McDonald's can be a lifesaver when traveling to foreign countries with children. The familiar food, toys, and environment at this global fast food chain never cease to reassure my travel wary offspring. Here are five reasons to visit McDonald's around the world with kids.
1. Get picky eaters to eat.
My kids can only be cajoled into eating bites of goulash and roast duck for so long before they are determined to survive on candy bars and crackers alone. My three young children, despite years of international travel and exposure to world cuisine, are picky eaters. Like many kids, they prefer foods they know and recognize. After a few days of travel with their parents encouraging them to take just one bite, my kids can't be tempted to try anything else new or be convinced it is “just like a hot dog.” Enter McDonald's. Those golden arches are a welcome sight for my “starving” little picky eaters. Chicken nuggets, french fries, and happiness—all in one convenient boxed meal.
2. Find comfort in the familiar.
This is not about the merits or nutritional value of McDonald's—it's about the importance of comfort food for my kids as we traipse across the globe. If a meal at a familiar place means an evening without tears and fights to get food in my kids, then so be it. Children find comfort in the familiar, and McDonald's can feel like hug from home in an otherwise strange and confusing new land.
3. Keep the peace.
I choose to be that American eating at McDonald's over that American with kids throwing a tantrum at a local restaurant. My kids are slowly learning to try new things and I prefer to pick my battles. My husband and I have huge expectations for our kids behavior-wise when we travel, and for the most part they do a great job. But if a visit to McDonald's will make the journey on which we've dragged our children more enjoyable for them, I'm all for it.
4. Save money and time for other adventures.
While often more expensive than McDonald's locations in the U.S., we often save money by eating a meal at this well-known fast food restaurant while traveling. We're good about taking full advantage of free hotel breakfasts or renting a place with a stove so we can have eggs each morning. But it can be difficult to feed kids at the end of a long day when I just want to eat quickly and get my overwhelmed kids to bed.
Families with children don't always have the time to go search for that hole-in-the-wall, authentic restaurant. Take Paris. My husband and I spent a fortune on crappy cafe food because we couldn't walk any further with our exhausted kids. And, of course, the kids barely touched the food. But at McDonald's, we know our children will actually eat. And it still costs less than a tourist trap.
5. Experience McDonald's with a foreign accent.
McDonald's restaurants around the world provide a different experience than the Mickey D's you know at home. For example, the McDonald's we found in Prague in the Czech Republic was downright swanky. It looked like a trendy cafe with soft lighting, chic seats, free Wi-Fi, and power outlets conveniently located at every counter. We felt like we were eating with “the cool kids.”
Along with their standard burgers and fries, McDonald's provides unique menu items in different countries to suit local tastes. In Japan you can order a Teriyaki McBurger made with a pork patty, Teriyaki glaze, lemon sauce and lettuce. In Malaysia, dig in to Bubur Ayam, a a Malaysian-style porridge topped with spring onions, ginger, fried shallots and chilies. Or how about a McFlurry Toblerone in Denmark? It's an ice cream shake blended with the beloved Swiss nougat-filled chocolate. Yum!
McDonald's around the world with kids
McDonald's may not be the right answer for every traveling parent, but it works well for my family. And that's what parenting is all about—figuring out what works best for our kids in our specific circumstances. For me, a deep fried chicken nugget that we might avoid at home is an acceptable guilty trade-off for a happy child with a full belly when we are traveling. Truthfully, as we sipped organic milk at McDonald's in London or polished off our second bag of assorted fruits from a McDonald's in Belgium, I didn't feel guilty at all.
Would you visit McDonald's around the world with kids? Let us know in the comments below!
A Note from Travel Mamas: Photos of McDonald's from around the world in this post were provided by Malaysian Meanders, Walking On Travels, Wandering Educators and Albom Adventures. Go check out their travel blogs!