French fries and chicken nuggets are travel essentials: The world’s worst family travel advice ever

Do not attempt to travel to a place where there isn’t kid-friendly food. This seemingly small detail is essential for a successful holiday with young children. French fries, nuggets, pizza and the like will save your holiday.

Eating international food

Children learn to appreciate foreign foods by eating them

If you’re like me, your jaw is hanging down around the floor right about now. Surely, this outrageously bad family travel advice isn’t for real. I mean – nobody would seriously suggest that Micky D’s is an essential detail for successful travel for kids. Right?


Not only did somebody suggest it, but CNN did. I’m typical fairly impressed with CNN’s travel advice, but they blew it big time here.

I’m not even sure how to respond to this absurdity. To suggest that kids aren’t capable of finding food in all parts of the world is sheer craziness. I mean – there are kids living wherever you’ll travel to, right? What will those kids eat? Surely your children won’t starve to death because there is no McDonald’s around.

I would even go so far as to suggest you should travel to a place specifically because there is no McDonald’s.

Kids learn to love what they grow up with

Kids learn to love what they grow up with

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with McDonald’s. I’m not one of those people who feel American fast food needs to stay in America. If I enjoy Mexican and Japanese fast food in America, I see no reason why Mexicans and Japanese can’t enjoy American fast food in their own countries.

But to suggest that my child will be miserable unless he can eat French fries and chicken McNuggets is ludicrous.

According to the article, “Unless your kid has an abnormally educated palate, [you should] hold off on that culinary tour of India.”

Wrong. Plain ol’ flat out wrong.

Take your child on that culinary tour in order to develop an abnormally educated palate. How else will he cultivate it?

As I see it, the last thing I want is a child who will only eat “some fried, fast food or at the very least, a bowl of mac and cheese.”

Please chime in with your thoughts in the comments. Feel free to respond to the entire article; don’t confine yourself to just the food issue as I did. I am seriously blown away by this ghastly advice.

I’m not the only family travel blogger who was appalled by this bad advice. In fact, a whole bunch of us decided to write about our concerns. Here are their posts:

A King’s Life: The Surprisingly Easy Truth of Traveling with Kids by Sabina from A King’s Life

The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W from Family Travel Bucket List

Worst Family Travel Advice I’ve Ever Read  by Gabi Klaf from The Nomadic Family

Debunking CNN’s rules for traveling with kids by Mary from Bohemian Travelers

How Do you Travel with Chilldren? by Alisa from Living Outside of the Box

5 Rules of Travel With Kids: A Traveling Child Responds by Jennifer Miller from Edventure Project

CNN’s Ridiculous Rules About Travel With Kids by Corinne from Have Baby Will Travel

Shocking Tips on Traveling with Kids That Went Unnoticed…It is Time to Demystify The Five Rules of Traveling with Kids by Claudia Looi from Travel Writing Pro

5 Amazing Reasons To Travel With Your Kids! by Marina Villatorio from Expat Mom

More Than French Fries by Lisa Shusterman from Around the World in Easy Ways

Rules are What You Make Them: Paving Your Own Way Through Family Travel by Jessica from Suitcases and Sippy Cups

Why “Easy” Travel Options Aren’t Always the Best for Kids- a Rebuttal to CNNGo “5 Rules of Traveling With Kids” by Jody Halsted from Family Rambling

CNNGo Five Rules of Travelling With Kids Are You For Real by Lisa Wood from New Life on the Road

Myths, NOT rules, of traveling with kids by Kate Rehkopf from Experiential Family

My Reality (Not Rules) When Traveling with Kids by Keryn Means from Walkingon Travels

Yes ! It is possible to travel with children of all ages by Susan from Grow in Grace Life

Forget the Rules of Travel – Try Backpacking with Kids in Yellowstone National Park by Sandra Foyt from Albany Kid

5 Rules of Traveling with kids NOT to Follow by Monique from Mo Travels


books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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54 Responses to French fries and chicken nuggets are travel essentials: The world’s worst family travel advice ever

  1. Jenn Miller February 15, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    AMEN. Sushi loving kids unite!!

  2. Mary February 15, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    Agreed, how the heck can they get more interested in new and exotoc food if they never get to try them. Not to even begin mentioning the fact that feeding your kids that kind of crap food is incredibly bad for them!

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 1:54 am #

      @Mary, Yup 🙂 Honestly, I’m speechless.

  3. Jen February 15, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    That is CRAZY. I’m pretty sure that if we ever suggested McDonald’s when we were traveling, that all four kids would look at us like we had ten heads. They, like us, prefer real food.

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 1:55 am #

      @Jen, Real food is the best! And in other countries, you can get REAL food!

  4. lisa Shusterman February 15, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    I agree with you 100% though I have discovered that just because you expose your children to something doesn’t mean they will learn to like it. That said, however, why would we ever let those limitations keep us from exploring the world?

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 1:56 am #

      @lisa Shusterman, I have two kids. One of them will eat anything; the other is very picky. Even so, he’s always managed to find something he’ll eat no matter we are. Does he like everything he tries? Heck no! Does he starve? No way.

  5. Kendra February 15, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    WOW!! Unbelievable. I agree with you, Nancy. This is sheer idiocy and encourages that same old cycle of just doing whatever is on the path of least resistance. Sure, kids may be more excited to eat that junk…because SOCIETY PROCLAIMS its “worthiness!” We need to stop the madness and get kids to appreciate other things because they CAN and WILL if we point them in the right direction.

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 1:57 am #

      @Kendra, VEry true Kendra. It’s up to us adults to point them there. If we don’t, who will?

  6. Jessica February 15, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Great article! Thanks again for organizing this project. What a great way to show how great it is to travel with kids!

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 1:58 am #

      @Jessica, It’s wonderful to read all these takes on family travel. I’m glad we’re telling the world that article is bull pucky.

  7. Marina K. Villatoro February 15, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    My oldest is a crazy picky eater, and it’s always a battle for us at home. Surprisingly, whenever we travel he’s sooo much open to trying new food, it’s amazing!!!

    Sometimes we say let’s keep traveling forever, and fatten him up:)

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 1:58 am #

      @Marina K. Villatoro, HA! I’ve got a picky eater too, and he’s just as picky while traveling as he is at home. That said, we don’t pamper him with french fries at home OR while traveling.

  8. Malea February 15, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    I’ve read CNN’s article previously, as well as some other blog posts about it. Ugh…ridiculous! When I was a kid growing up, we sometimes stopped for fast food as we traveled, but more often we stopped at real restaurants (and not usually chains!), and my parents often packed food in the car too. When we drove cross-country two summers back, I think we stopped for fast food maybe twice in an entire week. The rest of the time we stopped at grocery stores and stocked up on healthy snacks along the way. I was already planning to do a blog post about this very thing, and now I have some great other posts to link to in my post (like linking to yours!).

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:00 am #

      @Malea, Kids will eat whatever food we provide for them. They’ll eat french fries is that’s what we give them. They’ll eat sushi if that’s the option. They won’t starve 🙂

  9. meg February 15, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Very well put! I am not even a fan of the “kids menu” in restaurants.

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:00 am #

      @meg, Me neither. I never understood the grilled cheese sandwich for the kids and good food for adults. Huh?

  10. Lisa February 15, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    It’s amazing that this kind of crazy advice gets repeated as gospel and it’s great that people who actually travel with their kids are posting counter arguments. My girls can be picky eaters but we have never had difficulty finding something for them to eat when we travel. We don’t eat at McDonald’s at home so why would we ever eat there on the road?

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:01 am #

      @Lisa, I’m really upset with CNN for posting that bad advice. Unfortunately, many people do respect CNN so I fear the article will negatively affect kids. It’s crazy.

  11. Claudia Looi February 15, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    Thanks for organizing. Great article Nancy. Totally agree with your statement: “Take your child on that culinary tour in order to develop an abnormally educated palate. How else will he cultivate it?” They learn to appreciate the different cultures of the world as well.

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:02 am #

      @Claudia Looi, They learn so much from visiting those places that don’t have Micky D’s. They’ll never know unless they go there.

  12. Julie February 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    I agree that you need to encourage your kids to try new foods when traveling, that is one of the best part of a trip! The hardest part for me is flying with young kids, which is why I launched, a site which matches moms flying with young kids with babysitters already booked on the same flight. It is an affordable way to have help on the flight!

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:03 am #

      @Julie, I don’t know if my sons are abnormal or what, but we traveled EXTENSIVELY with them when they were young and never had an issue. I’m not sure why people think it’s so hard to fly with kids.

  13. Jody February 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Exactly! If you don’t tell a child they won’t like something chances are they will enjoy it. As adults we have a tendency to think for our children- often incorrectly!

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:04 am #

      @Jody, That’s so true – expect them to hate it, and they’ll hate it. Expect them to enjoy it and they will.

  14. walkingon travels February 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    My son has only had McDonalds about 3 times and all were in dire circumstances. He usually just drinks the milk that comes with the meal and munches on the apples. He isn’t too thrilled by what other kids his age are (I guess) eating. Call me crazy but I don’t like mac n cheese or nuggets. I am also not a short order cook, so when I make dinner, everyone either eats it or they make their own food. Since he is 2, he eats what I give him. It’s just not that hard.

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:04 am #

      @walkingon travels, that was always my attitude. This is what I’m cooking and if you don’t want it, then go hungry. Pretty easy, really.

  15. Susan February 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    I’m a picky eater myself (and on occasions, all of our children are), but if I can find something to eat when we travel, my kids certainly can! My pickiest eater has no trouble finding something “local” when we go out to eat, but I’m sure if we went to places that had US style kids meals, she’d order chicken tenders and french fries. There’s SO much great food to explore…why just stick with fried junk???

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:05 am #

      @Susan, I don’t care how picky somebody is, there is always something they’ll like – if they give it a chance, that is.

  16. Corinne @ Have Baby Will Travel February 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    The food thing really got to me, too.

  17. Living Outside of the Box February 15, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    It is absurd advice…and I admit that the food advice particularly ruffled my feathers. I mean…seriously?!! “Take your child on that culinary tour in order to develop an abnormally educated palate. How else will he cultivate it?” He hit the bulls-eye!! Perfectly put!

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:06 am #

      @Living Outside of the Box, There was so much wrong with that article it was hard to choose only one aspect to write about. Maybe I need to do a series on this one…

  18. Lisa Wood February 15, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    The Whole article got my back up! I was stunned to say the least, and then I was annoyed by CNNGO article 🙂
    Surely those 5 Rules of Travelling With Kids can not be by someone who has travelled with kids??
    Come on, that is the worst advice I have ever heard!
    So glad that you I am not the only one who thinks the article was rude, and so wrong!

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:06 am #

      @Lisa Wood, I’m betting she’s never traveled with kids. But why would CNN run the article? That’s what blows my mind.

  19. Eryn February 16, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    I started to get pissed, but it’s from June of last year & from Singapore. I’m going to delude myself that there’s a cultural difference here.

    Having kids that aren’t picky about food is 1 of our big parenting goals.

    So much so that when we can’t travel TO exotic foods, we cook them at home:

    Our kids have done just fine everywhere in the world we’ve taken them. Bugs, “exotic meats,” ingredients we can’t say. My kids say: Bring ’em on.

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:07 am #

      @Eryn, I’m sure cultural differences are a part of it, but it’s still piss poor advice – regardless of what culture you’re from!

  20. TulipGirl February 16, 2012 at 12:43 am #

    I’m thankful that my kids will try just about anything. . . But for ME — honestly — I like to be able to identify the components of what I’m eating. It helps me be more adventurous if I can see what is vegetable and what type of meat it is. I’ll try lots of new flavors, but really weird looking things psych me out. *blush* Still, every country I’ve been in DOES have new, interesting cuisine that isn’t too “scary” to try — for me or for my kids.

    Hubby went to Paris with his side of the family a few years ago. He was shocked that his brother (and kids) wanted to have breakfast every morning at McDs. Really? In Paris? What about cafe au lait and pastries?!

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:08 am #

      @TulipGirl, No matter where you are, you’ll always be able to find something you feel comfortable eating. That’s just the way it is.

  21. Kirsty February 16, 2012 at 1:24 am #

    My kids refuse McDonalds at home – Oh My Gosh how can we travel????!!!!! Oh that’s right, by getting them to eat the same foods we eat at home.. curries, noodles, sushi, chillis, salads, rice, breads, fruit, mezze, tapas… etc etc etc…. travel broadens the mind, but if the mind is not open to being broadened what’s the point in travelling?

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:08 am #

      @Kirsty, Horrors! You better not travel, for sure. I mean – if you can’t go to McDonald’s, then…

  22. Yvette February 16, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    So according to this writer my parents never should’ve taken me to visit my grandma/cousins in Hungary at the end of the Cold War because they had no McDonald’s or chicken nuggets? I was a *super* picky eater as a kid for sure, but my parents were very definitely in the “you’ll eat when hungry” type of parenting- plus at the end of the day sheesh, just get the kid some local pasta/noodles/rice or some such. (I will note though that I wasn’t so highbrow as to not be excited the year my cousins took us to the McDonald’s that had just opened in their town to show how Western they were- this would’ve been the mid-90s I guess.)

    But really, the way you can tell the article writer is an AWFUL parent is the part where she mentions bringing drugs to get her kids to fall asleep. I mean WTF- if your kid can’t sit quietly for awhile after being given a new set of crayons and a coloring book at the airport I’m pretty sure you’ve failed as a parent.

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

      @Yvette, And according to her the USA would never have been populated. Idaho would still be uninhabited because the pioneers certainly wouldn’t have come out here. After all, kids need to be pampered. (where’s that roll-y eyes pic when you need it?)

  23. jen February 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    One of the reasons I like to travel abroad is that my son will eat things that he will not at home such as sushi, lots of fish (he prefers it with the head still on!), gallo pinto…. Of course he also indulges in the occasional pizza or chicken fingers but seems to prefer to eat the “real food.”

    • Nancy February 19, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      @jen, We’ve certainly been known to indulge in pizza or chicken nuggets, but we don’t revolve our journey around them!

  24. Susan Verbeeck February 18, 2012 at 6:59 am #

    Wow..what is in that big red bowl? I think your kids may have had a more diverse diet than I have in my 48 years : ) I believe in healthy capitalism, so I won’t bash MC.D’s, but it really won’t help teach your kids if you only let them eat fast food junk on your travels. We do like fast food from the street vendors though !

    • Nancy February 19, 2012 at 12:18 am #

      @Susan Verbeeck, That big red bowl was some kind of seafood soup – that was Daryl’s absolute favorite when we lived in Taiwan. He always had that if it was available and, if not, he went for the dumplings.

  25. Nate @yomadic February 19, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    I think taking kids to McDonalds – at home, or whilst travelling, is cruel. Give them some real food, and some real experiences!

    • Nancy February 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      @Nate @yomadic, I’m not opposed to McDonald’s here and there, but I certainly wouldn’t plan a trip around the availability of one!

  26. Misha March 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    My parents would die laughing reading that CNN article. Because of their jobs they had to take me *every* year few times across eleven thousands kilometeres by plane, yet they can’t recall there were any problems worth remembering.

    Last summer we did a week of self supported bike touring with 5 month old twins. That was a wonderful time, kids loved it, they had 100% of our attention. At home there was always something, friends, relatives, internet, jobs, etc. And on tour it was our special family time, that all of us truly enjoyed. We do have very little baby paraphernalia at home, and surely we could not load much of that on the bikes! Now planning to do it again, this time hopefully for few months!

    • Nancy March 23, 2012 at 12:05 am #

      @Misha, That’s AWESOME! We didn’t bike with our boys when they were little – we lived in Ethiopia and it just didn’t happen. I think it would be great for the little guys!

      • Misha March 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

        @Nancy, yet we had an advantage of maintained routes, good roads and quality kids trailer (we opted for getting that one instead of a car) with hammocks. Without that it would be something different, a hike or just visiting relatives that live far away and exploring surroundings there.

        I just read your blog post on the fear issue, i think a part of it applies to us quite well. I must say that a big part of that trip was to check whether the way we’d imagined life with kids is true or not. Our feeling/hope was that children will make our life and interests richer rather than limiting it. And it proved to be a right choice, though a lot of efforts are neccessary, especially so for the mom of the multiples.

        Glad I have found your blog, very inspiring!

        • Nancy March 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

          @Misha, I totally think kids enrich your life in a way you simply cannot imagine until you have them. And they’re such good travelers it’s easy to travel them!

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