The first official day of summer is fast approaching and families are busy making plans for summertime getaways. But for those with food-allergic family members, planning for safe and worry-free vacation meals is often a stressful, difficult and complicated process. Tabor Burke, founder of Allergaroo, teamed up with Gina Clowes of AllergyMoms.com, to provide some simple tips to help make it easier for families with food-allergic kids to plan summertime getaways. Both are mothers of kids with food allergies and, as such, have several hours of vacation planning under their collective belts.
Tips for Summer Travel Planning with your Food Allergy Family
The following are a few of Gina and Tabor’s tips for eating safely on the road.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Assuming you’ve done your due diligence when it comes to checking out airline and train on-board policies on peanut or other allergens, you can now focus on meal and snack planning.
- Call in advance to determine what, if any, “safe” meals and snacks are available for ordering.
- Better yet, bring a small cooler with at least one extra meal and snack for your food-allergic child. Again, call in advance to determine what foods will and will not be allowed and plan accordingly. For air travel, you may learn that foods like yogurt or applesauce are considered liquids. See the TSA’s website on travelers with special medical conditions, traveling with food and beverages past the security checkpoint, and TSA information on liquids. As of this writing, there are no restrictions when it comes to carry-on food on trains.
- If you’re traveling by car, you may have the luxury of space packing enough foods and snacks for the duration of your trip. Focus on packing foods that are easy and convenient to prepare and serve.
- If you don’t have room to spare in the car, you might choose to shop for your favorite allergy-friendly brands once you reach your destination. Most brands’ websites will have a “store locator,” which will provide the names and addresses of each store around the country that carries their products.
- Another option is to ship your foods to your destination in advance. This way, regardless of your mode of travel, everything will be at your destination when you arrive.
As diagnoses continue to rise, more and more restaurants are offering allergy-friendly and gluten-free options, or are willing to accommodate guests as needed. The following suggestions can help you with dining at various types of eateries.
- Plan ahead by searching the Internet for allergy-friendly restaurants. New Internet sites are popping up every day that list allergy-friendly restaurants around the country. One of the newest is AllergyEats, where you can search allergy-friendly restaurants in a given neighborhood, in a given city, or in a given country. For dairy-free specifically, see the Go Dairy Free Recommended Restaurants.
- Most national chains include nutrition information on their websites that often include allergy information. Check them out ahead of time so you’ll know which you can dine at stress free. Go Dairy Free provides specific Fast Food Dairy-Free Menu Guides.
- If you’re planning a meal at a non-chain restaurant, call ahead. Let the restaurant know that you have someone with food allergies in your party. Make it easy for the wait staff to assist you by telling them not just what your child can’t have, but also exactly what he or she can have.
- Carry a Chef Card to help communicate your allergen needs with the kitchen.
- If all else fails, bring your own meal. As long as you’re purchasing meals for others in your family, the restaurant should be happy to allow you to bring your own food for your food-allergic child.