Traveling while having unreasonable food requirements and kids

This week I’m in Dublin with my daughters to see my family.  It seemed like a good time to talk about what a pain it is to travel with unreasonable food requirements.

This photo is from last year’s epic trip to Rome over land. As it happens, this was when the volcano hit, but we had booked the trip months before. We just like avoiding planes when possible.  We took a train, an overnight ferry, a sleeper train and then 2 more trains through Italy.  I would say that was my longest ever continuous trip and it was great fun. Younger daughter is now mobile but not yet easily amused with magazines or smart phones, so I suspect it is a good thing we aren’t repeating the trip this year. I have also done shorter train rides with them, an Irish sea ferry and several plane rides (some trans-Atlantic ones when I only had one kid). Really, the only type of travelling with kids I don’t have much experience of is car trips.

General suggestions

The number one secret to successful kid travelling is never let them get hungry.  Travelling is stressful, tiring, exciting and very very public. I’m not going to claim my kids are always perfect when travelling but they do ok and we frequently get praised and I’m convinced much of this is down to my willingness to bring 20 different sorts of food and offer some at half hourly intervals.  Also, I eat a lot myself so that while I might be tired and snappy at times, I avoid adding hunger to the mix.  Sadly, given the milk thing, this means a dedicated bag packed full of food and a visit to a health food shop before the return trip.


Train food nowadays is pants. Which is a shame because it doesn’t have to be. But the decision has been made to offer factory made prepackaged food and it is really very difficult to get any without milk.  The one thing that is usually safe is salted crisps.  But not Pringles. They have milk powder.  On the other hand, station food is sometimes good. The Cornish Pasty Company has a vegan pasty and M&S at least has good labeling, so it is quick going through the 20 options to find the milk free one.  But if you’ve got a table seat and have packed well, you can have a nice picnic on a train and you can get your exercise walking up and down the carriages with the toddler. Also, you can bring as much water with you as you like.


Long haul planes have a vegan option when you book. Good, right? Well, up to a point. Usually, the main meal will be OK and often actually nicer than the omni option, but that may be the only food you can eat as the snacks and smaller meals (especially the breakfast pastry type meal just before handing) often don’t have substitutes. Also, if your flight is delayed or changed with short notice chances are your meal request won’t have followed you.  Short haul you tend to no longer get a specific meal as they usually offer a vegetarian option and feel that if you turn it down it’s your loss.  If you can’t bring food from home, I’ve noticed Eat opening up in more airports and their food labeling is good so you can get an expensive sandwich meal to take on the flight with you.  Eldest likes their tuna baguette and they even have a jelly dessert which is milk free.


Both the over night to Amsterdam and the Stranraer to Belfast ferries I’ve been on have been pretty good for food finding.  The DFS ferry had a buffet dinner, which had a lot of options we could eat and some really good food. As often seems to be the case, not a lot of dessert options but I’m getting used to that. The Belfast ferry is more basic, but you’re not on it as long and you can at least get chips. And what holiday is complete without chips?


Youngest cried for an hour and a half in a car last week. I can offer no hope, only the suggestion you bring food you like to fortify you through such an ordeal. (We did stop and feed her. She had just had enough of being in the car.) With a more cheerful child, cars are the one excuse for what I usually see as over packaged single serving size packets of raisins or biscuits or whatever. The kids like manipulating the packaging and it keeps the mess potential to a minimum.  Also, non food related, I bought some Power Puff Girls episodes for eldest and they are like catnip for 5 year olds. She will do anything to be allowed watch another episode.

So, in summary, bring way more food than you’ll need, offer food like you’re Mrs Doyle (NSFW!) and read labels.

About Nuala

Geeky feminist Irish woman living in Scotland. Has two daughters and a lot of yarn. Really likes hummus.
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