Note from Hint Mama: A while back, I shared how a toasted bagel served as a great toddler travel toy — my daughter spent about an hour gnawing on it during a flight. Since then, I’ve found that snacks in general serve as great toddler travel toys. Now, before a flight, I make sure to pack up a bag with lots of raisin boxes, yogurt pouches, Cheerios and Goldfish crackers, among other snacks, and my daughter will snack for a good majority of the four- to five-hour flight. However, invariably, my daughter gravitates toward the least healthy options and Cheerios end up spilled on the bottom of my bag. So for ideas for more nutritious and less messy travel snacks, I turned to Eileen Gunn, mom to a 6-year-old daughter, experienced traveler and founder of FamiliesGo!, a website that helps parents plan better family vacations more easily. She shares four travel snack tips in her first hint below.
One thing I quickly learned traveling with daughter is that once you pack a suitcase and walk out of the house, food ceases to simply be a source of nutrition. While you’re in transit, food becomes entertainment, and a tangible signal that you’re on vacation, out of your usual routine and things are different. I don’t let our vacations become junk food fests, but I definitely choose snacks differently when we’re on the road or in the air than I do at home. Today’s hint is four travel snack tips based on what I choose for a typical trip.
1. Go for foods that are long lasting. I’ve learned (the hard way, of course) to avoid snacks that go bad quickly once opened or that will wind up in crumbs all over the bottom of my bag.
Newman’s Own alphabet cookies, pretzel rods and dried fruit work well for me. I also like freeze-dried fruit and veggies, like Pea Crisps or the pouches of mango, banana and strawberries from Trader Joe’s. They keep well, have a crunchy texture kids like and offer more nutrition than standard chips.
2. Kids especially like foods that come from a flight attendant. My daughter is no fan of French toast. But on a morning flight to London, a flight attendant handed her French toast sticks and maple syrup for dipping on typical tiny airline dishware that seemed made for her. She examined everything on her tray and happily scarfed down breakfast for the next 30 minutes (enough time for me to eat breakfast in peace).
On another flight, the attendant handed her a bag of Chex Mix. She spent the next 25 minutes sorting and stacking and organizing the components. Eventually she ate them, too. Voilá, food as entertainment.
So I’ve concluded that airplane foods offer novelty and the possibility of getting to eat something she would never get at home. And this makes it oh-so appealing and engrossing. So whatever the flight attendant offers is hers. While she revels in her taboo snack, I get to flip through a magazine.
3. Foods that can stand in for meals can make your life easier. Once we land I always keep a box of granola or cereal bars and variety packs of cereal in the room. Before we head out for the day, I stick a couple of these snacks in my bag and also grab a banana or apple at breakfast. On vacation my daughter is always too excited or tired to sit and eat at mealtime and inevitably hungry 30 minutes later. Knowing I can hand her some fruit and whole grains lets me take the missed meals in stride.
4. Choose the Right Container. When my daughter was a toddler, I loved her Snack Trap, but they’re bulky and don’t pack very easily. Now for travel, I love reusable snack bags from Itzy Ritzy. They come in 2 sizes; the small one for tiny items like raisins and the bigger one for pretzels or fruit. They wash easily and kids age 4 and up can use them without spilling (too much).
What are your tips for feeding kids on the road? Share them below. I’d love to hear them.
Eileen Gunn is the founder of FamiliesGo!, a website that helps parents plan better family vacations more easily. She’s a veteran journalist, fearless traveler and mom of one. Before her daughter was five, she’d been out of the country seven times (plus 2 in utero), taken 2 cruises, boarded several planes and taken a bunch of car trips. You can follow Eileen on Pinterest or Twitter.