Whatever the destination, the secret to an enjoyable night out is in keeping the kids entertained. All it takes is a dash of compromise, a serve of imagination and a small side of bribes … simple, really, when you know how.
When travelling, more often than not the easiest dining options are of the takeaway variety. But feeding a holidaying family on that kind of diet just isn’t going to work. If planning to stay fully charged, you’re going to have to add some healthy nibblies and sit-down meals to the menu.
Tag ’em and bag ’em
Whether on the road, in the air or just heading out for a day trip, let the kids carry their own munchies-backpack, stacked with their favourite selection of snacks in simple to handle mini zip-lock bags. Remember to include a drink bottle, dried fruits and rice crackers. It’s also an idea to carry your own backup supplies.
When flying, pre-order children’s meals, requesting something the kids are actually going to eat. In-flight, drink plenty of fluid.
When you can, go buffet
Buffet eateries are the best choice for travelling families. Here the tribe can pick what they want, there’s no waiting for the meal to arrive and usually an endless supply of soft drink is part of the deal. And with the dessert display in plain sight, it makes for great incentive to eat those greens.
The ultimate boredom buster: with handbag over one shoulder, sling a restaurant bag of goodies over the other. Pack a selection of small toys purely for dinners on the town. Include: a colour-in-sticker book and crayons; a matchbox-style car to zoom around the imaginary track between the salt and pepper shakers; and a magnetic compact travel game, such as checkers or snakes and ladders. The deal is, play quiet and everyone’s happy.
Good timing, better seating
Don’t leave it too late to head for a meal. Try and eat at the same time you would at home. Find a family friendly restaurant that offers a child’s menu, and always ask for a corner table. This way the stares aren’t penetrating from all directions. And when fidgeting begins, the kids can move quietly to the floor behind the table and out of harms way.
The swing of the thing
Remember you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself as well – so why not join in the fun? Ever tried origami napkin folding? Or keep it simple with car travel games such as eye spy.
Short and no sweets
Unless you’ve found a restaurant with a kiddie play corner, don’t even contemplate lingering for an after dinner coffee.
Don’t expect too much too soon. The only way kids are ever going to become accustomed to travel and dining etiquette is to submerge them in it – and hopefully help them to become absorbed, allowing it to be a fun and enjoyable experience. If all else fails, find a resort that offers to feed the kids over a movie, while the grownups can kick back and enjoy a slice of holiday dining as well.