Whenever we travel we always plan well in advance around our daughter’s food allergies. There’s more to planning a trip for a food allergic child than just grabbing your EpiPen on the way out the door.
If you’re flying, start before you book your flight by visiting the airlines’ websites to learn about their food allergy policies. Here are a few of the top airlines’ pages where they address nut allergies:
American Airlines’ peanut allergy info
Continental Airlines health page
Delta Airlines peanut allergy info (select “Peanut Allergies”)
Southwest Airlines peanut dust info
United Airlines special meals info
US Airways special meals info
As San Diego residents we’re partial to Southwest. While Southwest has long had a reputation for serving peanuts on its flights, we’ve found them to be exceptionally accommodating. We alert them the day prior to flight that we’ll have a nut allergic passenger and they take pains not to stock the flight with nut based snacks. Further, when possible they clean the plane prior to our flight boarding, and they announce to the passengers to be aware of the allergy without stigmatizing us or our daughter.
If you’ll stay at a hotel, check the food situation before you book a room. Is there a buffet? A suitable grocery store nearby? Do rooms contain kitchens so you can prepare your own meals? We frequently wind up staying at a Residence Inn by Marriott. Several of their rooms include kitchens, and their breakfast buffets typically have enough safe selections that we don’t need to purchase breakfast for our daughter.
If you’ll be staying with friends or family, e-mail them a list of appropriate foods to stock. Pay them for it if necessary. Make sure they appreciate the gravity of food allergies. If you’ll leave your child in their (or anyone’s) care, bring your EpiPen demonstrator so you can train them the appropriate procedure.
On the day of departure, carry on plenty of safe snacks for your child. Delays happen all the time. Plan adequate food to last four to six hours longer than scheduled travel time. I recently read “if you’ve never missed a plane, you spend too much time in airports.” There’s something to that: either you’ll be delayed by flights now and then or you’ll be delayed by arriving early enough not to miss them.
Bring hand sanitizer on flights and use wipes on airplane trays when you board. (NB: hand sanitizer won’t protect you against food allergen contact; this is just an airplane hygiene tip.)
Invest in planning your trip in advance will keep everybody smiling.