My first tip is one that I tend to give with everything – plan ahead.
- Take an extra set of epinephrine auto injectors. (Note the word “set” – you should always keep the set of 2 auto-injectors together. For travel, I recommend 2 sets. That’s 4 auto-injectors total). This is helpful if something happens to your primary set. You don’t want to be in an unfamiliar location, trying to find a pharmacy and contacting your doctor to get a refill.
- Pack any other needed medications – inhalers, antihistamines, and steroid cream.
- Don’t forget special personal care products necessary for your/your child’s care and comfort; such as: fragrance free lotion, allergen free shampoo, soap, bug spray and sunscreen.
- Know the location of the nearest hospital.
- Take an emergency folder with you. This should include: Emergency Care Plan/Action Plan, list of medications, phone numbers for your doctor, other emergency contacts.
Where to eat: Dining out
- Research area restaurants before you leave, to ensure you have enough options at your destination. Also, don’t forget about researching options where you will stop while on the road.
- Allergy Eats is an excellent resource to use. You can read reviews from those that have dined at restaurants in the database.
- Plan out your meal ideas and grocery list before you leave.
- Research local grocery stores and call them to see if they stock specific foods/brands that you need.
- If you can’t find the exact items you need consider taking those items with you or shipping them. Here are a of couple options for shipping:
2. Pack a box of food yourself and ship it to your destination before you leave.
- Be sure to call ahead to confirm the correct shipping address for your destination. This is also a great time to notify them that you will be expecting a package.
On the road:
- Plan your meals and snacks while on the road. Always take extra food/snacks in case of traffic/weather/car trouble delays or if your food allergies can’t be accommodated at your planned restaurant stop.
- My family takes advantage of rest stops for our meals. We pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it outside. This also gives the kids an opportunity to run around and release some energy. Plus it saves a lot of time, which will get you to your destination faster.
- Hotel or resort? Try to book a room with kitchen. Bare minimum; get a room with a mini-fridge. At some places you may be able to request a mini fridge put in your room if you tell them you need it for medical purposes. No mini-fridge? Or have more food than will fit? Take a cooler and continue to refill with ice at the hotel (it is free!).
Sponge/brush to wash dishes
Paper towels for drying
Travel kitchen knife & small cutting board
Disposable forks, spoons & knives
- Renting a house or condo? Great! You have a kitchen! My suggested item to take with you (in addition to the above list) is a crockpot. We’re never “on vacation” from food allergies, but it’s nice to have an easy dinner while on vacation.
Traveling with extended family/friends? Education is needed for those that normally don’t live with you. Understanding of the severity of food allergies and avoiding cross contact is necessary.
- Start the conversation before your trip. This will allow time for follow up questions.
- Once you’ve arrived at your destination have an overview of what is necessary to keep you/your child’s food safe.
- Notify housemates of where epinephrine is kept and how to assist in an emergency.
- If there will be both safe and unsafe food in the kitchen:
Contain allergens to certain shelves in the refrigerator or pantry.
- If you have a young child with food allergies (and possibly other children/messy eaters in the house), I suggest having specific rules about containing food to the kitchen and dining areas to avoid crumbs and food residue on the furniture and floor in other rooms where your child will be playing. One suggestion would be to use colored tape on the floor to visually make a line that food should not cross (between the kitchen to den, for example). This idea was that of an incredibly supportive cousin on one of our family trips. It worked well!
My last tip is don’t stress too much on making sure your/your child’s diet is as healthy as usual. As long as it’s safe (allergen free) and you/your child are getting enough to eat with some minimal nutritional requirements met, it’s ok if you/your child aren’t getting the exact number of fruits and veggies that they normally do each day. Remember, it is a vacation; splurging a bit is ok!
Don’t let food allergies hold you back. Remember you are LIVING with food allergies. Go. Travel. Experience. See the world! Just be sure to take your epinephrine with you!
Traveling by plane isn’t something my family has done yet. Flying can be stressful for those with food allergies; especially peanut allergies. Here are some excellent resources if you are considering flying:
FAACT’s Traveling with Food Allergies (also including tips for traveling to foreign countries)
Airline food allergy policies
Allergic Living – Comparing Airlines