Traveling by car with small children has its own challenges. When you have a family member with food allergies, the challenges are different. Here are seven tips to get you started in planning your next road trip.
1. Plan your meals before you leave home
Decide what foods to prepare beforehand so you can have heat-and-serve or ready-to-eat snacks or meals on the road. Decide what you can buy at your destination or along the way. Research what is available at your vacation spot to minimize packing and leave room in your car.
2. Keep cold foods cold
Bring a cooler or a portable refrigerator that plugs into car and hotel outlets to keep fresh food cold while you travel.
3. Look for rooms with microwaves and refrigerators
Rooms with microwaves are useful if you plan to reheat foods or cook in the hotel room. Telling hotel management you need a fridge for medical reasons puts you at the top of the list for availability. Bring a letter of medical necessity from a doctor, as most hotels will waive any refrigerator rental fees.
4. Think small
When you purchase food, try to get as many individually packaged foods as possible. For instance, use your limited refrigerator space to store juice boxes instead of a big bottle of juice.
5. Shop locally
Remember that grocery stores are almost everywhere. Bring less perishable food than you think you need. Many foods, like fresh fruit, are available at any standard grocery store. Bring more non-perishable food than you think you need. Specialty items, such as wheat-free cookies or your favorite allergen-free brands, may not available at a regular grocery store. Bring those allergen-free foods that you know are safe and that your child is familiar with eating.
6. Ship ahead
For foods you know you will need at your destination, consider ordering online or locally. Have the items shipped to your hotel.
7. Bring your medicines and your emergency plans
Be sure to check expiration dates on epinephrine auto-injectors. Plan to bring, if possible, 2 two-packs of auto-injectors. This is a good time to practice with an auto-injector trainer and review with your family an emergency plan away from home. Consider bringing extra medication in case of an emergency. Inhaled medications frequently run out unexpectedly. A duplicate can be a lifesaver.
When traveling, make sure your child's medications are in their original containers with the prescription labels on the package.
Car travel with food allergies requires you to do advance planning. Once you make your vacation plans, families living with food allergies can have lots of fun and stay safe on the road!