Family Holiday A to Z: Menus
Welcome to my A to Z series on surviving, enjoying and making the most of family holidays. As you read this I am on my own 24 day odyssey to the USA with my husband and three little bears – so I am truly living what I am preaching right now! Each post in this series is designed to cover a specific aspect of family travel and provide 5 tips for making your next family holiday more special, fun and memorable. I would love to hear your stories and suggestions too, so feel free to hit me with them in the comments. I look forward to conversing with you on my return!
One aspect of family travel that really grates on me is finding good quality food when you are limited in what you can prepare and cook yourself. I dislike the reliance we seem to have on fast food or takeaway options every time we go away as a family. I really love a home cooked meal and after a week or so of dining out on junk I’m hanging out for a well cooked cut of meat and lots and lots of veggies.
There are ways you can get around this of course – staying in self-contained accommodation is the obvious choice. But what do you do if this is not an option? And what can you do if you have other issues like dietary requirements and food allergies to consider as well?
My husband and I both have an allergy to gluten which severely limits our choices when it comes to dining out or even having a takeaway meal as a family. We need to find somewhere that has a reasonable chance of serving something that could possibly be gluten-free. And somewhere that will serve food that our kids will eat as well. This is a combination that can be difficult to find in the one place…
It’s really important on a family holiday to find some balance when it comes to menus and dining options. This time around we are going to be completely reliant on what dining options are around us as we are not staying in self-catering accommodation. I’m feeling quite vulnerable as I contemplate 3 and a half weeks of not having total control over what I put in my mouth and in the mouths of my children.
But, as usual, I do have a plan and some tips to share with you today on managing menus and any food allergies while on holidays.
5 Tips for finding the best menu and dining options for your next family holiday
1. Research dining options before you leave home
There are so many ways you can check dining options and menus before you even leave for your holiday. Sites like Trip Advisor and Urban Spoon make it easy to find restaurants close to where you will be staying. In addition, many restaurants include menus on the internet so you can have a good look at their offerings well ahead of time. Some restaurants also boast allergy menus, particularly for more common allergies such as gluten and dairy. If you want to make informed decisions about dining options while you are on holidays, make sure you do some research before you leave.
2. If possible, find self-contained accommodation
The easiest way to keep control of your diet and avoid any food allergies is to continue to prepare your own meals. This is best achieved when you stay in self-contained accommodation. There are so many options for doing this – apartments, houses, condos and cabins – to just mention a few. With the rise of websites such as airbnb there are so many more opportunities out there to find good, homestyle, self-contained accommodation. Where possible I always try to stay in self-contained accommodation – I love being able to make my own home away from home and I find it tends to work best for our family as a whole.
3. Mention any food allergies or intolerances when making travel bookings
It goes without saying that you need to be upfront with any food allergies at the time of booking your travel arrangements. Allergies should be disclosed to airlines who can make provision for allergy meals during your flight. If going on a cruise, let the cruise operator know as well so they can also better cater to you in the main dining room. You may also need to get in touch directly with your accommodation provider, particularly if breakfast is included in your tariff – you will need to understand whether they will able to cater for your food allergies as part of the deal. Even if you feel like you are causing trouble or being a pain, be upfront and make sure your allergies or intolerances are disclosed at every step of your holiday.
4. Ask to speak to the chef when dining out
This is the best way to ensure any allergies or intolerances can be catered for at a restaurant. Sure, you could pass your request through the waitperson, but in my experience they often don’t know what actually goes into each meal. Only one person in the restaurant is sure to know this – the chef. Don’t be afraid to ask to speak to them. Ask about allergy friendly options for your meal. Enquire about how they manage any cross-contamination risk in the kitchen. This is really the only way you will feel truly comfortable in what you order when dining out with allergies.
5. Stock up on fruit and healthy snacks each day
Although you may not be able to cook meals in your hotel room, you should be able to access a grocer, supermarket or convenience store to stock up on healthy snack options to tie you over during the day. Buy a few pieces of fruit each day and encourage your kids to have these first as a healthy alternative to mass produced snacks. Ensure you have bottles of water at hand and refill as you go. As well as limiting the unhealthy effects of holiday eating, taking your own healthy options will cater to most food allergies and will also save you money when out and about – another great bonus when on a family holiday!
Bonus tip – 6. Start the day with a quick breakfast in your room
If you are in a hotel room, you won’t have access to a full kitchen but you will more than likely have a mini-fridge for use in your room. To save costs and control your breakfast choices, have some cereal and a long life container of milk with you (which can be brought with you or purchased when you arrive). Also don’t forget to pack some picnic bowls and spoons as well. This is a quick and easy way to start your day right and provide the whole family with a healthy, low cost meal before you begin another busy day on holiday.
Do you have any suggestions for finding the best menu and dining options for your next family holiday?