10 Things You Need To Know About Eating Out With Kids On Holiday

Before having children eating out on holiday was almost always an experience to be savoured involving spontaneous decisions about where to eat, getting a bit dressed up after a day of exploring or sunbathing and enjoying new foods.   This all changes when you take young kids on holiday.

I thought I’d put together a handy 10 point guide for any parents naïve enough to think eating out on holiday is a joy with children.  Read on and be prepared…..

1.  Dressing up involves changing your top.  Maybe.

There is no need to get ‘dressed up’ when you eat out on holiday with kids.  By all means change the top you have worn all day which no doubt has stains featuring suntan lotion, ice cream, snot and so on; but be mindful that the new top will soon be home to new stains featuring whatever is on the menu and possibly tears from your over-tired offspring.

2.  You will eat at ‘odd hours’

I’m a big fan of not stressing about kids usual routines on holiday but experience has taught me you are playing with fire if you mess around with times too much.  This means you will be doing a lot of early lunches and evening meals.  So, forget the kids, it may take awhile for your body to adjust to the new routine.

3.  Your choice of restaurant criteria changes

Mr ATWWAH and I used to take ages choosing which restaurant we wanted to eat in when we were on holiday and we’d check out a few menus, see if the setting was romantic, was it busy enough to assure you that the food was good and so on.  With little kids all of that goes out of the window.  Instead you are looking for somewhere which fits the buggy in easily enough, has a highchair and baby change, has something that your kids will eat and my particular favourite, isn’t full of kids already.

4.  No matter how settled your baby is they will wake up during the meal

This is a particular favourite during evening meals.  On our last holiday we would feed Mini ATWWAH in the room, bath him, get his pyjamas on and he would usually nod off in the pram as we left the hotel to get some food.  This was never ridiculously late, about 6.30pm-7pm which is his usual bedtime.  We’d wrap a blanket around him and put the hood down on the pram, job done.  But for some reason almost every mealtime he would wake at some point.  At home if he wakes up he usually settles himself but he just couldn’t on holiday so he would end up on one of our knees, full of beans and grabbing our food.

eating with baby

Mini ATWWAH naps, Mrs ATWWAH tries to eat her fish and chip lunch in Cornwall

5.  Someone will look at you like you are the worse parent in the world

This tends to happen more in the evenings, no matter how early you eat, but there will be someone at a nearby table who gives you ‘the look’, you know the one I mean, full of judgement about your bad parenting because you have dared to come out with children when the sun has gone down.  We usually eat no later than 7pm with Master ATWWAH and it really irritates me when I get ‘the look’ around this time as I wonder why you would eat so early on holiday if you don’t have kids.  Shouldn’t they be having pre-dinner sex/cocktails or waking up from a nap or something?

6.  Your kids will only eat ‘white food’

No matter how good they are at eating a well balanced diet at home and trying new foods with no fuss, for some reason, on holiday, children can regress.  Master ATWWAH is a bread fiend on holiday.  His eyes light up as the bread basket is plonked in front of him.  If he is given a choice of food from the menu he almost always says burger and chips.  I sometimes lie and say they don’t do burger but on more than one occasion a waiter has rushed over to correct my mistake.

On our recent Lanzarote holiday Master ATWWAH’s diet consisted of bread, pasta, burgers, chips and apple juice.  I’m not even sure he ate one vegetable.  And does banana ice cream count as fruit?  Mini ATWWAH had chicken breast almost every day and even at nine months he had a few chips too many times for me to be comfortable with.  Please don’t judge.


Even when eating around the pool the food has to be white

7.  One of you will want to order a bottle of wine

One of the joys of being on holiday is being able to have a cheeky beer or wine with your meal and there is no reason why you can’t do this when you are with kids.  Before we had kids Mr ATWWAH and I would easily have shared at least one bottle of wine with a meal and often had pre-dinner drinks and gone out to sample some bars afterwards.

What I have found now we have kids and in particular when Master ATWWAH got a bit older and Mini ATWWAH hadn’t arrived was you can be lulled into a false sense of security and the possibility of ordering a bottle of wine with your dinner seems do-able.  But please be warned, as soon as you order that bottle some sort of event will occur which means only half of it gets drunk, usually a toddler tantrum.  I recommend ordering by the glass or carafe.  It may work out a bit more expensive but you won’t tempt toddler tantrum fate.

8.  There will be a tantrum

No matter how well behaved your kids have been that day there will be some sort of tantrum over a meal.  I always think the tantrum is worse if it comes out of nowhere and you had been lulled into a false sense of security and started to enjoy your surroundings/the food/your wine.  You may have just been about to take a photo of your perfect family to share smugly on Instagram with one of those irritating #blessed hashtags but this moment will be fleeting as seconds later a tantrum will have erupted larger than any volcano you may have visited in the day.

You can almost certainly guarantee that the tantrum will also happen when a waiter is in earshot.  They won’t be around to hear your offspring being all delightful and intelligent talking about their day or blurting out ‘I love you mummy’ but they will be there to hear the worse wailing ever or even worse, completely obnoxious utterings.  Master ATWWAH surpassed himself in the Chinese restaurant in Lanzarote as we were going through the menu.  We were reminding him that he did like Chinese food  as he had eaten it at home, when he shouted ‘I don’t even like Chinese anything’ just as the waiter approached.  It was so embarrassing.

9.  You will be in and out in 30 minutes if you are lucky

There will be no more poring over the menu and ordering three courses when you eat with the kids.  The name of the game is speed and efficiency.  Sometimes I prep Mr ATWWAH on the way to the restaurant and tell him we are best to just go for main courses with no messing.  You want all the food to arrive at the same time and you want it quickly.

Unfortunately on holiday the service in restaurants can be slow as that may be the culture of where you are visiting or they naively think you are the same as the other diners and want to enjoy the view, check out the menu, chew your food.  No, no, no……you want to be served drinks immediately, given five minutes to look at the menu, order, have your food within ten minutes if possible and all at the same time.

I hate when restaurants say they’ll bring the kids food first.  NO!!!  Bring the bread basket or a colouring in book or leave me to rummage through the change bag and hope there is a book/toy/ipad to distract them.  If you bring their food first they will wolf it down and when the adults food arrives they will be bored and want to leave and have a tantrum forcing you to leave.

10.  You will almost always leave with a ‘sorry’

Master ATWWAH is almost four so making a mess when he is eating doesn’t happen so often anymore.  However, Mini ATWWAH has an annoying habit of discarding his food with a flourish.  It usually involves biting something, chewing it, looking at the rest of the food in his hand and then either biting it again or more likely throwing it on the floor with a look of disdain.  I spend most of the time on the floor with a napkin picking the big bits up and leaving a parcel of half-chewed food on the table.

Nine times out of ten I apologise to the waiter for the mess as we leave, even when I’ve tidied most of it up.

And, if I don’t have need to say sorry to the waiter I probably will to the people we have to navigate Master ATWWAH past and Mini ATWWAH’s pram.  Master ATWWAH usually comments on what people are eating as we go past them or says something terrible like ‘they have lots of beer on their table don’t they daddy?’ while Mini ATWWAH’s pram often gets in the way as the restaurant has usually filled up while we’ve been in there so there is chair shuffling and scraping, banged shins and a flurry of ‘sorry’s’ from me.

Maybe self-catering in a well equipped villa is the best way?

Do you have any more to add?  What always happens when you eat out on holiday with your kids?  Does it get better as the kids get older? 

If you liked this post, you may like:

Places to eat in Lanzarote

Why I hate buffet restaurants

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  1. Totally with you on all points particularly 6 and 10!

  2. It does get better. We just had a holiday meal with our 11-year-old in a white tablecloth restaurant. The kids menu included a delicious steak for her and she loved drinking her water out of a “wine” glass. It sounds like for now you have the right attitude about dining with kids while on holiday.

    • Thanks. I’m looking forward to the restaurant experience with an older child. Worryingly Master ATWWAH finishes kids menu portions already, he’s not even 4 yet. By the time he is 11 I worry he will be ordering the adult steak 🙂

  3. I agree with Jen, it definitely gets better as the kids get older. My kids now love eating out when we’re travelling and trying new foods.

  4. i think key to eating out well on holiday is regularly ‘practicing’ at home. The kids know what to expect.
    Because of this, though, my son has picked one particular restaurant that every time we visit he has to poop. Of course he times it well, usually just when the main course arrives!

    • Ha ha, that is brilliant, bless him.
      Master ATWWAH is lucky and gets to eat out a lot, although to be fair, maybe eating out isn’t that much fun when you are a little boy and he doesn’t realise it’s ‘lucky’.

  5. Ah I remember these days for sure and it will get better as mentioned above BUT you may go through the ‘I don’t like that’ phase that I am experiencing. Even firm favourites like ham and cheese have been refused. Twins age 6.
    Once home they happily ate ham and cheese again…

  6. Glad to hear it gets better! My toddler veers between suddenly trying new food on holiday which she wouldn’t ordinarily touch and flatly refusing her normal favourites (chicken, this time). So far, my main methods are sticking to lunchtimes out (dinner in the villa – she’d eat her own foot rather than wait to 7 and I just can’t eat at 5), stickers etc as we wait and ice cream for good girls who eat their lunch. I know, I know but it’s only a week. An excuse I’m also currently using for the excess chips…

    • Thanks Cathy, hope you are having fun. I think we might try a villa so we can do a bit more eating just us and not having to worry so much about over-tired children etc. And, I figure you can’t have enough ice cream or chips on holiday.
      Look forward to reading about your trip soon.

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