Traveling Tips with a Food Allergy Toddler

BusyBeeKate-TravelingTipswithFoodAllergies

Last week was our first time traveling overnight with our food allergy daughter for our first official family vacation.  While we were both excited and nervous, I am happy to report that we had a wonderful time and all went well!

I found being both prepared and not expecting a “vacation” of lounging around helped… and having a kitchen was a must for us – more on that in a bit.

When we discussed where we wanted to travel we were both undecided and agreed that since we are saving up to buy a new house we definitely wanted to vacation on a budget and also both didn’t feel very comfortable traveling too far with our 15 month old.

We were in luck.  My sister graciously allowed us the use of her shore home in Wildwood, New Jersey for three nights and four days which was perfect for us (free and close!) so we took her up on the offer {thanks sis!}

Now back when I was in my early 20’s we had rented a summer house in Wildwood and I started reminiscing about those days…. and if you haven’t heard the Bobby Rydell song… well….

WildwoodOh those Wildwood days, wild, wild Wildwood days
And then those party lights wild, wild Wildwood nights
Whoa whoa whoa whoa those Wildwood days, wild, wild Wildwood days
Oh baby, every day’s a holiday and every night is a Saturday night
Oh those Wildwood days, wild, wild Wildwood days….

They sure were wild days and nights… but back to the traveling tips.  Today I am sharing some of the things I learned when traveling with a food allergy child, and also sharing what I would do the same and what I would do differently when vacationing with her in the future.

◊ Plan all your meals.  I had a sheet with ALL of our meals planned out and made sure this was one of the first things that I packed.  The sheet included breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and dessert for all four days.  I also added a couple of extra snacks just in cause, because while one option sounds great the week before you may not be in the mood for it comes time to eat.   

◊  Get as much of your cooking done as you can ahead of time at home.  I made muffins, cupcakes, and turkey burgers ahead of time at home.  I cut up and packaged our chicken based on the portions we would need each evening.  I even cooked our rice the morning before we left (for that evenings dinner) and packed along in our cooler.  We debated on bringing our steamer and when we vacation again we will be sure to pack it.  It’s so easy to put our meals in there and almost “set it and forget it”. After a long day in the sun neither of us felt like cooking and firing up the grill and oven was one the last things we had a desire to do.

◊  Pack as much of your food as you can to bring with you.  We packed all of our meats, breads, and our allergy-friendly (often hard to find) snacks.  We opted to purchase produce and some easier to find snacks once we arrived.  Remember, the local grocer may not always carry your favorite allergy-friendly foods, so you don’t want to get stuck without safe foods you trust. 

◊ Bring your own disposable table wear (plates, forks, knives, spoons, etc.)  My husband thought of this.  I was just going to use what was there already  (it’s my sister after all,) but after he mentioned it I agreed it was a good idea to bring as much disposable items as we could.  I also made sure to pack all of my daughters own cups and table wear so that I didn’t have to worry about using someone else’s items.

◊ Find at least one restaurant that could accommodate your family for a dinner or two or snacks.   We have never focused on food like we have in the past year, and we are quickly becoming versed in menus, cross contamination and safe options.  We eat pretty healthy and enjoy our snacks in moderation and since we have a food allergy daughter now we are focused on food practically every minute of every day.  We spend a lot of time reading and becoming much more aware of food in our surroundings.  There was one sign on the boardwalk that especially stuck out at me – “Cooked in 100% Peanut Oil.”  It was oh so small but I noticed it, pointed it out to my husband, and I seriously pushed the stroller the other way.  Now back to finding a restaurant where you are vacationing.  I searched online for some allergy-friendly restaurants beforehand but wasn’t proactive enough to check and call them to assure they could accommodate us.  After a long day in the sun I sure which I had the option of eating out and we both didn’t look forward to coming home and cooking.   For our next vacation I will be sure to line up a couple of safe options (if possible) for us to dine out.

◊ When you leave the house bring more food and snacks than you think you’ll need for the day.  If you haven’t scoped out any safe dining options this is very important.  For us we were kicking ourself we didn’t bring a safe ice cream option when we went strolling the boardwalk for a couple hours on a warm and sunny afternoon.  There is seriously an ice cream or water ice shop every 3 buildings and vacationers were walking around enjoying their ice cream.  We did see some signs for Philly Water Ice which is a safe food for us and although we entertained the idea of stopping for some we didn’t want to risk it.  We knew we would be dealing with a summer employee who may not be versed in allergies and probably wouldn’t understand the importance if we asked them to wash the spoon and if they would open a new container for us.  Instead when we got home we all enjoyed our favorite safe ice cream options – So Delicious and Luna and Larry’s- and I was thankful I remembered to pack them  in the cooler.

◊  Bring wipes (and lots of them.) Going on rides always made me nervous but not this nervous.  I picture peanut butter smeared on every surface, handlebar, steering well, etc, that we touch.  I carry wipes everywhere and try to wipe down the surfaces before my daughter touches them.  Yes, I do get some stares, and I know this is overkill and there is not peanut butter smeared on every surface we touch.   There is a long shot of something happening – probably 1 Billion to 1 – but I would rather be safe than sorry. 

◊  Clean the home (hotel room, condo, wherever you are staying) before allowing your food allergy child inside.  When we first arrived my husband dropped me off at the home and took my daughter down the street to the playground.  I went inside and made sure to vacuum, wash the sheets, and wipe down all surfaces that I knew my daughter would touch.  There were some places I couldn’t clean and with a limited amount of time I did my best.  My husband came back and noticed a peanut in the kitchen eating area underneath a cabinet, and chances are my daughter wouldn’t have been able to reach it, but you just never know.  We also shared their refrigerator and I made sure to move any peanut butter or items containing peanuts onto the top shelf in the back and hid them behind some other things so they wouldn’t be in reach.  I also advise to check the cabinets for your allergens and to assure items are moved to a place where your child could not reach them.   

◊ If you need an Epi Pen (or other life-saving device) carry it.  Everywhere.  I cannot stress this enough. I read a recent article that many people don’t carry theirs with them at all times.  I always had mine handy and being in a new town it helped to relax my fears knowing it was only a reach away.  If you are spending time on a beach or outdoors in the hot sun be sure to keep the medicine in a safe bag.

◊ Remember the address of where you are staying & know of the closest hospital – just in case.  Thankfully we didn’t need a hospital or medical care during our trip, but knowing where we may have had to go in case of an emergency helped.  I even pre-programmed the address into our GPS in case something happened and we had to travel to the hospital ourselves.

◊ Don’t forget to pack your other “safe” items.  We were thankful to have a washer and dryer at my sisters and I remembered to pack our safe laundry detergent so I could wash our sheets and towels while we were there.  If you have this option you may want to run the washer through a couple of times using your safe laundry detergent as chances are the prior users probably weren’t using the same kind of detergent.  Having the washer and dryer was a great help so I didn’t have to come home to eight loads of laundry.

I knew our vacation wouldn’t be like it was back when I was in my 20’s or before we had a child and I was glad I was able to do some prepping beforehand.  At the end of the day we were more tired from the sun and chasing my daughter around in a new place left for two very exhausted parents, but we are so happy we decided to spend some time away this summer.

We also decided to vacation mid week and came home on Friday – this left our Saturday and Sunday at home.  To relax and recharge {after} our vacation.

What tips would you share when traveling with your {food or non-food allergy} children?

Love, Kate

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