A big part of traveling, just in general, is eating in restaurants. As much as we tried to buy healthy snacks to keep in a cooler in the car, inevitably we'd have to eat out for a meal or two along the way.
Like I mentioned in my previous post, occasionally, in order to give the kids some much needed "run around" time after driving several hours in the car, a pit stop at a fast food restaurant with a play area can be just what the doctor ordered. And, if you don't want to feed your kids the food at these restaurants, most have coffee or tea that you can sip on while letting them burn off some steam. Also, most of the fast food joints that we've been to have sliced apples or a fruit cup available to provide a healthy snack.
Let's say you've been traveling all day and it's getting late and you aren't in the mood for a burger and fries but you also don't want to confine the kids to sitting still at a more formal restaurant after they've been cooped up in a car seat or airplane for several hours. We had this scenario one of the days on our trip so we decided to order pizza in to our hotel room. We had several local restaurant menus provided to us in our room and among them was for a pizza place. Thankfully they delivered and while we waited I was able to let the kids take a bath and play in the room before settling in to eat dinner and then go to bed.
Another thing to consider when traveling, especially with kids, is to stay in hotels that offer a continental breakfast. My kids are generally happy with a bowl of cereal or some fresh fruit and all of the hotels we stayed at offered something along those lines. It's a lot cheaper than eating out for every meal and it inspired us to get up a bit earlier and out the door to our next amazing destination.
Now, for those times that you do eat out at a "sit-down" restaurant, here are a few things I find useful to keep in the diaper bag, especially for little ones still in a high chair.
1. A sippy cup strap - This is the one we have and it works extremely well. Little E loves to drop stuff from restaurant high chairs and I don't want to have to be constantly having to run to the bathroom to wash off who-knows-what from the top of her sippy cup.
2.Secure-A-Toy straps - These serve the same purpose as the sippy cup strap but for toys. I keep a few toys in the diaper bag that are able to be secured to a high chair with one of these straps and I rotate them out frequently so she doesn't get bored with the toys too quickly.
3. Triangular crayons - Seriously ingenious. Not only do my kids get frustrated by roll-away crayons but I get tired of either picking them up myself or having the kids crawling around on the floor trying to find them. Triangular crayons solve both of those problems. The ones we bought say "extra jumbo" in the description but they are really not that much bigger than a standard size crayon. They are thicker though so more resistant to snapping and they are paper-less which is nice since K seems to enjoy pulling the paper off her crayons and leaving paper messes in her wake.
4. Disposable placemats - Most restaurants have a kids menu or an activity placemat for the kids to draw on but that only lasts so long. Also, they are thin paper that tear easily if they get wet and don't stay in place well enough to keep utensils and food off the table and on something a bit more sanitary. These stick-on placemats are neat because they have fun little scenes the kids can color while waiting for their food and there's even a blank one to use for things like tic-tac-toe or hangman, etc.
Hopefully these tips as well as the few from the other day will help make traveling with your own kids a bit more fun and easier on you all. I'm still working on getting all of the pictures we took on our vacation downloaded from the memory cards and edited for the web but here's one more to wet your whistle.