8 top expert tips for family road trips & holidays

By Karla Gilbert

Karla is an accredited Nutrition and Health Coach. As a mum of two girls, she has a few ideas for those travelling for the Christmas holidays this year!  

Escaping monotony and heading off on a road trip holiday sounds like the perfect antidote after the year that was… That is until you remember that children and road trips can be a recipe for disaster.

For example, one minute you might have a happy calm child, then next a cranky, hungry child. Not what we had in mind when it comes to holidays!

One area that routinely remains our best friend is, in fact maintaining a certain amount of familiarity in our family’s eating patterns. Unfamiliar foods can elicit anxiety and suspicion in young children and when matched with unfamiliar surroundings, can make or break the success of a holiday.

So, what is the backup plan and what healthy eating ideas can you use while travelling on holidays with the family?


Four ideas healthy snack ideas to take on your road trip

1. Healthy Lunches

Without a doubt, the best tip when going on road trips with children is to allow time to make a couple of sandwiches/wraps. When you’re prepared with your own food you are dictating when to stop rather than the other way around. Children love to stretch their legs so find a nice park along the way where they can run, stretch and burn off energy, while you enjoy a peaceful lunch!

2. Bento Boxes

Variety is the key and a bento-style container for each family member will save the hassle of preparing individual containers that leave you scurrying around in the car for. Something along the lines of cut-up fruit, and sandwich/wrap, crackers, cheese stringer (entertainment), yoghurt squeezy, sultanas. Keep it cool with icepacks in an insulated bag.

3. Bliss balls

Easy to prep or purchase at the supermarket, bliss balls are a great option to help take an edge off hunger while also offering a healthy alternative to sugary snacks.

4. Mini Quiches and Muffins

If you have the time before you leave, prep some mini quiches or muffins ready for when the ‘I’m hungry” call comes from the back seat. Filling and adaptable to please the fussiest of eaters.

Bonus tips:

  1. Always keep a water bottle handy and avoid fruit poppers that can lead to a hyper child. Hyper children and long car rides are not ideal!
  2. Have a clean-up kit which includes wipes, plastic bags, tissues and a hand sanitising bottle for unexpected toilet stops and before eating.


Four Family-Friendly Healthy Holiday Strategies

1. Book an apartment with a kitchen

Having the convenience of a kitchen is a lifesaver, ensuring you have kitchen facilities to prepare healthy meals. Find a restaurant that serves healthy meals for dinner (who wants to cook every night on holidays?) but also plan to make a couple of familiar meals during your stay that are nutritionally balanced. Make a beeline for the nearest grocery shop and stock up on healthy food items on your arrival such as fruits, cereals, milk, eggs, bread and salads, along with dinner items that will save your back pocket.

2. Keep the balance

We all like to indulge while on holiday by enjoying local cuisine. If you are dining as a family, many children will welcome the change, but please keep in mind that with each meal you’re still incorporating colours of the rainbow in your choice of salads and vegetables. Fish and chips each night simply are not going to offer the energy children require to keep up a holiday pace. Perhaps ask for the fish not to be crumbed, have potato instead of chips and add a side of salad or veggies. For breakfast, include a healthy smoothie with an array of fruits and vegetables. This will ensure immune systems are maintained and make it easier to return to your healthy eating patterns at home.

3. Set the example

The only normal our children know is the normal they see. Even though you may be travelling, it doesn’t mean that healthy eating goes out the window. Bring some of your own familiarity and values to the table and this will help ease any foreign food anguish.

4. Take your own

Service station food can be quite unappealing to the best of us, let alone our fussy children. The simple answer is to pack your own. For the sake of convenience while driving, throw in some healthy snacks which are going to help make life easier when you’re on the road. There is no need for refrigeration and it’s one less hassle if dramas arise!

See you on the road this summer!