Before kids, Jason and I did quite a bit of traveling. We vacationed everywhere from Costa Rica to West Virginia, and always made a point of trying interesting local cuisines, shopping at local grocery stores, and seeking out restaurants where the locals eat. Since having kids, we really haven’t had to adjust how we travel much at all, as we’ve found that this suits the kids quite nicely.
We always make a point of finding accommodations that have a kitchen. We love a nice slow morning on holiday, so being able to make coffee in our place, and have leisurely breakfast is generally our preference. For lunch, we find that going out for an afternoon meal is easier than an evening meal out. The kids aren’t as tired, and are therefore better behaved. This also means they tend to eat better. (Bonus that afternoon meals are usually cheaper!) We try to be back to our place for dinner, and love preparing foods we’ve found at the grocery store.
A grocery store in a foreign country can initially feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you can’t understand any of the packaging, but it can also be so fun! We love wandering the aisles and getting a feel for what the locals are eating. Even picking out a box of cereal is more fun when you’re in another country! (I also like purchasing toiletries such as shampoo, toothbrushes, or chapstick while on holiday; using them at home reminds me of our travels for months to come!)
We try to keep our diners at home fairly simple. We’ll occasionally make something more involved, but often taking our time exploring a local village, or splashing in the pool trumps spending time in the kitchen. While in Greece last week, dinner at home usually involved a big Greek salad with fresh local produce and feta from the deli counter. We would then cook up something simple like prawns fried in garlic and eat it with a loaf of fresh bread. One night when we were (extremely) low on groceries, I threw together some Greek toasted cheese sandwiches that were filled with feta, leftover chicken souvlaki from a big lunch, and slices of cucumber. They were absolutely delicious, but better yet, they enabled us to enjoy a leisurely, peaceful evening at home.
It isn’t always easy, but we love seeking out restaurants that are off the beaten path. Some of our favourite pre-kids travel meals include a recommendation from a taxi driver in Barbados for a locals buffet dinner on the shore (this was SO fun!), and a roadside “restaurant” in Mexico that was basically someone’s house (someone was showering in the bathroom when I went to use it!). It is generally much easier to patronise tried and true tourist destinations, which we also sometimes do, but some of our favourite travel memories are the more obscure meals we’ve sought out.
We’ve found the best way to find these local spots is to ask the locals. If we stay at an Airbnb (or similar) place, we are sure to ask the host for local recommendations. Friendly neighbours, the guy who sells gelato, or the attendant at a local shop will all have at least a few recommendations if you ask. It also helps to be staying somewhere not too touristy, which we like to do. The restaurants then tend to cater to the locals which we find more interesting.
In terms of figuring out what to order, I love asking the waiter for their recommendations. In Greece last week, the waiter at the first place we went to recommended some delicious fritters that the chef (his mum) had made. They were so yummy! Seeing how much we enjoyed them, after the meal his mom then sent out some delicious candied orange slices that we never would have thought to try otherwise. (They also gave us our beers on the house. Turns out they knew our host and so were extra friendly!). Similarly, in the seafood restaurant by the house we stayed in, the waiter ended up taking Jason back to the kitchen to show him the fish he had caught that day. The chef (again the waiter’s mum!) then cooked it up beautifully. It is a dish I wouldn’t have necessarily ordered from the menu despite it likely being the most delicious thing on there!
Because we make a point of feeding our kids a variety of foods while at home (see this post), we don’t need to find places with “kid friendly” meals which makes things a lot easier for us. The kids enjoy trying new foods when we travel, and we love how it helps them get a better feel for the country we’re visiting. (That being said, please feel free to leave tips below on traveling with picky eaters as other readers will likely find this helpful!)
PS: For those asking, here is a link to the place we stayed in Greece. We LOVED it! The view was even better than in the photos, and the pool was absolutely luxurious! It was quite literally off the beaten path, so it was a quiet, peaceful spot. The house itself was lovely, and the host was extremely accommodating and helpful. I’d definitely recommend it. I’m happy to write up a full review if there is enough interest! x