Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

EATING: HANGRY: Not macaroni and cheese again!

Eating is necessary; however, it is not necessary to blow the budget when on holiday with your family. There is a popular notion that when on holiday – you lash out and don’t worry about what you spend on food, as you’re there to enjoy the whole holiday experience. Even the wealthiest of families with a large brood needs to watch their wallet when it comes to food, as it can be super-expensive and sometimes unnecessary to spend so much, not to mention unhealthy.

Road Trip

Make some sandwiches and buy snacks for the trip. The snacks will keep the kids quiet but ensure they are not sticky snacks. Sticky snacks equals tears for the parents as they create more washing, and the kids get ratty on sugar, which equals tears for the kids. If you bake, this is the perfect time to have yummy goodies such as cookies, muffins, ANZAC biscuits, slices, and ribbon sandwiches.

Make regular stops and save the sticky snacks for the local ice-creamery. Have fish and chips at the local seaside town. In the car, have healthy snacks and small rubbish bags for the wrappers. Dispose of the bags at each stop. Be organised. Plan your stops if you can so as not to have starving hungry children at the roadside cafes that generally have overpriced offerings of greasy food sitting in the warmer for hours.


Research the airline before departure as they all operate differently. Of course, there is also a vast difference between budget and full- service airlines.  

When flying with budget airlines, all food is usually an additional cost, either pre-purchased or more commonly purchased in-flight. The variety on offer in-flight is generally limited and very expensive. Instead, we recommend many little healthy snacks that will keep the kids occupied and satisfied for the trip, with some of the children perhaps opting not to eat at all during the flight as their flying tummy may not agree.

Regarding full-service airlines, some airlines wish to minimise movement around the cabin and have implemented a call button system to deliver the extra inflight snacks and drinks. This system is terrific; however, the children will require monitoring to ensure they don’t abuse the system. Don’t be shy to ask for a few packets of food at a time to save embarrassment from the kids calling the air steward back again so swiftly! Other airlines have a store of snacks at the back of the cabin, the “help yourself” system. This method is good for passengers that have done their research and are aware the snacks are available. This method is not so useful for passengers who are unaware of this provision and who only realise during the flight, when all the “yummy” snacks are depleted early on.

Baby formula is allowed on the flight, and the attendants are always willing to assist if you require hot water to warm up the bottles. If your baby is on solid foods, it is acceptable to bring baby food onboard as long as it is within the liquid restriction guidelines.

HOT TIP: A few weeks before departure, start giving room temperature formula to your baby, so they get used to it. This will ensure on the flight if your baby is fussing you can administer the bottle on demand and not have to wait for the attendant to warm up the bottle.

If you breastfeed your baby, of course, bottles are not a concern. We suggest the timing of feeding your infant: at take-off and landing. Breast- or bottle-feed infants as the flights take-off and land. This will comfort them. Young children should also be encouraged to consume their chewy lollies at these times to assist with the inevitable discomfort associated with popping ears.

HOT TIP: Check whether the local water is fit for consumption. If not ensure you have plenty of bottled water, and refuse ice in drinks. Ice can come from contaminated water.

All You Can Eat Breakfast

Many hotel and resort accommodations have the option of “all you can eat breakfast”. Our family loves this option as it works particularly well with our somewhat varying tastes in food and appetites. If this is an option with your accommodation, do the maths before adding the breakfast. Usually, this addition increases the price dramatically; however, this addition is sometimes a genuine bargain. If we choose this option, we tend to enjoy a big breakfast, grab some yoghurt, fruit, and a dinner roll on the way out, have a quick snack at lunchtime, and we are not usually hungry again until dinner time. This investment means that our breakfasts are pre-paid, which is a comfort to know when working out the holiday budget.

On a Budget

If you don’t opt for the all you can eat breakfast deal, then we suggest purchasing on your first day: a toaster, toastie machine, a kettle, inexpensive plastic bowls, plates, cups and cutlery during your supermarket shop. Add to your shopping list: cereal, milk, bread, butter, fruit, and your favourite toast spreads. You then have daily breakfasts organised on the floor or table in your hotel room. If you have self-contained accommodation add a few “staples” to the list including wraps, snacks, macaroni and cheese and instant noodles. The Costco card is reciprocal and can be used anywhere in the world. Most towns have a larger supermarket with more cost- effective pricing. Some supermarkets will also offer “home delivery” and, if timed correctly, the delivery can arrive just after you unpack.


On our five-week trip to Hawaii, we survived quite nicely on wraps and dips for our lunchtime feast. We would team this up with a local delicacy such as shave ice or an ice-cream. Every day we set out with our backpacks, one for each parent. One bag contained the food, and the other had all the drink bottles. As the children got older, they would also take their backpack or take turns carrying the pack.

Eating with a Twist

We enjoy going out “with a twist” and trying the local delicacies or enjoying a unique experience. In New York, dinnertime at Ellen’s Stardust Diner is imprinted in our forever memories as the waiters are hopeful Broadway artists that sing during the meal! Our experience at Dolly Parton’s stampede in Pigeon Forge left us with full tummies and a memorable entertainment experience. At Disneyworld, we pre-booked our dining experiences and particularly enjoyed a rare photo opportunity, meeting “The Beast” at Be Our Guest. Cultural experiences such as a Maori hangi in New Zealand, or Hawaiian luau are perfect for doubling up as an activity and a meal. In Nashville, at The Caney Fork River Grille we enjoyed eating alligator and fried green tomatoes while being entertained by a country and western band. If you meet up with friends, these are the perfect opportunities to book dinner together and make memories.

If you have young children, don’t forget to advise that you will require highchairs.

Local markets are the perfect place to purchase local cuisine and perhaps turn your visit into an evening meal. Ensure all fruit and vegetables are washed thoroughly before consuming. Street food is enticing, with usually an attractive price point; however, consume with caution as hygiene standards vary from place to place, and a belly upset is less than ideal in a foreign country (or anytime really!).

A bite to eat, just because they’re hungry!

It is quite possible to make your breakfast, lunch, and dinner in self-contained accommodation if supplies are on hand. Of course, holidays are for rejuvenation, so it is a beautiful idea to enjoy special breakfast, lunch, or dinner outings with the family. It is certainly permissible to “splurge” now and then on holidays; however, choose age-appropriate restaurants and book early. Choosing the right restaurant can be tricky as there is usually a plethora of places on offer. First, ask the locals their recommendations, then look online at Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, and YouTube for reviews. Of course, any amount of planning does not ensure the perfect holiday, and members of the family may get hangry! This also means when you do find somewhere to eat, the children may feel restless. If they are hangry, go somewhere that you know will be quick and easy – even if it is the local McDonald’s. In some destinations, the weather is sometimes stifling, so the comfort of an air-conditioned restaurant will be welcomed by the entire family.

Bakeries are an excellent source of variety for the family, and baked goods are usually at a lower price point that will fill up rumbling tummies. In Hong Kong, near a train station, we discovered an affordable and delicious bakery that fed our entire family for only $10! We went back there a few times. This was a bakery that the locals regularly visited, which reiterates our advice to ask the local folk their recommendations or observe where they go. In Australia and the UK, we always enjoy a pub meal. Be aware of the different rulings for different countries. For example, in Scotland, it is illegal for children under 18 to eat in a pub if they can see the liquor; therefore, strategic seating is required.

Consider sharing meals between family members, particularly in some areas where the servings are large. Our favourite dishes to share as a family are hot chips, nachos, pasta, chicken dishes, and salads. If you are on a tight budget, don’t order soft drinks, juices or milkshakes and allow jugs of water only, which are generally free. This can be a family rule made pre-holiday that the children are usually willing to accept. In London, food was expensive; however, we discovered a pasta restaurant close to our accommodation that welcomed our large family. As they were so friendly and served quality food quickly, we returned three times. Book in restaurants as early as possible, as many establishments at peak periods cannot cater to such a large group on short notice. It is certainly not ideal for young children to have to wait to be seated and encounter slow service, so try and be organised. Of course, takeaway meals are also an option. Our favourite “go-to” is pizzas. Margarita and garlic pizzas are generally the most cost-effective.

Ask the locals for reviews and eat the local cuisine. Go to markets and buy up on the local product. We love markets! Be aware of the hygiene standards and only purchase if you feel comfortable with the quality of sanitation.

This is an excerpt from Rebecca Mason’s Holiday Dreaming: The Expert’s Guide to Large Family Travel. The full book is available to order online at