When you or a loved one have food allergies, it can be tough to avoid allergic reactions on the road. Here are five tips for managing food allergies while traveling (and they ensure that you have fun!).
After my son was diagnosed with food allergies, our traveling days came to an abrupt halt. To get back in the swing of things, we started slowly getting our feet wet by staying at the homes of close relatives . Gradually, we ventured out to hotels and condos. Today, we could probably camp out overnight with the contents of my purse! Traveling with food allergies does take more preparation but it's worth it! If you're feeling timid about taking food allergies on the road, here are a few tips to nudge you on your way.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles A lot of allergy moms shy away from plane travel but if you fly first thing in the morning, and carry on your child's food and drink, it can be quicker and easier than driving. Check out the airline's policy on peanut or other allergens and always make your reservation over the phone. You can explain your child's allergies in detail. Bring your own meals, snacks and wet wipes, so that you will reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Make sure that your child's Epi-Pen or Twinject is with you in its original packaging along with a letter from your doctor. We've never had anyone question my son's medications, however, we did have the TSA agents confiscate several bottles of water that I had with us right after the restrictions on liquids went into effect.
Hotels and Condos and Relatives, Oh My! If your child has multiple allergies, a hotel (or relative) with a kitchen is a must. I've heard of allergy moms making due with a refrigerator and a hot plate but I don't recommend it. Vacation home condos are wonderful but often pricey. "Home-away-from-home" hotels, like the Residence Inn, are everywhere and most come with a full kitchen. Other hotels offer in-room refrigerators for a nominal charge or will store your cold or frozen foods if need be. We always request a non-smoking room, with foam pillows and no bedspreads on the bed. Several hotel chains offer "pure rooms" that are even more allergy friendly.
Happy Meals If you do plan to venture out for meals, it pays to do the legwork ahead of time. Get a good guide book or research restaurants online. Several restaurant chains, like Outback Steak house, specifically address food allergies on their websites along with their menu. I always ask to speak with a manager or chef when ordering as we've found that many times the wait staff is unsure about specific ingredients. Many moms I know swear by a chef's card as another layer of communication. And when in doubt, bring a few extras with you just in case. Safe bread, margarine, salad dressing and a treat for dessert will save the day in a pinch.
In the Bag There is no getting around it; we don't travel lightly. So first of all, type out a list of everything that you and your family need for traveling. Print out the list and cross off the items as they're packed. Your child's special needs should be at the top of the list. Things like latex-free goggles, sunscreen, special soap, shampoos, Epi-Pen and other medicines, are not easily replaced so make sure you have what you need. Keep your child's allergist's number handy in the even that you have questions or need a refill while you're on the road.
You can ship a box of staples directly to the hotel from home or from Amazon.com. Your rice milk, pasta, breads, cookies and crackers will all be there waiting for you. We always bring a cooler of frozen foods: safe hotdogs, casseroles, gluten-free, casein-free chicken tenders etc. If we fly, we simply duct tape the lid of the cooler shut and check it with our other baggage.
If you run out of room in your suitcases, cut back on the clothes you bring and throw in a load of laundry or two while you're away. If you use a special detergent, pour enough for two loads into an empty bottle and wrap it with Glad Press n' Seal.
Are we there yet? Now, it's time to relax right? Well, as my sister says "It's not vacation, it's relocation." All the same stuff in a different place. Preparing to travel can seem like more work than planning a small wedding but you and your family deserve to travel and have fun. The memories of all of the extra packing and cooking will be gone in a few days while the memories of your kids playing on the beach or on their first airplane ride will be with you for ever.
Gina Clowes is the founder of the online support group AllergyMoms.com, serving thousands of families and professional members worldwide. She writes monthly for HealthCentral.com.