Are you visiting loved ones for the holidays? When you have a child with food allergies, take extra time to plan ahead. Follow our eight travel tips to help avoid reactions so you don’t miss out on any holiday fun.
1. Talk to your hosts before you arrive
If your relatives or friends aren’t familiar with food allergies, talk to them ahead of time to let them know what you need to keep your child safe. Let them know what to expect when it comes to preparing safe food or eating out. Ask your hosts if you can have a place to store safe food you bring or buy. For example, see if they will give you a shelf in the refrigerator just for your food. Label your food clearly to prevent mix-ups.
2. Find out what’s on the menu
Are there any holiday customs involving food? Do you need to bring safe substitutes for your child? Besides packing meals and snacks for the journey, think about any special items you may need – desserts or safe menu versions of a family favorite, for example.
3. Research allergy-friendly restaurants
If you have to eat out while traveling, look up restaurants on the AllergyEats database. You’ll find reviews for many restaurants across the U.S. The website allows you to search by location, restaurant name and by the top 8 allergens, gluten and sesame. You can see ratings and read reviews to help you decide if they are a good match.
If you are traveling near Ellicott City, Maryland, you might want to check out One Dish Cuisine. It was recently voted AllergyEats’ Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurant in America for accommodating food allergies. It is completely free from 7 of the top 8 allergens. The owner, Maureen Burke, wanted a place where she could serve those with food allergies and dietary restrictions. She has special systems in place to avoid cross contamination. She also only hires staff who fully understand food allergies. In fact, Burke and many of the staff have food allergies themselves.
4. Buy food in small packages
Refrigerator space in hotels or at your relative’s house might be limited. Individually packaged foods are easier to store. Also, you’ll waste less food by only using what you need when you need it. Large, opened packages of snacks can go bad or stale quicker than individual packages.
5. Pack healthy
Even though traveling can change your routines, you can still eat healthy while on the road. Pack small, whole fruits and individual lunch containers for each family member.
6. Understand flight rules for packing food and liquids
If you are flying, stay up-to-date on Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules for bringing food and liquids aboard the plane. This is the list of prohibited food items that the TSA classifies as a liquid. Liquids in excess of 3.4 ounces cannot be brought aboard the plane. However, infants and children who need their own food and liquid in the airport and on the plane due to food allergies are exempt from this requirement. Always inform the TSA officer ahead of time and keep your child's food and medicine out and ready for inspection as you move through security.
7. Shop when you get there
Chances are, your friends and relatives live near a grocery store. Plan time into your trip to visit the store when you get there to buy fresh and perishable foods. If your child eats specialty allergen-free foods, you might want to bring those with you. These items might not be available at regular grocery stores. Or, ship or mail food ahead of time.
8. Bring extra medicine
Pack extra medicine, such as epinephrine auto-injectors, asthma medicines, and other items your family uses. Extra sets of medicine are helpful to have on hand for days filled with sight-seeing and for when your family splits up into different groups. You want to make sure everyone has what they need when they are on-the-go. Don’t forget copies of emergency action plans, too.
With good communication and planning, your family can have a safe and enjoyable holiday when you are traveling away from home with food allergies.
Read more of our travel and holiday resources:
- Flying with Food Allergies: Legal and Medical Concerns
- Food Allergy Confidence During the Holidays
- Traveling with Asthma and Allergies