Recently Joe Wicks spent one month travelling around Costa Rica with his 8 month old little girl, Indie, and he wrote all about his experience in this blog! As Joe was travelling, I was so interested by the number of people who had questions about the food and eating out and about whilst they were abroad with baby.
I’ve written about eating out and about with a baby before, but not about eating out and holidaying with a baby and for this reason, I thought I’d put a little blog together to help answer all the nutrition questions people have when it comes to holidaying with a baby.
Travelling with Raffy
Writing this blog made me realise that it really does vary depending on baby’s age and stage of weaning. We’ve travelled quite a lot with Raffy and so I’ve written below about each of our different experiences on various holidays – check it out below.
Top Tips to food on holiday with a baby
First off, before we get into the nitty gritty of what I did and where I went on holidays and some of the things I found helpful, here are some of my TOP TIPS to holidaying with a baby when it comes to food:
- Try and time it right – either when baby is not yet feeding or is fairly well established on solid foods, if at all possible
- Call ahead – If you’re unsure about what’ll be on offer where you’re staying it’s always best to call ahead. Usually people will be able to tell you about local supermarkets on your way to the venue or give you ideas of what is on offer in hotels/accommodation, if you’ve got a young baby in tow.
- Call the airline – I also think it’s a really good idea to call the airline as there are different regulations about what foods/liquids you can take on board if you’re travelling with a baby. Take the stress out of it all and ask ahead. If you’re going long haul, you could also ask about what food will be available for baby on the plane – if you’re not paying for a young baby, they will usually just get a baby food jar…
- Try not to over pack – remember that most places will have what you need available – baby food pouches, nappies, steralising tablets, bibs, wipes etc – so if you forget anything, you’ll usually find what you need.
- Take some simple snacks/meals for the plane, esp if it’s a long journey. Oatcakes, porridge from home and some cold pasta worked well for us (see below).
- Take a few staples that you know your little one REALLY loves for when you’re there too. For us this was Weetabix, porridge and some of my baby oatcake recipe. All of these are easy to pack, last a long time and are quite filling too.
- You can also take some baby food pouches too, if you want a really convenient options. There are some great ones on the market these days including Babease (FYI I work for them as their nutrition consultant, but genuinely think their ingredients are great!) who focus their pouches on vegetables and contain larger quantities of protein foods (e.g. meat, fish, beans) than many other brands.
- If you’re staying at a villa/air B and B stock up at a supermarket when you get there and make sure you’ve got plenty of staples for the week that you think your little one will likely eat. Breadsticks, potatoes, pasta, tomatoes, fresh fruits and veggies as well as some beans, lentils, fish etc are usually widely available.
- If you’re going to be eating out, try to do some research before you get there to find restaurants that serve foods that your little one is likely to eat. Lots of places have menus available online so you can check this out before you arrive.
- Share meals – we found sharing meals and sides always helped too. This way Raffy got a wide variety and food didn’t go to waste if he didn’t like what we had ordered for him alone.
- Don’t be afraid to ask – people are often nervous to ask questions, but when it comes to babies it’s important to do so. Try to learn a few key words from the language before you go so you can ask some simple questions or give them some important info (no nuts, no salt, small portions etc). I find most places are super accommodating when it comes to feeding babies and have never had a problem with asking for no salt to be added!
- Remember that your little one’s diet isn’t going to be perfect, but that this is OK and that it’s not going to affect them if they don’t have a perfectly balanced plate for a few meals at a time.
- When it comes to water for babies, if you’re in an environment where you’re not meant to drink the water yourself (check https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries for more info), it’s best not to give this to babies either. Ideally babies will get most of their fluids from breast or formula milk but if you do need to rely on other sources of fluid (especially in hot weather), you might want to look to some bottled waters that are “baby-friendly” for children over 6 months of age. These are bottled waters that either have a baby stamp on them or ones that have less than 200 milligrams (mg) a litre of sodium (also written as Na) and less than 250mg a litre of sulphate (also written as SO4).
My travels with Raffy
We’ve travelled to a few places so far with Raffy. The current holidays are a real mix of holiday types and destinations, so I thought I’d highlight these for anyone interested in travelling with a baby:
- Dominican Republic to stay in a resort when Raffy was 5 months old
- Greece on a holiday with Friends when Raffy was 1 year old
- Italy for 2 weeks travelling from one side of Italy to another when Raffy was 16 months old
- Hong Kong staying with Family for 10 days and Bali for 6 days travelling from place to place when Raffy was 19 months old
In each place we had different food and different situations.
With our first holiday, we actually booked it with weaning Raffy in mind. I knew that I was going to be weaning him around 6 months and I didn’t want us to be away at the time when I was planning on starting him on solids.
I also was a bit wary about what foods he would be exposed to when we were there and therefore we took the easy choice and I breastfed Raffy solely the whole time we were abroad.
For anyone considering a holiday with a baby I would recommend thinking about it a bit more if you’re planning for when they are 6 months and trying to see if you can avoid doing it on the first month or so of weaning – just to help establish weaning in your/baby’s own environment. Also breastfeeding baby in the heat is an absolute saviour!
When Raffy was one, we went on a holiday with friends and one other child! Luckily we were in the Mediterranean and so we had access to plenty of foods that Raffy could eat. We also had a villa and so did a couple of big shops to get as much food as possible in the house. This was beneficial as it meant we were able to control what Raffy was eating more than if we only had foods out and about. Lots of fresh veggies, cheese, bean salads, fresh fruits and fish were made in our villa for Raffy.
We also made sure we took plenty of porridge oats for Raffy to have whilst we were there, as we knew at least that way he would have something filling in the morning. He fell in love with watermelon on this holiday too and had a lot of watermelon day to day, which he wouldn’t normally at home.
At a local bakery we also found some fresh, giant breadsticks that were easy to take out and about to feed the kids on as we jumped in and out of the car. Those were a regular feature to Raffy’s diet for the whole week too!
On the plane my friend introduced me to the idea of bringing your own pasta and porridge. She had made up some pasta for her son which she had in a cool bag with some veg and lentils and she offered him this on the plane. On the way back, she did the same with porridge oats and since then we have tended to take either porridge oats or pasta with us on plane journeys.
I breastfed Raffy at this point too and this made it easier with fluids – he mainly had my milk – but we did also offer him (as he was over 1) a little of the milk that they had on offer at the supermarkets in porridge and cereals. As he was over one he was also able to have some of the bottled water (we didn’t risk the tap water at the villa, just in case). I choose low sodium options such as Evian.
Eating out I usually focused on salads for Raffy which included fish/egg and potatoes as these were readily available. There was also a lot of sharing our meals, which worked well, especially as there were so many of us on the trip. Raffy probably ate more bread/breadsticks and crackers than he did when we were at home, but that is OK when we are outside our normal environment.
Raffy actually really enjoyed the Greek food we ate when out and about, and there was always something on the menus he could have. Quite often their “salads” are really balanced with veggies, avocado, croutons, beans, eggs, potatoes. And if in doubt…watermelon!
Next up was possibly my favourite holiday of all time!
Travelling across Italy. We started at Piza and then stayed in Lucca, San Gimignano, Siena, Bagno Vignoni, Montipulciano, San Georgio, Spello and then finally Marche.
By now, Raffy really was used to his 3 meals a day and had quite an appetite, so our holiday often revolved around visiting towns and simply finding places to eat (which holiday doesn’t though??!)
Italy, as with Greece, was super easy for finding healthy, tasty and balanced meals for Raffy – especially as we ate out for pretty much every meal (until we reached Marche). The Italians love babies and made us so welcome – especially some who offered Raffy special bibs, highchairs, baby cutlery and baby bowls! Not something you get too often in the UK.
In all honesty though, we did struggle a few times, especially in the early days when we were finding our bearings and working out where to go to eat. Pizza, salty sauces and tuna salads that were 90% tuna (and a few spinach leaves) were all we could find. More bread than usual was definitely consumed too.
However, we soon were able to spot places that Raffy could eat in more easily by looking ahead on Trip Advisor once we got into the swing of our travels. He had omelettes, pasta dishes, bean salads, lentil soup, vegetable pastries – a real variety at multiple restaurants throughout Italy – what a lucky boy!
I took some of my banana bread recipe, as well as some of my homemade oatcakes, which actually lasted a week. On top of this we also bought some French toast for him to snack on in between meals as we really needed something to keep him going.
A lot of the places we stayed at had fresh fruits available from the trees around and a couple of times we found supermarkets with “salad bars” where we were able to get couscous, tomato sauce, olives, beans and took them home for dinner. It worked out well but Raffy definitely had more salt and added fats than usual, although we managed (somehow) to keep the sugar down too.
In Italy Raffy also had his first taste of ice cream – at the most incredible little parlour in Pienza. His flavour was fig and pistachio and he screamed for more almost immediately!!
Hong Kong and Bali
We spent lots of our travels in Hong Kong at my brother’s apartment – which had no tables and chairs – and so Raffy ate most of his meals on the floor. I would say that it was sometimes hard finding Raffy places to eat here, so we had to really pick out some places that had good menus (luckily my brother knew his way around) and we did a lot of shared meals between the whole family. We relied a lot on foods my brother bought from a M&S in HK (extortionate prices though! Like, out of this worrrrrld!). Blueberries, yogurt, eggs, toast for breakfast and then oatcakes as a snack throughout the day (I brought some with me). We also relied heavily on breadsticks and bananas as on the go snacks for Raffy too.
Bali was a DREAM when it came to food – so much choice and such delicious food available, you could literally have pretty much anything. No troubles there!
As I mentioned above I tended to take foods with me for Raffy when flying. When we went long-haul with him, I was really surprised by the fact that he was only offered an apple puree and a chicken puree during the 13 hour flight. Apparently, you can pay more and ask for them to have a separate meal, but I didn’t know this at the time. That meant that Raffy had mainly our meals and also some snacks that we had brought from the airport (as well as the porridge I brought with us).
My main tips:
- Do your research & find out where you’re going as much as you can – call ahead and let them know the age of your baby, ask about the menus and if they do anything for special requests, if needed.
- Check with the air line what foods are being offered and take alternatives if these aren’t suitable. Porridge or cold pasta worked well for us along with fruit snacks and my oatcakes.
- Do a big shop once you’re there and make sure you have a list of foods that are current staples for your baby/toddler e.g. yogurt, oats, blueberries, pasta, couscous, tomatoes etc
- Don’t forget about sides – this worked so well for us. Ordering a main each and a couple of little sides that we would all share together
- Familiarise baby with the type of cuisine before you go? Our friend bought Raffy an Italian cookery set so he played with that a while and we also fed him spaghetti etc before we went to Italy.
- Find some places that work for you and stick to them when on holiday
- Don’t be afraid to ask at restaurants – perhaps read up on a few terms you need to know re baby food (no salt etc) and try using it as much as you can
- Take some staples from home. For us it was Weetabix, porridge oats, oatcakes
- Snacks are your friends on travelling holidays – you have to let nutrition standards slip somewhat here so baby having breadsticks, malt loaf, fruit bread etc more regularly than they would at home is absolutely fine
- Remember things aren’t going to be perfect, but that’s OK, you’re on holiday and a few days of baby having different foods/not balance/too many snacks or whatever is absolutely fine.
Tips from some parents over Instagram:
Things to take with you –
- Portable high chair seat – can get material ones which strap into chairs
- Dry snacks for taking out and about
- Back up baby food pouches
- Stash some snacks for the return journey as well as the journey out there
- Take low salt stock cubes with you
- Bring mini bags of herbs and spices you use at home
- Take a jar of no added salt peanut butter
- Take cans of peas/sweetcorn/lentils from home that your little one is used to
- Take baby’s own plates/spoons/bibs from home for familiarity and convenience
- Take some disposable bibs
Tips for getting there –
- Have a click and collect order at the airport boots waiting for you, post security
- Oat muffins for flight
Tips for when you’re there –
- Make the most of buffet breakfast and take food for the day e.g fruits and breads
- Take Tupperware for baby’s foods, especially useful for filling up at hotel buffets and having with you for later in the day.
- Avoid kids menus
- Order 3 or 4 sides and mash some together for younger babies
- Spread out paper towels on floor and highchair for quick clean up after the meal