If you are looking for travel tips for kids with food allergies, you are in the right place. Shalome from The Trip Tweaker will guide you through travel with food allergies in this post.
Shalome has traveled the world extensively and runs a travel blog at The Trip Tweaker. She designs bespoke travel itineraries catering to your exact needs.
The other day we were talking about traveling with a kid with food allergies and I found her tips really useful. Read on to know more as she shares her experiences as an allergy parent with us.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR KIDS WITH FOOD ALLERGIES
As a parent of a child with food allergies things like this become part of your everyday routine: briefing people everywhere you go – school, restaurants, family gatherings on what your child can and cannot eat, sometimes carrying your own pots and pans around, reading the ingredients on the packaging, (learning to read between those lines on packaging in India where ingredients are fudged or not mentioned), and in general being wary of any new experiences.
So how do you, then, travel with food allergies when every meal is a going to be a surprise and you’re going to give up the very system that keeps your child safe that you’ve worked so hard to fine tune?
My daughter has severe food and environmental allergies. But as a travel writer, I feel almost compelled to travel every so often, whether for work or otherwise.
So, we traveled with her, sometimes impulsively and, to cut a long story short, we made a lot of mistakes: we didn’t plan out the meals in advance and ended up with a child crying in hunger while we hunted desperately for foods she could eat (she ended up eating fruits for most of the 3 days of that trip); ordered food in a restaurant without thoroughly checking on the ingredients and had to rush around looking for a hospital in a strange city; and once even had to check-out of a hotel at the last minute and stay with friends who could be relied on to take us to a hospital after a particularly bad allergy attack.
But the best part is: you learn from mistakes. Like any allergy parent, you learn to be an allergy ninja. Here is what I’ve learnt from all these travel fails about traveling with kids with food allergies:
TRAVELING WITH FOOD ALLERGIES
The best way to really control what goes into your child’s plate of food is by cooking it yourself. So stay in accommodation with a kitchen so that you can cook meals you know are safe. You could carry some foodstuff from home (check that the country allows for foods to be brought in) and also try out local vegetables and fruits that you’re certain would be okay. So you could serve your child an early meal and then head out together to eat at a restaurant of your choice or carry the meal to the restaurant with you. Most places are okay with outside food for a child, especially one with allergies. Larger accommodation like a rented villa or holiday apartment also means that children have more space to run around in.
Do some research beforehand and find restaurants that could cater to allergies. A lot of restaurants (especially in tourist-friendly places) mention if their dishes are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. Read the restaurant reviews – you may find comments from people who have allergies and their experiences eating there. Even if you can’t find a restaurant that caters to your specific needs organic restaurants tend to be more aware of what goes into their food and therefore it may be easier for you to check ingredients with their staff.
3. Emergency preparation
Find out which would be the hospital closest to your hotel or holiday accommodation and store the number on all your phones (do make sure you have the international call facility activated on your phone). You may need to confirm that they have pediatric facilities. In addition to this, at check-in ask what are the hotel’s emergency procedures.
4. Easy to understand printout of the foods your child is allergic to
Carry a print out (with copies) of all the foods your child is allergic to: in English as well as the local language. Use a reliable translation website or app for this.
5. Emergency medicine
Make sure the emergency medicine is in at least 2-day packs/purses and that all adults (and responsible children) traveling with you know where the medicine is and how to use it.
6. Pediatrician letter
Ask your pediatrician for a letter describing your child’s medical history and mentioning any relevant details that a doctor could quickly scan and use in an emergency. The letter should also mention any emergency medication that you need to carry on the flight with you, should airport authorities question you. Place this letter in your child’s medical file and carry the whole file with you in your handbag/day pack even on the plane.
7. Tackling long haul flights
Flying with food allergies can be difficult, especially on long-haul flights. Certain airlines allow you to pre-book flight meals. Some of these even have an option of allergy meals or special meals where you can specify ingredients. Check if your airline does the same. In any case, do carry allergy-safe snacks for the flight and beyond.
8. Best places to travel with food allergies
As for which are the best places to travel with food allergies, this really depends on the allergies you’re dealing with. For example, my daughter has a shellfish and soy allergy. For this reason, we avoid countries that use shrimp sauce and soy sauce as a base ingredient in most of their dishes, such as most of South East Asia or Japan. If you have a child with food allergies that include dairy and gluten avoid countries like France.
However, that being said, additional research may just throw up some surprise destinations that you could travel to. We were pleasantly surprised with how relaxed our stay in Bali was. This was because Bali has a large number of vegan and organic restaurants because of all the foreign tourists it attracts.
In addition to this, most of the population speaks English well which made communicating with them easier even though we did show them our list of allergens at each restaurant just to be doubly sure.
In general, it is easier to travel to countries that speak English if not as their first language then at least well.
I’ve realized that when traveling with kids with food allergies if you’ve prepared yourself for the worst case scenario, chances are you’ll not end up having it actually take place.
The biggest lesson that we’ve learnt, though, despite all that has gone wrong, is that once you figure out (maybe the hard way) the formula for travel that works for you, you will be able to travel to many –if not all – places and will find the experience extremely rewarding and satisfying. Even more so because you’ll have worked so hard to get it right and because you’re one step closer to creating a ‘normal’ childhood for your child.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shalome Potnis Tuinman has worked for over a decade in the travel industry as a travel agent, tour leader, and travel writer. After becoming a mom her travels now involve way more bags and loo stops but are also infinitely more rewarding. She puts her travel experience to work by giving free, personalized travel advice to well, everyone on www.thetriptweaker.com.