It’s that time of year and not a moment too soon: Spring Break is upon us!
Whether you’re traveling near or far, there are a few things you should do to make sure your spring break is exciting and safe.
Staying close to home doesn’t mean you can’t shake up your routine. Explore that neighborhood you’ve been meaning to check out, visit a museum, wander an outdoor market… But before you go, you may want to do a little prep work:
1. Sometimes it’s the museum closest to you that’s the hardest to visit. If you’re heading to a museum, theme park, theater or zoo, you may wish to do some prep work. These venues often have limited nutritional options, waitstaff often cannot track down ingredients in their high-paced and sometimes chaotic environment and the safety of their menu cannot be guaranteed. Compound that with a picky eater and you could have a fun-ruining meltdown on your hands. So, before you go, stick one or two of your child’s favorite dry snack in your bag along with those EpiPens – just in case.
2. Ditto for outdoor markets. Unless you’re going to a farmers market or pick-your-own farm, it’s often impossible to rely on the cart or truck vendors to know a full ingredient list and/or guarantee that their food is safely prepared without cross contamination. So, again, plan on eating just before your visit to that flea market and, again, bring treats for the kids.
3. If you’re taking your kids to a new section of town, you’ll want to scope out an eatery nearby that is likely to be safe. Regardless of whether or not you intend to have a meal while out, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for more fun (or random bouts of hunger). Check out the options online (including menus) and make a phone call or two to ensure that something can be safely prepared just in case a meltdown occurs.
4. Some of the fun of staycationing is mixing up your routine! So, try having some dairy-free sorbet for breakfast (see a list of local places right here at Allergy Shmallergy). Have a gluten-free picnic in the park. Eat that nut-free dinner under a tent in the family room. Fun and safety can go together very simply and easily!
If you’re going out of town:
1. Be sure to pack your emergency on-the-go pack in your carry-on. EpiPens are perfectly acceptable going through security. And, be sure to include baby wipes to wipe down tray tables and arm rests on airplanes that serve nuts, if you are allergic.
2. Again, pack snacks. You can buy a drink at the airport but safe meals are more difficult to come by. Not only is it sometimes a challenge to find FA safe meals at the airport, but getting information to ensure that they don’t contain allergens and are, in fact, safely prepared can be next to impossible. Snacks will tide you over until you reach your destination.
3. Airline meals and snacks may not be safe. Call the airline and ask them about their allergen policy. For FA kids, it might be easier to feed them at the airport or bring a bagel or sandwich in addition to snacks onboard for long flights.
4. If you’re traveling abroad, do a little research about how food is typically prepared. In parts of Asia, soy sauce (which contains not only soy but also wheat) is commonly added to dishes. In the Middle East, sesame seeds are quite popular.
5. Talk to the hotel concierge to find any specialty items you may need. For us, we contacted our hotel to find out where we could purchase soy milk for my young son while in the Caribbean. While on the phone with the hotel, ask them to clear the minibar fridge so you can keep any specialty items fresh.
6. Again, if you’re vacationing somewhere where the don’t speak your native language, you’ll want to feel confident that the waitstaff understands your food restrictions. Try ordering some food allergy translation cards. These cards, made by a number of wonderful companies, help you communicate your family’s food allergy (and other dietary) restrictions in a foreign language. Encourage waitstaff to take the cards back into the kitchen so that chefs themselves can understand the parameters and make appropriate adjustments.
7. Finally, arrive prepared. When going abroad, our research indicated it might be tough to easily find a whole allergy-free breakfast for my FA son. While we could order fruit, everything else offered at the resort seemed to conflict with his allergies. So, we packed a bag filled with convenient breakfast food like small cereal boxes, raisins, and oatmeal. He could have a head start to breakfast in our room while we got ready and snack on fruit, etc at the restaurant table. Plus, we could use the empty bag to haul our souvenirs home. A win-win!
The key to a successful spring break is relaxation. So no matter what form that takes, use the above steps to ensure that a food allergic reaction doesn’t hamper your fun.