Monday, February 9, 2009

Traveling and food allergies

A post on another food allergy mom's blog reminded me of this topic and I wanted to share my thoughts. Since we discovered Ainsley's allergies, we have taken a few extended vacations involving big plane trips. Along the way I have learned about some things that work really well and hopefully will encourage other people not to be afraid to travel with their food-allergic children.

My tips are:

(1) make sure the hotel room you're staying in has a microwave and dorm refrigerator so that you can make meals for your child easily during your stay.

(2) stop at a natural foods grocery store (like Whole Foods) when you first arrive at your destination to stock up on staples (this means looking up the location of one before you leave and mapquesting it to know how to get there from the airport or your hotel).

(3) bring as much safe food as you can with you in your luggage and carry-ons.

As for #3, I have found that large tupperware or glad containers work well to hold lots of foods in suitcases. I have even transported several individual-sized soymilk and ricemilk boxes (the kind that are the size of fruit juice boxes) in those large containers in my luggage. I have also brought safe bread slices, Sunbutter, jelly, etc. that way. On the last trip, I even packed in my luggage foods that need to be kept cool by putting them in an insulated container (like a big insulated lunch bag) that I put a few ice packs in. I packed Tofutti fake cheese & cream cheese and some lunch meat this way and it stayed cool the entire plane trip. I also pack a lot of food containers, bowls, spoons, forks, cups, etc. just in case we need them.

In terms of the carry-on baggage, I usually use a giant packpack and put a ziplock bag in it with tons of Ainsley-safe snacks, like Enjoy Life snack bars & cookies, dried fruit/fruit leather/fruit snacks, real fruit, crackers, pretzels, etc. I don't ever count on her being able to eat anything in an airport so I also always pack a meal for her (usually Sunbutter and jelly) and put that in the backpack too. I usually pack way too much food, but better safe than sorry in my book.

As I've said before, I normally never let Ainsley eat anything from a restaurant (we have a few exceptions, like McDonald's and Wendy's), so when on vacation I usually always take snacks and a meal for her whenever we go out.

Here are some quick vacation meal ideas:

--Ham/turkey & Tofutti cheese (in a sandwich with bread or just on their own), snap pea crisps, and berries.
--Bagel with Tofutti cream cheese and jelly (you can also add ham or turkey to this for a Monte-Cristo-like sandwich).
--Sunbutter/soybutter & jelly sandwich with chips or pretzels.
--microwaveable chicken nuggets with any of the above sides.
--microwaveable waffles with syrup (you can pack a small container of syrup in your luggage or buy some once you get there) and fruit.
--microwaveable bacon or sausage with any of the above sides (or combine this meat with the waffles for a yummy breakfast that your child can eat while you eat from a hotel breakfast buffet).
--soy yogurt, toast or bagel, and fruit.
--microwaveable hot dog with any of the above sides.

As for desserts, if the freezer compartment in your dorm fridge is big enough, you could buy some Tofutti cuties or other imitation ice cream treat that you can give your child in case the rest of the family wants to go out for ice cream. I even managed to squeeze a pint-sized container of soy ice cream into a dorm-fridge freezer once.

Because we've had such good experiences traveling in this way, we don't shy away from the idea of big vacations. The only hesitancy we have is in taking a vacation to a place where there is no Whole Foods or other natural grocery store, or where the medical care might not be up to par with U.S. standards (just in case Ainsley has an allergic reaction).

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