Traveling with food allergies is so tricky, especially if you can’t eat in restaurants. Here are a few tips and tricks I have figured out that makes traveling with my family a lot easier.
- Plan ahead. I finally created a little planning sheet for myself to help me get organized and focused before heading out of town. Click on the link for a blank version: VacationPlanningSheet
- Bring paper towels and travel wipes in the car. I always like my kids to wipe off their hands before they eat, especially if we have just been out and about in places where they could have come into contact with lots of allergens. If we do sit down at a restaurant, I bring food for my kids, but I like to wipe the table down, just in case.
- Stop at the combo Convenience store/Gas station/Fast Food restaurant. On our last road trip, I packed all of my kids’ food, but my husband and I wanted to pick up some lunch. We ended up stopping at a Subway that was located in a Convenience store. It had a separate eating area. The best part was that my kids could pick out a treat in the store, so they felt excited and got a little something special while we stopped to eat our lunch. I never want my kids to feel left out, so being able to buy something safe for them to eat was a good option.
- Pack snacks in individual baggies. We deal with multiple food allergies in my house, and each child has different allergies. I try to only pack things that are safe for everyone to eat, but just in case, I like to prepackage the snacks. For our last trip, I made individual baggies of trail mix (Gluten free pretzels and Chocolate Chex), cereal (combo of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios), and chips. It is easy because when someone asks for a snack, I can just grab a bag for them. It also eliminates any risk of me or anyone else touching their food and getting it contaminated.
- Find hotels with a refrigerator and microwave. We stay at the Marriott Residence Inn when we travel. These hotels have a full refrigerator, stove top, and dishwasher. This is perfect for my family’s needs. Recently we stayed in Hilton that had a full refrigerator and microwave. This also worked well for us. I don’t think a mini-fridge would be sufficient, so I always confirm that it is a full refrigerator. I also prefer if it has a freezer.
- If you’re visiting family or friends, use their kitchen. If we are visiting family but staying in a hotel, I will frequently ask if I can borrow their kitchen to prepare a meal for my kids. On our last trip, I used my brother and sister-in-law’s oven to make a frozen Daiya pizza for my kids. On other trips, I have made them some pasta or chicken so that they have some “real”food in addition to the hot dogs, quesadillas, and sandwiches. When I do this, I always bring my own cooking supplies, or we make sure everything has been run through the dishwasher and is safe for me to cook with. I am not shy about this, but if you feel like you are imposing, then it may not be the best option for you. Just do whatever feels comfortable.
- Use paper products. Think through what you will need and bring/buy paper plates, bowls, and utensils. I also like to have Ziploc bags (sandwich and gallon size) to pack food and snacks for outings on our trip. I also use these to store food in the refrigerator and freezer at the hotel. Although it is cleaned out after each guest, I don’t know if there was a milk spill in the fridge, and I do not want to take any chances. I always put my ice packs in ziplocs when I am using any other freezer just in case.
It’s A LOT of extra work to travel with food allergies, but it is possible! I hope these tips are helpful for you. If you have any other tricks up your sleeve, please share in the comments. I always love to get more ideas.