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Eating Out can be one of the pleasurable parts of a family vacation, but it can also be one of the most stressful.  Restaurants can make for a distraction on a long car ride or provide a family with a nice evening out.  

While kitchen facilities at hotels are convenient and economical, a vacation for the whole family usually includes some restaurant dining.

Here are some tips to help make it more enjoyable for all.

Scroll Down or click on Specific Tips 

Preparing Children for Eating Out

Basic Manners

What to look for in a Family Restaurant

Safety Tips

At the Restaurant

Alternatives to Sit Down Restaurants

Introducing proper table manners at home goes a long way to making meals in restaurants a more relaxing experience for the whole family.  Share family meals at home with your children.  Reinforce basic manners by your example.   

Have a family in-house Restaurant Night with everyone dressing up, have take out food and see who can use the best manners - Make it a fun activity.

Encourage children to use proper utensils at home so that they become familiar with their uses.

Tell children how you expect them to behave before you enter the restaurant.

Expose children at an early age to dining out and using manners in public.

Encourage children to experience, experiment and enjoy new foods.   See Tips to Expand Your Child's Taste for Exotic Food

HOTEL FUN 4 KIDS™ PRESIDENT'S TIP:

We use the three EEE's to get our children to try new foods.  It's a code with us.  When a new food is introduced I just say - its a three E food.  The kids know that we always say you need to experience new foods by experimenting with new tastes so that you can enjoy new foods.  This way we don't go into the whole lecture about new foods at a restaurant - we just say "Its a Three E food". 

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Here are some basic manners to observe when dining in Restaurants:

  • Always say please, thank you and excuse me.  Pleasantness with and respect of restaurant staff goes a long to receiving better service.  Set an example for your children.

  • Use a quieter tone of voice and remind children to respect others in the restaurant who will not want to hear loud conversations.

  • Eat with your mouth closed.  Avoid talking or taking another bite until all food has been swallowed.

  • Elbows off the table.  Not only does this present a better appearance in the restaurant but it also makes it easier to use utensils.

  • When sitting down in a restaurant, place a napkin on your lap and use a napkin to wipe fingers and face.  

  • While some foods are designed to be eating with fingers, encourage children to use cutlery in the correct manner at every opportunity. 

  • If children are old enough to use a knife and fork, teach them to cut gently.  Food should never be stabbed with the fork, but lifted gently.   For younger children, take the time to cut up the food as soon as it arrives.  

Some other guidelines include: 

  • Children should not jump around in seats or booths, roam the restaurant or go under the table.

  • No spitting.

  • Never throw food.

  • No burping in a loud or offensive manner - say excuse me.  

  • Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing and turn away from the table.

  • Do not lick fingers.

  • When eating from a buffet, don't sample food until you return to the table.  Take a clean plate each time.  Once food has been touched or put on the plate, do not return it to the buffet table.  Don't overload the plate.

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Children are traditionally picky eaters, so it helps to look for restaurants that are family friendly

.

Here are some tips when looking for a restaurant that the whole family can enjoy:

  • Typically chain restaurants, with standard menus, kids promotions and even playgrounds are a favourite option for families.

  • Buffets, themed restaurants and cafeterias work well for families as the service is often quicker and the fare is usually acceptable for all family members.

  • Avoid formal dining establishments, although it can be fun if children are well-behaved.

  • Offer kids a choice as to which restaurant to go to.

  • Look for clean, well-run restaurants with friendly staff.

  • Many Hotels and Resorts have on-site restaurants with children's menus available.

  • Ask around - go to the local tourism office or ask hotel staff to recommend family friendly restaurants.

  • Consider going for an early dinner - kids will not be as hungry, but may be in a better mood.  They may eat less so order accordingly.  See At The Restaurant

  • Breakfast is usually a good time for a family meal.  

Call the restaurant ahead of time and ask:

  • Do they have a children's menu or children's colouring placemats and crayons?

  • Can you bring in a stroller?  Sometimes this is easier than a highchair for babies and avoids placing a car seat on the floor or table, which can present a danger to babies.

  • Do they have highchairs?

  • How busy is the restaurant or when is it the busiest - see if you can reserve a corner table or at a quieter time.  

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When dining with children, you want to ensure that they do not get injured by hot foods and drinks - here are some tips to help keep children safe while dining:

 

  • Keep children away from hot dishes when they come to the table.

  • Ask the wait staff to bring the child's supper first to you so you can cut it up to cool it down faster and so young children do not touch hot plates.

  • Teach children not to touch their plate until you say it is okay.

  • Keep hot coffee and tea away from children.

  • Be especially careful with hamburger and chicken, - check that the meat is cooked through before children eat it - cut it open and make sure there is no pink or red meat and that it is cooked through.

  • Don't let young children use a fork or knife.

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Once you have decided on where to go for breakfast, lunch or dinner, it's time to plan your strategy for the meal time.

Now, several tried and true recommendations for enjoying these family outings:

  • When you arrive ask for a corner table (if you haven't already made reservations for this) or an out of the way location, booths also offer a bit more privacy for a family.

  • Supervise children closely - especially when using the restroom - see Safety tips for Using Public Washrooms

  • Remove Candles or ensure that they are out of reach - See Fire Safety Tips.

  • Try to feed babies before your meal, unless you think a bottle may occupy them during your meal.

  • Move breakables,  cutlery and salt shakers out of reach.  

  • Take along a bib, bottles and a child's special cup for drinking. 

  • Crayons, colouring books, books and a favourite toy may help amuse younger children. 

  • Know what to do if your baby is choking -  see First Aid Tips for when a Baby is Choking

  • Use High Chairs, Boosters and Hook-on Chairs Safely - See Tips for Purchasing, Renting and Using Travel Equipment for Babies.

  • Include kids in the table conversation or relive some fun family experiences while you are waiting for your food or drinks.

  • Order as quickly as possible.  If there is a wait for tables, look over the menu and order as soon as you are seated.  This will speed up the delivery of your meal, especially if kids are really hungry.

  • Ensure everyone washes their hands before eating.  See Tips on Washing Hands to Avoid Germs.

  • Ask your server for some bread or crackers for the children.

  • Know what your kids like.  Don't expect them to try new things in a strange setting.  Watch out for spicy foods.  

  • Start kids off with water (bottled water), milk or fruit juices and then order the drink to be delivered with the meal.  This avoids kids filling up on sugary drinks before the meal.  If the drinks are too full, ask for an extra cup and split it up.

  • Gage your children's moods and skip dessert and coffee if need be or take advantage of an Alternative to Eating Out.

  • Remind children about their manners in a gentle, reassuring way.  Try not to nag, but lead by example.

  • Ask for children's meals to be served with appetizers or as quickly as possible, especially if children need to be fed or closely supervised while eating.

  • For a change of pace, order appetizers as a meal.  This can be a fun way to try new foods that can be sampled in a more casual manner.

  • Consider ordering on meal to be split between young children, or share some of a parent's meal for small appetites.  Ask the server for an extra plate.

  • Take some little healthy snacks with you just in case the meal is late.

  • When the meal arrives, settle children first.  Cut up younger children's meals, add condiments.  You might want to check the child's meal before they sample it.  This is a wise idea when ordering hamburgers and chicken to ensure that the meat is thoroughly cooked.

  • When children are done eating, ask your server to take their plates out of the way, clean up the kids and their immediate area so they can colour or play in a clean area.

  • If you need something, ask your server, they are usually more than happy to help keep children content in the restaurant and tip accordingly.  See Tips On Tipping: How Much To Give And To Whom, While Travelling With Your Family

  • Try to remain calm and enjoy your meal.  If something spills, smile (it helps to lighten the mood) and ask the server for some extra napkins.

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While eating out can be fun, there are alternatives to eating in a sit-down restaurant that can be interesting too.  

Some options to consider:

  • You may choose a hotel or resort that offers kitchen facilities.  Hitting the local grocery store and stocking up on cereals, bread, lunch items and even prepared dinners to eat in-room.  

  • Some Cottages and Resorts offer Barbecues for guest use - see Safety News - Barbecue Tanks and Charcoal Grills.

  • Bring in take-out.  Even without kitchen facilities, pizza, take-out chinese and others can easily be eaten in a hotel room.  Make it an indoor picnic.

  • Have a picnic.  Look for a local park, beach or playground area.  There will be room for the kids to run, play some games and enjoy a local play area.  See Playground Safety Tips.  The grocery store or room service or hotel restaurant may be able to make up picnic lunches.  Be sure to store food properly.  A cooler with ice in a plastic bag may be necessary on hot days.

  • If your hotel or resort offers child care services, consider an Adult Night Out.  Feed the kids early (or some facilities even feed the kids) and enjoy a romantic dinner.

  • Enjoy an outdoor cafe where the kids can watch passersby.

  • Take a meal pool side if available.

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Click below to return to Travel Tips

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All Tips are offered as suggestions only

While we have tried to provide you with a list of suggestions to help parents when travelling with children to keep them safe, unfortunately, we can’t think of everything and it is the responsibility of parents to ensure their children’s safety.

 

Tips to Expand Your Child's Taste for Exotic Food

For Tips on Eating out with Children with Severe Allergies Click on

Click here for tips on travelling with children with severe allergies

Tips on Washing Hands to Avoid Germs

Tips for Potty Training, Potty Training while Travelling and Common Potty Training Practices

For Tips on Using High Chairs, Booster Seats and Hook-on Chairs Click Below:

Click here for For Tips on Using and Purchasing Travel Equipment for Babies

For Tips on Who and What to Tip Click Below:

Click here for Tips on When and What to Tip

For Tips on Travelling with Grandchildren Click Below:

Tips on Travelling with Grandchildren

Also see Travel News:

A Day of Social Savvy is a tradition at The Ritz-Carlton, Bostonas The Hotel Celebrates 15 Years of a World Class Etiquette Program, Boston, Massachusetts

See the following sections for specific tips:

For General Travel Tips Click on

Click here to view tips to help make travel fun

For All-inclusive Vacation Tips Click Below:

Click here for tips on taking an All-inclusive Vacation

For Travelling with Teenagers Tips Click on

Click here to view tips on travellilng with teens

For Tips on Taking a Dude Ranch Vacation Click on

Click here for tips on taking a Dude Ranch Vacation

For Motion Sickness Tips Click on

click here for tips on motion sickness

 For Amusement Park Tips Click on

Click here for amusement park tips

For Tips on Enjoying Live Theatre with Children Click Below:

Click here for tips on Enjoying Live Theatre with Children

For Tips on Buying Toys Click Below:

Click here for tips on buying toys for children

For Car Travel Tips Click on

Click here to view tips to make car travel fun

For Air Travel Tips Click on

click here to view air travel tips to help make air travel fun

For Train Travel Tips Click on

Click here for tips on taking a Family Train Trip

For Travel Games to play while travelling Click below

click here to view travel games

For Tips on Taking Pictures Click Below:

Click here for tips on Taking Pictures

For Tips on Protecting Your Home Click Below:

Click here for Tips on Protecting Your Home from Burglary

 

For Winter - Ski Holiday Tips Click on

Click here for winter/ski holiday tips

For Winter Driving Tips Click Below:

Click here for tips on Winter Driving

For Spring Car Care Tips Click Below:

Click here for spring car care tips

 For Travel Safety Tips  Click Below

Click here to view Travel Safety Tips

 

To Return to Travel Tips Click Below

Click here to return to Travel Tips Main Page

 

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