Planes, trains and automobiles can be difficult with little kids! From backpack meal planning to travel highlights, holistic nutritionist Liane Wansbrough has seen it all. This year she packed up her family of 4 and backpacked through South East Asia. We sat down to ask her how she did it…

Tales of Family Travel

This holiday season you did what many parents would love to do – you packed up your whole family and traveled through Southeast Asia. What did you learn about family travel planning on this trip?

On a trip that takes you this much into the unknown, travel planning falls by the wayside. It was interesting because usually I spend way too much time thinking about and planning healthy snacks for long car trips and flights. I’ve always assumed that the kids need to eat every couple of hours or they would get harder to manage. I had to let it all go because, aside from what we could buy in one of the outdoor markets (fresh fruit), I didn’t have access to grocery stores or a kitchen/refrigerator on this trip. I realized that my kids don’t really need snacks. On the trip we mostly ate only at meal times. The complete change of routine forced me to let go and the kids were fine.

As a nutritionist you must have had a few interesting moments with young kids. What were the nutritional highlights and compromises on your trip?

I think the biggest compromise was what happened at breakfast. Most of the places we stayed at included breakfast with all the refined carbohydrates (buffet tables full of treats including mini doughnuts, croissants, muffins and pastries) that we don’t eat very often at home. The kids loved it. I decided that I was going to take a bit of a nutrition vacation and let the kids regulate themselves on this one. However, after a couple of weeks I discovered that my four-year old son has no off switch when it comes to sweets so I reverted to some rules. It was a bit of a compromise but they could have what they wanted on condition they ate an egg or had something healthy that would at least carry them through until lunch. The kids are still reminiscing about the “great” breakfasts. In terms of highlights my nine-year old daughter completely embraced traditional Thai food. She moved on from the kids menu and spaghetti to eating Thai curries and soups. It was a big leap forward for her and now we can share our memories together of all our favourite Thai dishes.

Would you do it again and why?

I would love to do this kind of travel with the kids again. It definitely brought us together as a family because we had a lot more unstructured time together than we do at home. My husband and I love to travel so it was amazing to see the awakening that happened as the kids adjusted and got into the rhythm with us. It was also an experience that took us out of our comfort zone – but in a safe and positive way. Thai culture is peaceful and gracious but there aren’t as many rules to follow as here. All it took was one wild ride in Bangkok on a tuk-tuk (a covered wagon attached to a motorbike that serves as a taxi) to hammer it home that we were in a bit of a wild west. I’m glad they had a chance to see that they are part of a bigger world with many different ways of living.