Allergy Tips For Travelling With Severe Allergies
We recently took a family vacay over to Ireland. As far as food allergies and our over all trip, it actually went really, really well. Our family played, bonded, and learned, three things I love in a vacation.
But one of the biggest hiccups we had happened near the beginning of our trip. Yes, once again, it included finding safe food at the airport. You might remember that on our last family vacay, I wrote about arriving to Orlando right at dinnertime when we were all hungry and how we couldn’t find anything safe to eat. I was bound and determined not to let this happen again. Besides, we were planning to spend 2 nights in the hotel attached to the Gatwick Airport so we needed to know if there were safe food options nearby. Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly as planned (once again!)…
Before I get to that, there’s one question that many people ask that I want to address first:
Can you take an epipen on a plane?
The quick answer is YES, and you should. In fact, we take ALL our EpiPens with us in our carry on (and not in our checked baggage). The number we take depends on how long our trip is, but we usually bring between 4 and 6 of them with us on the plane. Now back to our trip…
Research we did for travelling with Severe Allergies
Prior to leaving, I did some research in the UK food allergy groups. Facebook groups are really great for travelling with food allergies because the locals are the best ones to help you find safe and trusted foods in their country. I not only researched allergy smart restaurants in the Gatwick Airport where we would be staying for 2 days, I also found some safe restaurants that we used throughout our trip! A quick search on Facebook is all you need to do to find a group in many countries.
Allergy Tip: Join allergy Facebook groups in the country you’re travelling to. These groups are super helpful to find allergy-friendly restaurants and products that the locals trust.
We arrived into Gatwick around 11 am local time after a full 7 hours of flying. Our family didn’t get much sleep on the flight (does anybody??), and for us it felt like 1 or 2 am. So we were pretty tired, but nobody was hungry. Those of us who were able ate the meal provided by the airline and we packed a safe breakfast for my food allergy daughter. Her breakfast was an apple, pepperoni sticks and a couple of safe muffins. Once we arrived, we killed some time until we were able to check into our hotel that afternoon. We were super tired but we knew we should stay up as long as possible and go to bed as close to local bedtime as possible.
Unfortunately, we were all fading fast so we thought we would eat early (around 4pm London time) and then go to bed early. Luckily we had our list of safe restaurants we’d be able to take advantage of right IN the airport, right??? Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. As we talked with the hotel staff member, he broke the news that EVERY safe restaurant we had researched was INSIDE passport control, which meant we wouldn’t be able to go there. Ugh!!
When things don’t go as planned, have a backup
I was disappointed and wondered why airports seemed to cause us so much food allergy grief! Needless to say, we were left asking around at a few restaurants to see if we could trust any of them to safely handle our daughter’s food allergy. That said, I did learn a bit from the LAST time this happened. This time, we didn’t wait to ask until we were hangry. We packed safe food for a reason and this time we let my daughter eat it and supplemented it with fresh fruit that we found at the airport pharmacy. Her meal was a pre-packaged individual gluten, peanut and nut free mac and cheese. The rest of us got something quick from one of the restaurants in the airport.
Luckily, the lack of safe options near our accommodation at Gatwick airport only tripped us up the first night because we headed to Brighton the next day and the restaurants we researched there worked out ok. When we went through Gatwick on the way home, we just used another pre-packaged meal of safe mac and cheese. These mac and cheeses by Annies saved us a few times on this trip! I realize these wouldn’t work for every food allergy family, but the idea is to have some dry and individual food options so they are ok for customs. You may need to watch for them specifically when you’re grocery shopping. Many times, I stock up on these meals weeks in advance because the individual meals aren’t always available. Another idea would be pre-made oatmeal which would be easy to make with hot water. Use your imagination and creativity!
Research about the safe food options at your destination and around your hotel are super important and can be done fairly easily using local Facebook groups. This research is great, but you should also bring easy, safe foods that you can use as a back up just in case research doesn’t turn out like you thought (especially if a grocery store isn't readily available). Something that’s individually packed and dry is the best.
Thank goodness for pre-planning and packing! What are your favourite, portable, safe snacks for travel or otherwise? Share in the comments.
Are you going on a trip soon? If so, get a packing list for kids with food allergies so you don't forget a thing!