Dining out, particularly in nicer or “fine-dining” restaurants doesn’t have to stop when traveling with kids. If you take a little extra time to plan it out beforehand, everyone can enjoy the special experience.
If you haven’t ventured out with the kids in a fine-dining atmosphere yet, don’t worry. Once you take the plunge, you’ll see you have nothing to fear and you can add fun, special dining experiences to a part of your travel itinerary planning if that’s something that interests you!
Here are our super simple tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years to keep everyone happy while dining out – no devices necessary:
Do Your Research
Make sure you don’t end up at the restaurant and find out too late that kids are not welcome. There are many fine dining restaurants where kids are not allowed. That being said, it’s not always the ones you would think.
Many fancier restaurants welcome kids and even cater to them with half portions and friendly service. But, before you make that reservation for that top-ranked restaurant you’ve always dreamed of going to in a faraway city, give them a call or check on their website to ensure that your little ones won’t be turned away. And, check on what time they open for dinner too…
Make an Early Reservation
You’ll be glad you took a few extra minutes to make a reservation for your group. From experience, we’ve found that the earliest reservation possible is usually the least crowded and quietest time to visit and you can worry less if your kids are a little louder than you anticipated.
In addition, in many parts of the world, the earliest dinner reservations aren’t until 6 pm or later, so the earliest times can be more conductive to bedtimes, etc.
Set Expectations Beforehand
Regardless of age, toddlers and grade schoolers may benefit from you letting them know what to expect at the restaurant. For example, if you want to tell them that this is a fancy restaurant and you need to be a bit quieter than usual, as well as sit in your seat for the whole meal, then say that.
Now, of course that doesn’t mean they are going to comply, but setting those expectations beforehand lets everyone feel included in the experience.
Pack a Bag
This is the most important part of the plan, in our humble experience, if you want to enjoy a little quiet time and adult discussion. Have each child pack a small bag (or if they are smaller, do the packing for them) with things to do at the restaurant.
Things we love:
- reusable sticker pages,
- mini coloring books with crayons,
- Crayola magic color pages,
- notebooks for tic-tac-toe, square and other games,
- crossword puzzles, word searches, etc.
- favorite book
(BONUS Tip: In addition to packing a small bag to keep kids busy, we have also had a lot of luck with family discussion games that gets everyone involved and feeling like a part of the conversation. Our personal favorite is Roald Dahl Tabletop Games, and in particular, the Roald Dahl Decisions game. It comes in a teeny square box and each person gets to go around posing a situation and asking people what decision they would make in the silliest of circumstances. So fun!)
Once you’ve done the planning, just sit back and enjoy yourself, even if something goes awry. Remember, these moments are made into memories.