HEADING OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH the traffic? If you’re flying, driving or otherwise slugging your way through the crowds to be with loved ones this year, you’ll need sustenance along the way (and maybe booze, but that’s a different blog). Since we live overseas, this post will be geared toward plane travel but it all works for for car trips too. The point is, it’s a long way and the last thing you want to worry about is who’s hungry, and whether it’s worth buying a $6 bag of chips in the air. (Probably, sigh.)
It’s a 15 hour trip from Rome to Orlando, where my in-laws live and much further to my family’s home outside of Seattle. That doesn’t include getting to and from airports, checking in, or retrieving luggage. Having done this a few times, here is my first tip. Bring a pretty big selection of snacks and meal items. Little kids are very distracted in new settings, especially under tiring circumstances. Tried and true favorites may crash and burn while new things suddenly become appealing. You won’t know until the mood strikes, unfortunately it’s not your mood so that makes things harder.
On long trips with someone under 3 feet tall, ANYTHING can count as an activity. This is not the time to worry about whether food as an antidote to boredom will cause eating disorders down the road–it’s just one day. You can teach your kids healthy eating habits during the rest of their lives. But still, for the sanity of your family and those around you, keeping the sugar down is an important anti-meltdown measure.
One note about baby food. Even if you make your own all the time, don’t hesitate to buy some for a long trip. You won’t have to worry about saving containers, spills or the effort of pureeing extra food when you’re already busy packing.
- One box of raisins but not more. They’re a diuretic so don’t offer too many but most toddlers love fishing them out of the box and it counts as an activity for a few minutes. Also, its hard to make a big mess with raisins. (Ditto for any dried fruit. One container is good. More than that is bad.)
- Cheerios. Again, sort of an activity plus snack built in. Low sugar, not so bad for you. Again, not too messy.
- Rice cakes. Some kids love them.
- Steamed and cooled edamame (soy beans)
- Plain bread, just slices of bread
- Babybel cheese, those little red round disks of cheese come inside a sturdy wax coating making them that much harder to squish.
Meals without a cooler bag
- If the kids eat peanut butter yet, PB&Js will alleviate the hassle of a cooler bag. (Wrap them in foil to help prevent in-bag smashing.)
- Try cheese roll ups using tortillas. Add mustard, butter or cream cheese plus sliced cheese. Don’t cook; leave the tortillas soft. Thinly sliced soft cheese works great.
- Cubed cheese and loose kidney or cannelloni beans (cooked or canned). The cheese will help “solidify” things but it’s still a good idea to go easy on the beans.
- Make-ahead pasta cups, a mini meal to go: Italian style pasta cups or Broccoli & cheese pasta cups
Meals with a cooler bag
- Deli turkey rolled up with cheese and a little mayo on tortillas.
- Tuna sandwiches.
- Cubed rotisserie chicken or deli ham.
- Cottage cheese in individual containers.
- Avoid yogurt; it’s messy and usually considered “liquid”.
- Frozen green peas. They’re not messy, most little kids like them as finger food; don’t have to be hot or cooked. Just let them thaw.
- Vegetable slices (carrots, cucumbers, anything they’re currently eating) and hummus.
- An apple, orange or clementine. The peel will help prevent punctures and squishing.
- Avoid pears and bananas, which are too easy to smash in your bag.
- Sugar free kids animal crackers
- Oatmeal raspberry mini-muffins
- Pumpkin spice mini-muffins
- Oatmeal raisin scones
And don’t forget the gear:
- 3-4 disposable bibs, OR two regular wipe-off bibs
- Wipes (keep these handy during meals so you’re
notless worried about messes)
- Sippy cup; ask the flight attendant to fill it or buy your own water bottle and refill as needed
- 2 plastic shopping/grocery bags to put dirty clothes, used baby food jars, spilled on or soiled pants, etc.
- 2 bottles, both ready with powdered formula. Just add water when the time comes.
- 2 spoons. One will probably drop on the floor.
- Baby food. Enough to feed the baby 2 jars/packets every 3 hours. It’ll seem like a lot but you’ll be happy to have extra if you hit delays. Airport security allows baby food.
Good luck and happy holidays!