While traveling with food allergies one should expect uncertainty, but when given a challenge we shall overcome! On this occasion, we drove from Boston to Philly for a wedding, and then onward to VT for a ski trip. I will share with you the packing, planning, disappointing experiences and unexpected success we had on our exciting adventure.
Packing was polarizing because we needed dress clothes for the wedding, ski gear for the mountain, and food for both venues. About a week before our trip, I positioned a large empty box in our kitchen. In this box, I would pack non-perishable items which would wait in the car until we had access to a full kitchen in VT. On the day of our departure, I packed two soft sided coolers with perishables plus any items we would need more imminently such as the special allergy free cookies we would bring to the wedding for our daughter’s dessert.
Planning in Advance
Along with packing, some meal planning can be done in advance. The ‘rehearsal dinner’ would consist of Chipotle brought into the hotel. Our FA daughter would eat the chips, pita, rice, beans, and other items (if not too spicy). Our contingency plan was to either grab something from the large box of non-perishables, still waiting in the car, or run out and buy something from the highly commercialized surrounding area. Also, about a week prior to the wedding I spoke with the event coordinator. We determined chicken fingers and veggies would be the best meal to serve at the wedding. The coordinator confirmed the FA safety of these items with the caterer and we were set to go!
Flexibility and safety are both necessary when traveling with FA. No matter how well details are thought out in advance, inevitably something is bound to be less than perfect. In route, we stopped in CT at the Dry Doc Café, since we had safely eaten there once before. After ordering, we requested not to be served the table bread since it was unsafe from an allergy standpoint. An hour later we were still waiting for simple items such as a hamburger, salad, and chicken fingers. We understand kitchens may need to take extra time to take certain precautions for FA safety, but this was ridiculous! After we complained, the waitress eventually brought out French fries so we could eat something while we were waiting. We were hungry, tired and frustrated with the service, but our daughter’s food was safe.
Eating hotel breakfasts were o.k. experiences. We stayed in two hotels. One planned in Philly and the other impromptu in NY. In each case, I asked the breakfast bar attendant for item ingredient lists. It still baffles me when people have no clue. “I don’t think there’s any dairy in the pancake batter” where it clearly states buttermilk and contains dairy on the label. Anyway, my daughter was able to eat fruit and the high fructose corn syrupy cereals which were safe from an allergy perspective, but completely unhealthy otherwise.
The main meal at the wedding was predetermined, but I had forgotten to have a discussion with the coordinator about the appetizers. In real time, I found the wedding coordinator who then consulted with the chef. The duck spring rolls were the only allergy safe appetizer. We gave our daughter a plate of her very own delicious duck spring rolls!
Also during our trip, we ate a few other meals in highly commercialized type restaurants such as P.F. Chang’s and Chili’s. These restaurants had allergy menus available. The staff was helpful in determining what to order and communicated well with the kitchen.
The Final Stretch
On our way home from VT, it was dinner hour on a Saturday night. Not a recommended venue for eating in a restaurant with food allergies. We avoided Shorty’s, one of our favorite places, because it was crowded. The kitchen would have been overwhelmed and possibly unsafe. We tried a Chinese restaurant in the same strip mall, ordered water, and then spoke with the waitress about our daughter’s FA. The language barrier and waitress’s lack of FA knowledge made us feel so unsafe that we were forced to apologetically leave and seek an alternate option. We ended up at Blake’s; a less crowded local, greasy hamburger joint where they agreed to clean the grill.
The point of this blog post is to give you assurance that a family trip can have successful outcomes even though not everything is planned in advance. You can travel safely and manage situations on the fly so long as you have a back-up plan, positive food allergy etiquette, and confidence. I can help you gain that confidence with just a few coaching sessions. Contact me so we can give it a try!