It’s been quite some time since my family and I went on an actual vacation. The last time we hopped on a plane and landed in another country was when the boys were almost 3 and almost 1 (they’re 7 and 5 now). We went to St. Thomas, USVI and it was amazing. This time we booked a spur of the moment vacation to Florida, a childhood favourite spot of mine.
This summer was crazy busy for us. Joel’s work schedule exploded, I started working with Young Living and our weekends quickly filled up…to the point that before we knew it, the backpacks were getting packed and daily lunches were being made.
One evening after the kids went to bed, Joel and I stayed up chatting and we both agreed that we regretted not forcing time for a vacation. We like to go camping, we like adventures and most importantly, we love our family time. We booked our flights the next day, 4 weeks before we planned to leave (and yes, this IS considered spur of the moment for us!).
Before we get into the food and the healthful travel tips, I just want to explain my love for Florida. It’s a memorable place for me.
My grandparents honeymooned in Florida and to my knowledge, went every year thereafter. They were married in their early twenties and stopped going in their late seventies/early eighties. My grandparents were extremely influential in my life in many ways. One of my favourite memories of them (and when I decided I wanted endless love and romance for a lifetime) was seeing them dancing in the basement together one morning after we opened all of our Christmas presents. They were gifted a CD (I wish I could recall which one) and just disappeared together to have quiet time. I however, kept tabs and spied on them. They chatted, smiled, their love so evident and captivating. If you didn’t know any better you would assume it was a first date. They were living in the moment, enjoying it as if they were high school sweethearts, despite presumably hundreds, if not, thousands of previous dances together. Magical. My grandmother passed away 3 years ago, but I’ll forever hold that special memory amongst many, many others.
We started visiting my Nanny and Papa in Florida when I was 2 years old. They spent half the year in the sunshine state and the other half of the year here in Canada, taking full advantage of 12 months worth of golfing. We visited them in various parts of Florida over the years, the most recent being Kissimmee. Kissimmee is where the boys and I decided to stay.
My goal with this trip was very simple: enjoy family time…make memories for the boys, like the ones that were made for me when I was a little girl visiting Florida.
I wasn’t on vacation to eat perfectly. I was letting go of expectations and reevaluating my priorities. I knew we wouldn’t be eating as well as we did at home and I was A-OK with that. I wanted time! Time with the kids time being playful and engaged, not stressing about preparing food and eating top notch. It wasn’t worth it for me. By shifting my mindset from FOOD to FUN, it was really easy to relax and unwind. Joel and I both agreed breakfast would be homemade and that snacks would be packed for the day. After that, we would do the best we could with what was available. It was simple.
We did Air B n’ B about 20 minutes from the parks. The condo we rented had a great kitchen, great pool, gym, water slides- you name it, it was perfect. I wanted to ensure that at least 1 meal per day would be home cooked and by doing Air B n’ B, we were forced to have breakfast at the condo. Which brings me to my first healthy travel tip….
TIP #1: GET A PLACE WITH A KITCHEN & GET GROCERIES
I was really excited to go grocery shopping in Florida. The US has a completely different food market than we have in Canada. For years I have been eyeing specific brands and products from other social media influencers, dying to try them!
Needless to say, one of our first stops was the grocery store. We planned to hit up Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s- they were about 30 minutes from our place, but we were pleasantly surprised by the choices the Publix, right across the street offered. We were able to get everything we wanted and needed, so Whole Foods and TJ’s didn’t end up happening.
I grabbed an abundance of new things to try such as Kite Hill yogurt, Vital Farms eggs, Applegate EVERYTHING, alllllll the Kombucha’s, Simple Mills products…. it. was. a. dream (for foodies anyways). The only thing lacking in my opinion was the produce selection. It was tiny in comparison to what we are accustomed to. We even asked someone, “is this all you have for produce?!” We couldn’t even find a cucumber. Strange…
By having a kitchen, you’ll be more inclined to make food at least once per day instead of eating at a restaurant. I also wanted to be able to make my own coffee every morning, have a place to store snacks and to stock up on water before heading out for the day.
The condo we rented was about 20 minutes from the parks. It had a great kitchen, great pool, gym, water slides- you name it, it was perfect for our needs.
I wanted to ensure that at least 1 meal per day would be home cooked and by doing Air B n’ B, we were forced to have breakfast at the condo. Breakfast was usually as much food as we could possibly fill the boys with to avoid needing to have a pre-lunch at one of the parks.
TIP #2: PACK FILLING SNACKS
The amount of walking we did required a ton of fuel. The kids had really good appetites the entire week, so we just made sure that the snacks we were supplying were the best options available. We packed Rx Bars, Applegate Salami and roasted turkey, oranges, raisins, trail mix, meat sticks and individual packets of Justin’s almond butter. I tried my best to pack things that would satiate us like protein and fat, but in the Florida heat, the reality was shelf stable items were best. We didn’t bring any cooler packs, we just had a backpack, so we just ate the perishable items first. No problem.
TIP #3: GREENS
We did lunch and dinner at the parks most days (we spent 6 days doing theme parks) and only 1 dinner was had outside of a park, which in case you’re wondering was Chipotle’s and it was delicious.
At each meal, lunch and dinner, there was a salad. This really isn’t any different than at home, but I was pretty intentional about making sure the kids were eating greens twice a day. We ordered salads first because the hungrier a child is, the higher the likelihood a salad is consumed. Every restaurant offered some type of salad and we were able to customize it to our needs; ie; no croutons, no cheese for Joel, etc. We were intentional about the salads but also let the kids have food freedom and if they wanted pizza, they could order it. They chose it twice. Once was a veggie pizza with steak, the other was a straight up pepperoni and cheese. Again, food freedom and priorities. They also ate a ton of fries. C’est la vie.
TIP #4: STATE YOUR ‘NO’S’
Disney and Universal were phenomenal in terms of allergy offerings. None of us have a true gluten-allergy, but I don’t eat the stuff and neither do my kids or Joel, so I opted for the allergy menu every time. Joel is highly allergic to dairy (he breaks out in hives for days). It was really important that he was eating off the allergy menu.
The servers and the chefs were incredibly accommodating. I raved about our experiences on Instagram while we were away. The allergy menu was extensive (not a dinky version of what the standard menu contains). It clearly stated which items were suitable for which allergy- we had no problem getting what we wanted, and avoiding what we didn’t want.
Every restaurant should be this accommodating to people with intolerances and allergies. It was great. We know that care and precision were taken because Joel had no issues whatsoever. Nine times out of 10 if we eat at a restaurant back home, he’ll have a slight reaction from cross-contamination. Considering the number of meals we ate at restaurants, it’s impressive that we had no problems.
TIP #5: WATER
It seems obvious, but proper hydration keeps you feeling great when traveling. Bring a refillable water bottle and replenish yourself often, especially in the heat, especially if you’re drinking alcohol (which we did daily, it was great, no regrets).
TIP #6: FAST
I don’t know about you but if I wake up early for a flight, my gut feels off. It’s like it hasn’t finished its evening tasks and then punishes you for incomplete work. I always get bloated and feel off any time I fly. We left our house at 3am the day we departed and I barely slept a wink, due to fear of missing the alarm and 2 very excited little boys waking up every half hour to ask if it was time to go.
I had a bulletproof coffee on the way to the airport and even though I needed the energy, it would have been a better idea to fast completely. My digestion regulated itself by the second day. On the way home I did a simple 20 hour fast and felt great by the time we got home.
Since I knew digestive issues would be a likely problem I packed a bottle of DiGize (lifesaver for both Joel and myself) and HMF Forte. Everyone took a megadose of probiotics every morning and evening.
TIP #7: GET BACK TO YOUR NORMAL ASAP
The first meal we had back at home was nutrient-dense. We did a grass-fed blade roast, carrots, potatoes, green beans, caramelized onions and a massive salad. Going back to being intentional about food and the options we present our kids helps them to understand ‘special occasions’. It comes as no surprise to them that pizza twice a week isn’t standard practice, veggies and meat are, as are daily supplements.
When you return home from traveling, approach your food with health in mind. Instead of saying, “we got home from vacation and it’s Wednesday, we’ll get back on track Monday”. Start now. Make a home cooked meal that is nourishing. Take your supplements that day- love yourself and your body and recognize that vacation is over and it was that much more special because you released your expectations, but now it is time to get back to your normal.
The transition from vacation to home was seamless and for that I’m grateful. A healthy foundation has been laid and expectations are just a way of life. I’m really happy that we can take our kids on vacation, not panic about food choices, feel confident that nothing is ruined when we get back home and that my kids have a healthy relationship with food.
I loved exposing them to foods they’ve never tried before, like POGO’s (we got organic, gluten-free, grass-fed ones from Applegate). They enjoyed them, a lot! I was curious to see if they would overindulge simply because it’s not something we ever have but is clearly delicious. They didn’t- they both stopped halfway through and were done (we were intentional about not giving these first). That was a very telling moment. As a nutritionist and a modern day Mom, I think it’s important that we lead by positive example but also loosen the reins from time to time. Structure and boundaries are great but restraints and firm “no’s” hinder a child’s ability to make their own choices and explore. Depending on the personality of your child, you could be creating more problems than solutions if your outlook on food is too stringent. A healthy food relationship is one where you are in control of your food, your food doesn’t control you.
I’d love to hear from you! Share some travel tips you have as well as places you’ve travelled with your kids (or where you plan on traveling to).