Whether you are planning to attend a ball game, visiting a petting zoo, museum or a trip to your local park, pack snacks for your day of fun.
Having food and water with you can:
- Keep the hangries (hunger/angry) and temper tantrums at bay
- Save money, when you do not pay inflated costs for food and beverages at the destination
- Increase the chance of having healthier food and beverage choices
- Save time that would be otherwise be used for standing inline to purchase foods and beverages
- Cater to individual dietary needs and fussy eaters
Young children have small stomachs and may need to eat every couple of hours, so plan for this with plenty of snacks and beverages. Their activity level and the weather will dictate how much and how often. For example, on a hot day, everyone should have access to and be encouraged to drink water several times an hour.
Before You Go
Be an online sleuth, looking for rules, options, and prices related to bringing in your own vs. buying food. When in doubt, pack foods in a cooler that can survive if left in a hot car. Some destinations do not allow you to bring in any food or beverages. This could be to protect your health and safety or the exhibit. Other places want you to buy items at the site to increase their profit. Many venues will allow a sealed bottle of water, and dry foods like a granola bar or snack crackers. Others will allow anything except items in glass containers. Find out if you can bring in a cooler. If not, can you go to the car for food, then return without paying the entrance fee again?
Snacks good for stashing in a purse or backpack:
- Ready to eat cereal
- Granola bar
- Dried fruit
- Whole fruit like an apple or orange
- Pouch of applesauce or fruit juice
- Bottle of water
Snacks for a cooler:
- Cut fruit like watermelon or pineapple
- Delicate fruit like berries
- Frozen grapes
- Cut raw vegetables such as carrot or celery sticks
- Hummus or other dip
- Pasta salad
- Frozen juice boxes or pouches
Start with a clean cooler. Then pre-chill or freeze foods as appropriate. Add frozen gel pack or ice as needed. If left in the car, crack the windows, and keep cooler out of direct sunlight.
I cannot deny that buying food onsite can be an exciting and part of an adventure/experience. So budget for it, and manage family expectations. If the family knows that the only way you can afford to have this experience is if you can manage the food costs, they are more willing to make a few sacrifices. For example, instead of buying all your snacks and meals onsite, limit purchases to one snack or meal a day per person, with the rest of the food and beverages being what you bring. Consider saving your budget to purchase foods unique to the location, or foods that are impractical to bring, such as local saltwater taffy or a snow cone. Whether you bring your own food or buy it onsite, remember to wash your hands before serving or consuming food.
Please share in the comments a favorite food to bring on a family adventure, as well as a favorite food to buy onsite. I bring nuts and protein bars from home and buy ice cream onsite!