It’s that fun time of year again! School will be out soon. The weather is warm. It’s time to go on a family trip. Yeah!!
When our kids were younger, we had two goals for our family vacation; to keep our girls on a relatively reasonable sleep schedule and to feed our food allergic daughter safely. Now that our children are a little older (9) and (11) we are able to do more activities together as a family. The sleep thing is slowly becoming a non-issue, but we still need to keep our older daughter safe from food allergens.
Here’s how to plan a summer vacation without undue stress. Once you decide where to go, it’s important to find an allergy friendly place to stay.
Where to Stay?
Hotels are never our first choice because keeping food safe is usually an issue and it frequently creates difficulties in having a back-up plan.
We find it best to stay somewhere that has a full kitchen including a refrigerator, stove, etc. This enables us to cook and keep foods fresh which is an enormous safety alternative to eating out. Here is how this can be done…
You don’t have to spend a fortune to purchase a time share. Your family can stay in a place that you don’t own for relatively low cost. Look on redweek, craigslist, or VRBO for example. People are always willing to rent out their unit at a relatively low cost, especially if they are not going to use it. These units can cost less than a hotel room and will give you and your family more space.
Resort facilities frequently include a bedroom unit and a kitchen fully loaded with appliances so you can cook or refrigerate food and bring it with you on the go. Also, depending on your method of travel (which we will discuss later this month) you can either bring food with you or do research in advance as to where the most allergy friendly grocery stores are in the area.
Another option is renting a house. Many places have seasonal rental communities which you can find through a realtor.
Are you staying with friends and family?
Where you stay can be predetermined if you are visiting friends or family. Staying with friends and relatives sounds comforting, but sometimes staying in someone else’s home can be an uncomfortable and stressful environment. Sharing a house with others who are not used to being around people with food allergies can create anxiety and additional concerns. Lots of clear communication needs to be done in advance to avoid cross contact issues when sharing a kitchen, especially when it belongs to someone else.
Here are some things to consider:
- Ask if you can have a special shelf, cabinet or area of the kitchen that is only for your food allergic child to keep safe snacks or prepare meals.
- Have more than one sponge in the kitchen. Don’t re-use sponges after clean up. It can spread allergens and create cross contact issues. Depending on the severity of the allergy; you may be able to wash sponges in the dishwasher and re-use.
- Plan and communicate in advance. How severe is the allergy? Do you need to bring your own pots and pans or possibly purchase new ones?
- You may consider purchasing containers with different colored lids to keep your son’s allergy safe perishables in the refrigerator.
- Label everything! You can use markers or purchase Name Bubbles; labels that are dishwasher safe. Put them on things your child can eat.
- Break the cultural divide. Allow others to know you appreciate their company, flexibility and understanding. It’s the people you are with and not the food you eat that makes good times happen!
How do you help your family feel more comfortable?
How do you keep other’s seemingly innocent actions from sending you to the emergency room? If your child is allergic to nuts and there is a honey nut cereal in the house, this could be a recipe for disaster. Your younger child could accidentally find them or, someone not familiar with your child’s diet could accidentally give her some.
Occasionally others such as friends and family don’t understand the seriousness of managing food allergies. Even if they do, they may feel uncomfortable. Educate others to empower them. Set clear guidelines and perhaps stick a list on the refrigerator, if they think it might be helpful. Talk about reading labels and signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis.
You and your family can have a fun, successful family vacation no matter where you stay. Just be sure to write down your list of questions to ask the resort manager, family, or friends you are staying with before the trip to anticipate expectations and prevent accidents.
In the next blog post, we will talk about how you get to your vacation destination. What can you do to ensure safety while traveling? Stay tuned!
If you and your family need help with these or other food allergy issues, please contact me for your complimentary consultation.
Your Food Allergy Coach