If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ve likely seen me speak about my son’s food allergies. He was born with 20+ food allergies, the lesser ones have disappeared however, he is still life threatening to egg, peanut, tree nut, milk and shellfish. And, because that is not enough, about five years ago, I developed Celiac and am completely gluten-free. We are quite the duo!
While it can sound overwhelming, juggling food allergies is our normal. We plan and then we plan again, taking food with us every single place we go along with emergency essentials such as Epi-pens and Benadryl. So, the big question I get is, how in the world do you travel with food allergies?
I’m going to give you a few tips that work for us…
1.Pack Your Own Food: For my son, we literally travel with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every single thing he will eat is with us including snacks. I take zero risks of not being able to find food. When I talk about his food in particular, I am talking about vegan protein powder, Sunbutter, Daiya, etc. Any types of food I couldn’t normally find in a Walmart are with me on our trip. Again, I take no chances. In fact, he carries emergency food and medicines on him at all times in his backpack too. And, that’s ok, that’s our normal.
Now, for me, I’m gluten-free (as in I’ll be in a hospital if I eat gluten) so I bring protein bars, snacks and any other essentials with me as well. I don’t bring “it all” with me because I know I can find food somewhere and I can eat nuts, eggs, etc. if I need protein.
Let’s take a bit of a food allergy pause here to talk about what it really means to have severe food allergies. While my son can have meats and other foods, he was born with 20+ food allergies which means he does not have a good relationship with food. He does not drool over cupcakes or get excited about a new restaurant and even “safe” foods don’t look good to him. Food does not make him feel well SO…while it might make sense to say “hey, he could just eat a hamburger.” Nope. He can’t. Or at least he won’t.
He cannot eat from any restaurants due to the risk of cross-contamination and he doesn’t like the textures of many foods since he’s not used to it. Food allergies are a long, hard road, my friends and sometimes it’s doesn’t make sense but it is what it is.
Ok, so now you’re thinking it’s easy to pack foods for a road trip but what about a plane?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
2. Bring Food in Your Carry-On: My carry-on is LOADED with packaged food, yep, you can take packaged food onto a plane. My son has only flown with us once, during that trip, my carry-on was packed with his must-have protein sources and my checked bag was packed with the rest of his food that I knew I could find elsewhere. I, however, do fly often and I’m always sure to pack protein sources in my bag even though gluten free food is easier to find. Most of the food given on the airplane is cross-contaminated and I can’t take that chance. Can you imagine getting sick on a plane? Nope. Not gonna risk it.
Another side note, be careful with what airline you choose. Personally, I do not and will not fly Southwest with my son even though they said they were eliminating peanuts. I had a peanut issue last year on one of their flights and thankfully, it was with me and not him but it was bad.
As in, the peanuts were stored above my head and kept falling on me then, the compartment busted open and they literally went everywhere including down my shirt. The attendant thought it was hilarious and handed me bags of peanuts as a consolation prize. Nope. That was the last time I flew Southwest. I’m grateful my son wasn’t with me, I would have had to go full crazy momma and no one needs that YouTube video floating around somewhere…thank you, next…
3. Ship Your Food Directly: The other option is to ship the food directly to where you are going. Yes, you can do that especially if you do an Airbnb or something like that. You can order what you need from Amazon and have it shipped directly to your destination so it’s there when you get there. For example, I can order a box of Enjoy Life Foods bars and have them sent to my rental in Florida, I can also make sure it gets there while I’m there and not before or after if I want to be super specific. The cool thing about this option is, you won’t be traveling with 20 pounds of food in your suitcase or in your car.
4. Travel with Food Allergy Cards: Are you traveling out of the country? Visit SelectWisely.com and choose a card with your specific allergies then purchase it in the language you need. For example, I will be traveling to Israel next year and I am purchasing a card with my specific gluten allergy written out in Hebrew. How awesome is that?
5. App Check: Ok, for those of you who can eat out at restaurants, I’m going to recommend two apps. The first is Find Me Gluten Free and the other is Allergy Eats. Both of these apps will help you find the most food allergy friendly restaurants. Now, that being said, BE CAREFUL. Personally, I can eat at restaurants with gluten free options. That being said, I’ve spent the last 12 hours unbelievably sick because of cross-contamination that occurred at a local restaurant. Boo.
For my son, he absolutely cannot eat at restaurants. The risk is too high but every once in awhile we find places that are very specific for those with food allergies. In fact, we went to NYC for the purpose of letting him try allergy friendly doughnuts at Eric McKenna’s Bakery. Worth it. Then, this summer, we went to LuLu’s Destin.
If you have food allergies, this is THE place to be especially if you cannot normally eat at restaurants. We had called ahead to be sure his allergies were able to be avoided, they do prepare the food in a separate kitchen and for the very first time in his life, at age 14, he was able to eat at a restaurant. I cried. My mom cried. The waitress cried. It was a big deal.
Ok, so those are my five must-have travel tips if you have food allergies. While it’s not easy, it is doable and in fact, it’s not that bad once you get a routine down.
We live with this so, I have a TON more to say on this topic if you’d like to hear it, how about a facebook live video this week? What other information would you like to know about living with food allergies?
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Sarah Ann is an author, speaker and media personality committed to honesty, vulnerability and authenticity. She has a passion for empowering people who are willing to be honest and walk out life in Christ together. Sarah holds a Bachelors in Biblical Studies and a Masters in Theology and Apologetics, she also owns a clothing company, Ascent516.com and is the creator of SarahAnnSpeaks.com and the Sarah Ann Speaks Podcast. Sarah is featured daily on GEB TV.