Overseas Family Run-cations: Foolproof Ways to Eat Healthy and Within a Budget

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Being a family who frequently combines our love for running and traveling, we have been around the block a few times with eating in new countries. Before kids, we could easily wing it with a few snacks and foreign dishes, but a “hangry” kid demanding his favorite meal is nobody’s friend. So the past seven years of traveling with our two young boys have awarded us some valuable feeding tricks that I would like to share. Of course, no two families eat the same things, but the basic principles may be applied to most families and locations. 

Get The Basics Right

We all know that hotel stays can turn out pretty expensive. And eating three meals a day in a restaurant is also not that economical. Especially with small children who are either ravenous or takes two bites of a meal (and you never know which it will be at the time you place the order!) So we like to prepare most of our meals ourselves. For this reason, we usually stay in Airbnb apartments with self-catering facilities.

Once we set our eyes on an international goal race, we get to work. Big races usually have an early bird registration period, which saves a  big chunk on the entry fees. Also, airline tickets booked well in advance are usually much cheaper. In a popular race destination like Chamonix, which hosts the Marathon du Mont Blanc and the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc, it is imperative to book accommodation early.  In this way, you can also secure a place within walking distance of the race start and shopping centers without needing a car.

Prepare Well

Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. With young kids who are usually fussy eaters, early preparation is key. If eating healthily is a priority, there are a few things you can already do at home to simplify your feeding endeavors.

Meal Plans

Even if you are used to feeding the same people the same basic meals for years, you may find your (starving) self staring down a fresh produce aisle, drawing a complete blank with no clue what to pick. Which may easily lead to loading a trolley full of processed junk and frozen meals. So while you are still fed and relaxed at home, make a list of your family’s favorite, easily repeatable meals. And don’t be alarmed if it boils down to only three meals. Children don’t mind repetition, as long as it is something they like.

Pack What You Can

Arriving at your run-cation destination you will most likely be fatigued and not in the mood for a taxing trip to the grocery store. Anticipating this beforehand can make a world of difference.

Along with your notes on the few basic meals you can prepare, draw up the list of ingredients. Often there are some key herbs and spices that either make or break the dish. To avoid the hassle of trying to find those in a foreign location and possibly in a foreign language, just pack it from home.

Things we don’t like to compromise on and that I always pack include:

  • A few bags of our favorite coffee
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Garlic-and-herb mix
  • Masala powder
  • A bottle of honey
  • Coconut oil
  • 85% dark chocolate
  • a sharp pairing knife (trust me on this one)
  • Our trusted race fuel

These items hardly take up any space in a suitcase and are so handy to already have on you once you arrive.

For the Trip

Much as we love ourselves some air traveling, we know that the in-flight meals can be sugar-laden carb-bombs. Packing small containers with healthy snacks such as fruits and nuts may be a good idea. Also, don’t be shy to carry a bag of fresh fruits such as bananas, apples or oranges on board. The worst that can happen is they take it at the security scanner.

Hydration is also extra important on a flight. So don’t be too proud to ask for two or three servings of water per person. And motivate your kiddos to drink often.

Destination Run-Cation

With the groundwork completed, shopping for some basic ingredients at your destination town shouldn’t be too hard. If you are prone to decision fatigue (aren’t we all?!), or just really want to save your legs, don’t head to the largest mall for your basic groceries. Smaller stores might offer less variety and at a slightly higher price, but the energy you save is so worth it. Also don’t be afraid to support the local fresh produce market.

Our basic grocery list upon arrival usually include:

  • milk
  • eggs
  • whole grain wraps
  • greek yogurt
  • apples, bananas and other seasonal fruits
  • onions and tomatoes
  • other salad ingredients and a dressing
  • chicken breasts
  • cheese

With these few ingredients, we are able to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner that satisfies adults and kiddos alike. We have omelets or eggy wraps for breakfast, chicken salad or chicken wraps for lunch or dinner and we snack on fruits and yogurt with honey. That is enough to keep us going for the first few days until we settle enough to cook more complicated meals if we wish. But at least I know we start out good, which usually ensures we stay motivated to keep up the healthy eating for the remainder of the trip.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with eating at a restaurant every now and then. Since breakfast is our favorite meal of the day, for us there is nothing more luxurious than a well-stocked buffet enjoyed in a beautiful setting. That way we know everyone is bound to eat something healthy he loves, and we have a good start to the day.

In a Nutshell

Traveling frequently with small children is incredibly fulfilling and builds tight family bonds with memories to last a lifetime. And contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Key is to start planning and preparing early and to pack well.