Snacks on a Plane: Travelling with food allergies

When Bax was diagnosed with food allergies and prescribed an EpiPen, we decided we wouldn’t let it stop us from traveling. It was a lot to take in: anaphylactic to wheat, eggs, peanuts, nuts, sesame… how could we eat on the road and avoid allergens and cross-contamination? How would we avoid reactions while flying?

It’s been over three years and we’ve traveled to four countries, three provinces and five states, by train, car and plane. Here is what I’ve learned so far.

Travel Tip #1: Be lucky.

I put this right up front because it’s important to remember that no matter how many precautions a family takes, reactions can still happen.

When we avoid reactions, we feel proud… but the flip side of that is when something goes wrong, we are more likely to blame ourselves. But no one can know and control everything, all the time. Random, unexpected and freak things happen with food allergies. Reaction can happen anytime and anywhere. That’s why it is so important to carry EpiPens – and makes sure they are recent and in good working condition.

Travel Tip #2: Be prepared.

Auto-injectors, puffers, eczema cream and soaps, driving directions to the nearest hospital if the vacation is to a remote spot… depending on your family’s situation, you may be packing all these things. You may be researching restaurants, too. If you are dealing with multiple food allergies, you may be ordering a room with a kitchenette.

We do most of our own cooking. For me, being able to cook meals and all eating the same things together – no hassles – that is a relaxing vacation.

Tip #3: Fly Safe.

A life-threatening reaction at sea level is one thing: the possibility of this type of reaction at 10,000 feet is a whole other stratosphere. To this end, I support NoNut Traveler’s campaign to get peanuts off of planes because it will help people with peanut allergies. However, Baxy’s other allergens (wheat, eggs, sesame) will never be removed from planes, so the NoNut issue is a bit abstract to us.

We prepare for flying by eating a big meal at home and just getting juice and coffee when the flight attendant comes around. We carry extra EpiPens and notify the flight attendants, too. A great list of airlines and their policies can be found here

Tip #4: Don’t Be a Foodie: Do Stuff Instead

One of the things I love about making our own food when we travel is that it gives us so much extra time to DO STUFF. Never once have we frittered away half a day at Movenpick hearing about some distant relative’s home renovation project when we wanted to go explore a city. You want to meet up with us on vacation? You are going to meet up with us somewhere other than a restaurant!

Most recently on a trip to Ottawa, in lieu of an endless brunch, we got up early and met to watch the flag raising at Parliament, then walked the Rideau Canal. We stopped back at the hotel for lunch, then went to the National Gallery. Later, we settled in on the grass with our homemade snacks and watched the fireworks over the Ottawa River. Maybe I didn’t pack enough food for the whole evening: in fact, I’m sure I could have brought more, and maybe more variety, too. Oh well. It’s the fireworks you remember, not the snacks.

Re-published with permission from Anne King’s blog, May Contain