Emerils TChoup Chop at Universal Orlando
Emerils TChoup Chop at Universal Orlando

By Eileen Ogintz

Got some crackers?

Ditto for a tablet with games or kids’ books.  Crayons and a pad work fine too.

Taking young kids to a restaurant on vacation can seem like it is more trouble than it’s worth—waiting for the food (that’s why the crackers and games come in handy) or worrying about tired kids disrupting other diners’ meals.  The good news is that in Orlando, you can relax.  Of course there are character meals.  Book ahead whether you want to dine with Shamu at SeaWorld,  with your favorite Disney characters or princesses or with SpongeBob, Dora & Diego, or the Minions at Universal Orlando .

But in Orlando, even celebrity chef eateries like Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Todd English’s BlueZoo at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin and Wolfgang Puck’s Grande Cafe in downtown Disney offer innovative kids’ menus. Think kids’ sushi at the Grand café, kid-cocktails like blueberry infused lemonade at BlueZoo, or teriyaki chicken at Tchoup Chop.

Vacation can be the time to let young kids try new foods  and late spring is an especially good time to visit—great weather, deals and less people..  That’s not to say whenever you visit you want to eat every meal in a restaurant with young kids if you can avoid it. Here’s how you and your kids can eat healthier and save money while exploring Orlando’s theme parks:

–Stay someplace with a fridge so you can make the kids a quick and inexpensive breakfast.

–Bring a cooler or buy one when you arrive so that you can picnic around the pool for dinner.

–Use reusable water bottles rather than buying soda or other sugary drinks, or bottled water.  They become instant souvenirs when the kids put stickers on them.

–Pack healthy snacks and even sandwiches for your day at the theme park.  You won’t have to wait in line when the kids are hungry, you’ll eat healthier and it will be cheaper!

–Use vacation to let the kids expand their palates and try new food. Split portions from the adult menus for them or ask to order a half-portion for half price.

Of course you want to indulge in some treats.  It is vacation after all.

Shamu ice cream bar, please! 

Eileen  is the author of the syndicated column  Taking the Kids and the Kid’s Guide to Orlando, part of the Kid’s Guide Series   from Globe Pequot Press