Vacationing with Food Allergies


I can’t believe August is next week!  I don’t know about you, but for me this summer is flying by.  For all of you who plan on going on vacation, like our family, I wanted to go through some tips that hopefully will make things a little easier for you:)

Vacations can be hard with small children.  It really is a relocation instead of a vacation sometimes.  When you add food allergies in the mix, forget about it.  The planning and prep increase exponentially, but once you have a system in place things are a lot easier and run more smoothly.

First thing is first… a packing list!  I wrote a packing list the first year we went on vacation with our daughter who has multiple food allergies.  Ever since then I tweaked the same list, deleting and adding things that have changed since our last vacation.  Our children are now 10 and 7, so things have changed quite a bit since the early days and now we are starting to venture out and eat at restaurants with our daughter, so the packing will be a bit less (but, not much!)

Rent a house or condo or get a hotel room that has a kitchen.  This is a must.  I do not expect you to cook every single meal on vacation… even though we did for years, but a kitchen will make your life so much easier.  Bring items that you know you may not be able to find when on vacation.  Items like produce and lean proteins will be much easier to locate than safe snack foods.

Clean the kitchen thoroughly before putting your food away.  Wipe down counters, wash dishes and cutlery, if you are using the rentals. Last year was the first year I decided to actually use the rentals dishes, etc.  I was always overly cautious, but slowly I am lowering my guard and it has been okay.  Baby steps work for our family.  If you aren’t ready to use the rentals cooking supplies, bring your own!

Before you go, find the nearest grocery store, so you don’t have to lug your entire refrigerator with you.  The first couple of years we never went grocery shopping while on vacation.  I wanted to know I had everything I needed, but again now that some time has passed, I realized that it is okay if I don’t have exactly what we have at home as long as it is safe for our children.  Last year we also found an awesome farmer’s market walking distance from our house.  What a pleasant surprise that was.  Always look around for these gems when on vacation.

Bring pre-cooked meals for the first day and evening of your trip. After traveling for the day, the last thing you want to do is figure out what to cook for dinner!  You are on vacation, for goodness sakes!  Of course, you can go out to eat, but a lot of allergy families aren’t at that stage and after lots of traveling may not be in the right mindset to go to a restaurant.  I need to feel rested and confident when I am bringing my children to a restaurant, just in case we don’t feel comfortable and need to go somewhere else.  The last thing you want is to be overly tired if you need to adjust plans last minute.

Download the hospital app.  This is not a fun one to think about, but it eases my nerves. There is an app called “FindERnow”.  It will tell you where the closest emergency room is.

Make sure you have enough epinephrine and can keep it at the right temperature.  This is especially important if you are going to the beach.  We use Frio.  It is a great way to keep your epinephrine at room temperature.  Once you activate the cooling crystals, they usually last for about a week before you need to submerge them in cold water again.  Also, be sure to bring multiple sets up Epi’s or Auvi Q’s, especially if you have more than one child with food allergies.  Some families like to have another prescription on hand in case they have to use a set of epi’s or something happens to the others.

Plan your restaurants prior to traveling.  If you would like to eat out when on vacation, plan ahead prior to traveling and call the restaurant to see if you feel comfortable with their accommodations.  You can use the website “AllergyEats” to get reviews prior to choosing a restaurant.  Our family finds this really helpful and remember to leave a review yourself for other families.  It takes a village!  Also, when you are eating at a restaurant, always carry chef cards with you. Chef cards are little cards where you list your child’s allergies, so the chef can have that in front of them and there will be no miscommunication between server and chef.  You can even put a picture of your child on the card as well!

If flying, let the airline know about your food allergies ahead of time.  The airline will let you pre- board to wipe everything down and make an announcement to other passengers.  Since Covid began the cleaning protocols are much better than in the past, but this is just another way to make sure you have no issues while in the air.  Airlines usually have at least one allergy friendly snack, but always bring your safe snacks with you just in case!

Enjoy yourself!  Vacation is supposed to be a time where you sit back, relax and enjoy the time with your family.  I completely understand that for food allergy families this is harder to do but do your best!  If you have everything planned prior, you are more likely to be able to relax a bit and it is important to show your children that you can have fun and vacation with or without food allergies!

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

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