Feeding Your Kids Abroad: Is It Worth It?

Self-catering or hotel? That is the question. A holiday spent cooking – or watching waiters clear away all your euros on your children’s untouched plates? Both sides have their ups and downs – which will you choose this summer?

“Does it have a dishwasher?” I asked my husband suspiciously, as he presented ‘The One’: the perfect apartment, located after zillions of man-hours of research. (Which looked a lot like the BBC Sports website to me.)

“Erm, not sure. But we can walk to the beach! And look at that view!”

“I don’t care how blue the sky or sparkling the sea – if there’s no dishwasher, I’m not interested.”

How things have changed. Three kids kind of does that. Our most burning holiday issue now is not Marseilles or Majorca, beach or beautiful scenery, but how we shall eat.

We’ve clocked up a number of family holidays during our nearly eight years as parents, and I’m very grateful for that. But I confess I do struggle with the catering question.


Pros: You can control your budget. You can eat in the comfort of your own accommodation, when and where you like.

Cons: You will tell yourself “You’ll eat out all the time”. But you won’t. The local restaurant hates you after the spaghetti incident. An unscheduled nap (a child’s or your partner’s) keeps you at home over lunch. You have that chorizo that “needs eating up.”

So…You buy food. Put it away. Prepare it, cook it and serve it. Wash it up, sweep under the table and everywhere else your little angels have wandered with a snaffled baguette. They’ll eat everything within a couple of days and you’re in and out of Carrefour more often than the pool.

And those European supermarkets really know how to trap the unwary parent, with their aisles of beach balls and radioactive sweets. Everything that’s bad about Haribo they seem to stock in individual bags – no innocent Tangfastics here, but the E-number red sugary shoelaces of nightmares. We relax the “no kids in the supermarket” rule of home – “we’re on holiday!” – imagining we’ll browse the produce with them and trick them into trying new things: look at these beautiful purple (whisper: asparagus) spears!

We regret it.

Hotel / restaurant

Pros: You sits down, you pays your money, and you eat.

Cons: Your children have to behave. Without IPads “because we should be able to eat a family meal together on holiday.” You have to translate the menu and order. Without your IPhone: “if we’re not allowed IPads…!”

“That cost two euros!” you’ll splutter inwardly, as your 5 year-old spits out his sea bass. “It does NOT taste like fishfingers!” he’ll retort.

You watch in slow motion as your toddler’s EUR5 Orangina hits the dust.

So does the rest of the restaurant.

No amount of Sangria will absorb the stress.

Then you get “la cuenta”.

“Well, we’re not going to be going on that day trip tomorrow now.”

Maybe I’m making too much of a meal of this. Maybe they’ll all scoff down their squid without a murmur.

Maybe there’ll be a McDonalds. (Course there will!)

What’s your solution?

Whatever you’re doing, whether home or abroad:

Happy holidays!


  • Ha ha, so know where you’re coming from with this! We don’t go abroad very often and we ALWAYS insist on a dishwasher in our accommodation. After a particularly disastrous trip to Italy when my daughter was 4, we pack a small suitcase on the rare occasions we do go abroad with enough apple juice, orange juice without bits and Fruit Shoots to stop her dehydrating for the week. When we arrived in Barcelona when she was 7 she said: “I like Spanish food” and we breathed a huge sigh of relief that she wouldn’t starve. We were in McDonalds.

  • Spot on!!!
    I did the all inclusive holiday last year and my 2 yr old wouldn’t eat anything except bread for the duration. That’s about €230 of bread….and of course he swelled up like a pregnant goat and didn’t poo for the duration.
    Stress! The poo eventually arrived…In his swimming costume!
    The year before we were self catering and I met a man who had packed an entire suitcase full of Heinz Spaghetti Hoops as his daughter wouldn’t eat anything else and he didn’t want to risk not having them.
    Ah! There’s no answer!! It’s part of the ‘all inclusive’ deal….food issues and poos in the suits x
    carry on katy recently posted…Sleep Is For The Weak.My Profile

  • Tim says:

    We’re travelling with our oldest uni freinds for the third summer running, and the list of non-negotiables is now well established: well-equipped kitchen including dishwasher, washing machine, dining seating for ten, swimming pool (admittedly that’s not mandatory for dinner, but you never know …), wi-fi that will support multiple iDevices without lots of arguments about who’s stealing whose bandwidth, that sort of thing. Yeah, it’s funny how having three kids changes your perspective on things … 🙂
    Tim recently posted…Something for the weekend: Holidays and a life of crimeMy Profile

  • John Adams says:

    Self-catering every time with the occasional treat eating out. That said, we haven’t been on an overseas holiday for a couple of years but we’re hoping to get away shortly. Whatever you do, have a good break!
    John Adams recently posted…A portrait of Toddler AdamsMy Profile

  • The answer is to go to a resort/hotel that’s realised that, if they keep the kids happy by feeding them smiley potato faces and turkey twizzlers every night, the grown-ups will enjoy their local cuisine even more. After all, it’s only one fortnight a year – and Jamie Oliver’s not watching.
    Nell@PigeonPairandMe.com recently posted…Bloggers’ Summer suggestionsMy Profile

  • Amy says:

    All inclusive Jess! No cooking. No washing up. No dishwasher. And when they turn their noses up at something, back to the buffet they go… as you sink another G&T. The End. x
    Amy recently posted…How to survive a kid’s party at homeMy Profile

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