My eldest child is spending her school vacation touring a number of colleges and universities. Traveling has me thinking about how stressful family vacations used to be when she had food allergies.
The key to a successful family vacation with kids and food allergies is forethought. Do your research! Advanced planning and communicating will help you set your boundaries, manage your kids’ expectations, and keep everyone safe.
How do we get there?
You’ve planned an amazing family vacation! Let’s touch on some travel tips that will help you arrive safely at your vacation destination. What steps can you take before planning your trip, and how can you keep everyone safe?
Driving in the car is doable so long as the destination is expected to be a certain number of hours away. If you travel by car, pack a cooler with food that will suffice until you arrive at your destination. What happens when you need to make an overnight pit stop? Bring extra plastic zip lock bags to fill or refill with ice in case there is an absence of a refrigerator.
Be sure to have adequate dry pantry type or non-perishable foods on hand until you reach your destination. Enjoy Life is a good example of an allergy free company that makes a variety of snacks for the road. Fruits and veggies can spoil in the summer months especially when ice starts to melt. Our family has been known to stop at a market on the way to our destination to purchase fresh produce for the car ride.
In general, when traveling with kids it’s best to arrange your flights as early in the day as possible. Delays are more likely to happen at the end of the day, especially if you have a connecting flight. Airports are among the worst places for kids with food allergies. Be sure to bring some safe snacks with you in case your flight is delayed or if you need to change your flight. Food service at airports can be notorious for issues with cross contact and vendors often have few options. The last time we traveled by plane I saw allergy friendly snacks in the airport such as Divvies, and Silk yogurt, but it’s better to be proactive and bring these snacks with you just in case!
If you need to travel by air be sure to check with the airline about their policies. Here’s an article that discusses peanut allergies on 11 different airlines. Find out what you can bring on board and the best way to keep your children safe from food allergies during your trip. FARE has a great article about airline travel. Always bring food with you and possibly a note from your doctor explaining the need for any liquids while going through security. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the number of epinephrine auto injectors you should bring with you on your trip. You want to be prepared just in case.
Security has gotten a lot better in the past decade or so. I have memories of being questioned about bringing sunflower butter on board because of the oil (liquid) it contained in the sealed jar or for bringing too many containers of soy yogurt. We have been known to bring sandwiches with sunflower butter to avoid the security delay and pack another jar in our checked baggage. If you have something that needs to be kept cold, you can put ice in a plastic bag, dump the ice before going through security, and ask a kiosk to refill the bag with ice after you are through.
While traveling on the go and oversea
Find out if the health food store at your final destination can order some special yogurts or other perishable goodies for you. I’ll bet they can!
Do your research a few weeks in advance. Call the Hotel Manager or Concierge to find out what restaurants are in the area. If you are visiting another country (you know for that big trip you’re planning when the pandemic is over and travel is given the safe green flag), ask for help communicating or purchase International Chef Cards in another language before you leave.
Find out the procedures for shipping items overseas. We once shipped a box of dried goods to an overseas resort destination. If you do this be sure to know the customs procedures for retrieving it. We missed that detail and thought the box was lost forever, but it arrived home about a month after we did! Our daughter ate a lot of French fries that week. On another trip, we froze a loaf of bread, put it in the appropriate size plastic container and packed it in our suitcase just to be sure we would have bread that our daughter could eat.
When doing your research, be sure to cover all bases
Find out the name and proximity of the nearest hospital or health clinic. You want to be prepared in an emergency. Also, be sure to check the date on all medications including antihistamines and epinephrine auto injectors and replace if necessary. Always bring them with you in your carry on and have extra for emergencies. Bring a copy of your prescription and emergency action plan. Being away from home often puts you in risky situations. Having your medication with you at all times allows you to act responsibly in emergency situations.
The key to traveling safely with kids and food allergies requires your ability to investigate, be proactive and problem solve. You can overcome any challenge so long as you are willing to be creative. Success from a healthy and safe trip will allow you to become a pro and make it a little easier each time you travel.
Have a question about traveling with someone who has food allergies? Book a free 30 minute discovery session with me to ask your questions or read more about this in my book, From Anaphylaxis to Buttercream.
Editorial note: This blog was first published in July 2014 on my previous site. It’s been updated and republished here.