Meals while on vacation can be a challenge especially if you’ve got a picky toddler. Add to that a hotel room that doesn’t have a full kitchen and things can get really tricky.
In fact, some of the first questions I ask myself now before booking a hotel are:
Does it have a mini fridge? Can I request a microwave?
All because I have to feed my picky eater.
Planning what my son will eat while we are away from home is actually my least favorite part about packing and planning for vacation. Three meals a day plus snacks – it’s a lot to think about.
A 3 day weekend IS a feasible amount of time for me to pack most (or all) of the food my picky eater will need for the hotel room without needing a trip to the grocery store.
Yes, there will be times that we eat out.
And he’ll probably eat a lot more junk than usual (ice cream, anyone?).
That’s ok. We’re on vacation!
But I still need to have the foods I know he WILL eat on hand (including some healthy stuff) just in case.
Fortunately I’ve done this enough times now that I have some tips to share.
Let me tell you how I do it.
Making The Meal Plan
Planning what to feed my toddler on vacation all starts with a list. I write out a meal plan of foods I know my son will eat. It will look something like this:
- Muffin, banana
- Cereal w/ milk
- Instant oatmeal packet w/ raisins
- Half bagel w/ peanut butter, grapes
- Cheese quesadilla, apple, pretzels
- PB&J sandwich, strawberries, goldfish crackers
- Chicken nuggets, bread, green baby food jar
- Dinner out
- Dinner out
- Snack bars
- Fruit pouches
- Dried cherries
- Cheese stick
Now that I have my meal plan, the packing begins.
I know what you might be thinking:
The list looks daunting!
But we’re not talking about packing whole boxes of cereal and loaves of bread here.
Here’s what I do:
I use these mini containers to pack the small amount of dry stuff he’ll need such as cereal, goldfish crackers, raisins and pretzels. The containers keep the dry stuff from getting crushed in my checked bag. All the snack bars, pouches etc. go into my checked bag as well.
For everything else that’s soft or needs to be kept cool until I can put it in the hotel mini fridge I use a small, insulated lunch bag (something like this) with a couple of reusable ice packs. I’ll bring this as a carry on if traveling by plane. That way I have all of my cold stuff as well as whatever snacks and foods my son is going to eat while we are traveling.
So if we’re going off of my meal plan, we’re really only talking about packing the following things in the cooler:
- half PB&J sandwich
- extra slice of bread
- half a bagel
- one tortilla
- one muffin
- four mini containers (one with grapes, one with cut up strawberries, one with shredded cheese and one with peanut butter)
- a banana
- a small apple
- two frozen chicken nuggets
- one cheese stick
Of course, your list may contain different foods from mine. But you get the idea.
You might be wondering:
What about MILK?!
My son has never been a big milk drinker, but I still use it for his cereal. We can get away with packing just a couple small cartons of shelf stable milk for kids that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
I also usually pack a plastic knife so I have one on hand when it comes time to spread peanut butter or cut grapes.
As you can see, I’m very prepared for meals to happen any time!
Dining Out With A Picky Eater
Even though I’m prepared, I’m always secretly hoping that he will try new foods at a restaurant and won’t have to eat one of the “picky eater” meals I’ve packed for him. On a three night trip, we usually plan to eat out at least twice for dinner.
I usually have at least some idea of what type of restaurant we will eat at. With a picky eater, I don’t really like to leave this up to chance. (But if that happens to be the case, I always have a PB&J sandwich along).
Before we even get to our destination, I like to scope out the restaurants in the area for places my husband and I would like to eat. Then I look at the menus on Yelp to make sure there’s something there that my son will eat. Usually this isn’t too hard.
I mean, French fries counts as a meal right?
I know he will eat Mexican rice and tortilla chips, so a Mexican restaurant is usually one of our go-tos as well.
If we’ve been out adventuring all day, then sometimes we’ll just order UberEats and have food delivered to the hotel. It’s cheaper than room service anyway and that way we can choose from any restaurant in the area that’s bound to have something our son will eat. (If you’ve never used UberEats before, you can use my coupon code eats-mfxj0 at checkout for $20 off a $25 order).
Sometimes, it’s just the easiest option at the end of the day.
If you’re thinking by now that all of this sounds like a lot of planning and kind of a pain, well yes. Yes it is.
But if you’re still reading this then perhaps you don’t think I’m totally crazy!
Remember I said planning and packing what my picky eater will eat was my least favorite part of vacation?
But I have to have a plan.
That way I don’t feel panicked that my picky eater will go hungry. And it helps me stay sane so I can relax and enjoy vacation.
Do you have any tips for feeding a picky eater on vacation that I missed? Let me know in the comments.