetables. If the restaurant doesn't offer good options, fill in with the supply in your cooler.

A Stay at the Beach

Whether you're hitting the beach for a day or staying for a week, the same guidelines apply. Try to stick as closely to your normal eating schedule as possible. Bring a cooler with some of the foods listed above and plenty of ice. Pack ample water and encourage frequent sipping. The hot sun can be dehydrating, and the cool ocean water and tons of fun can distract kids from drinking fluids.

Cruising Along

Food is present constantly on cruise ships — and in big, showy ways. Remind children that just because food is available doesn't mean the family needs to eat it. Be a role model to your kids and encourage them to eat mindfully when they are hungry.

Travel Abroad

If you are traveling far or to places with new types of cultures, work with your family on planning where to eat in advance of your trip. Most restaurants around the world provide nutrition information online so you can plan on choosing the nutritious items that you have researched. Being in a new culture also is a great time to get your family to try new foods.

Visiting Family or Friends

Whether you're traveling with others or staying in their homes, you may run into well-meaning food pushers. Give relatives and friends a kind heads-up to your expectations when it comes to offering food to your children. Help them find other ways to express love and warmth such as reading a story or taking your child for a special outing.

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