We’ve traveled by ourselves and with kids aged 6 months to 22 years old. Helping everyone to enjoy new cultures and cuisines is healthy for both the mind and the body. Here are a few tips:
Set the tone and the standard before you leave. Let the kids know that different countries serve different foods, and that it will be fun to try new things.
- Also before you leave, acclimate them to what to expect by trying foreign foods at home. Italian, Mexican, Chinese and Japanese foods? No problem. If you’re going to Thailand or India, for example, try a local Thai or Indian restaurant before your trip. Buffets work best, as there are plenty of choices and thus more opportunities to discover new favorites. Prices should be lower as well.
But make sure to let your family know that what they eat here is a similar style of food to what they will be eating there, but will not be exactly the same. They’ll be amazed at how different Mexican food is in Mexico, for example.
- Ditto for ordering American foods over there. For example, a hamburger might not include a bun, and might not be made from beef. (You might want to ask.) And don’t be surprised if the spaghetti you order in Bangkok comes with ketchup rather than pasta sauce.
- We’ve found most restaurants to be very accommodating to children’s needs. Don’t see something they like on the menu? Ask what they can do for the kids. You’ll be surprised as what they come up with, as they probably have picky little eaters at home as well!
- Remember that the pace of meals can be much slower overseas. Ask the wait staff to bring the kids’ food early, and everyone will be happy. (Most restaurants that are kid-friendly will expect you to do this, so don’t be afraid to ask.)
Base new food experiences on first remembering old food experiences. For example, if you’re in Italy and want your kids to try sea bass as their main course, let them order pasta as their first course. This will cut down the hunger pangs while providing them with a basis for believing that if the spaghetti is good, the fish will also be good.
Mangia bene e buon appetito!