We are headed to the West Coast for a wedding in a few weeks. Jet lag, invasive TSA body searches, cramped seats -- whoo hoo. Sigh. I'm already thinking about all of the crap we need to keep Kiddo entertained on the plane. I'm stocking up on iPhone apps for her, getting a bunch of movies and shows downloaded on the laptop, gathering Play-Doh, stickers, paper. Like I said, lots of crap. But I also have to think about all of the stuff for her to eat and things to pack to keep her safe -- she's allergic to nuts, so travelling takes on a whole different scenario than just preventing the bored grumpies.
The main thing -- be prepared. I'm no Boy Scout, but that's the key to vacationing with an allergic kid.
1. Book your tickets for the first flight of the day. Planes are usually cleaned only once a day, often at the end of the day -- considering how many people get on and off, I get the "ick shiver." By flying in the morning or on the first flights of the day, you can almost bank on having a decently clean plane, thereby avoiding crumbs and leftover food from other passengers that have flown before you.
2. Contact your airline. Certain airlines don't serve peanuts anymore as a snack, but that doesn't mean they don't serve things with tree nuts or items processed with nuts. And you don't know what the passengers may bring on board. Many airlines will create a buffer zone around your kid (three aisles in front and behind). Other airlines don't do that, but offer to make an announcement for you about your child's allergy. Giving them the head's up beforehand; finding out their policies is good for everyone.
3. Pack lots of medicine. We travel with her epi-pen and small pre-measured doses of Benadryl in our carry-on. You never know what they may ask (or not) during the security check, so I bring the box her epi-pen came in that has the prescription info on it, as well as the prescription info from her doctor. I also pack at least two extra epi-pens and allergy medicine in her suitcase.
4. Pack lots of wipes. I mean lots. I always have wipes because of my crazy germaphobia, but I pack tons when we travel. When we board, before Kiddo sits down, I wipe down everything on the seat -- the armrests, the walls, the window, the tray table, the seat belt, everything. They also sell seat covers you can bring, and those that they make for eating out in highchairs are good to cover seats. It's just a little bit of precaution that goes a long way.
5. Pack lots of snacks. Little snacks that you know are safe for your child. You really can't have enough as you never know when you'll be stuck on the tarmac and there's nothing worse than a hungry, tired kid when you are travelling. I often pack some special treats -- maybe cookies or lollipops or snacks she hasn't had in a while. The excitement factor of having something usually reserved for special times goes a long way.
6. Have ready-made lists. If you're going overseas, I have heard of moms making special cards with key phrases and info already translated into the language of the country you're visiting. Such a great idea. The last thing you need, if your child is having a severe allergic reaction, is a communication breakdown. Phrases like "Severely allergic to nuts," "My child is having an allergic reaction," or "Need doctor. Emergency!" are key. Also, having a list of foods or items your kid is allergic to already written down in the foreign language is really handy when you're eating out abroad.
7. Know where the doctors are. No matter where you're headed, it's good to know, write down, and tuck away into your wallet info about the nearest hospital. Check with hotels and ask if they have a doctor on call and what their assistance is like. Just in case. If you are traveling to a new city, a great place to find out info like this: one of the many allergy online support groups.
8. Pack even more food. In my suitcase, I pack enough "safe food," especially for breakfasts and snacks, and keep them in my purse as we are vacationing. That way, if room service doesn't have safe offerings or if the vending machine is all full of nut stuff, we have back-up food. Even if we are headed to family events -- like this wedding -- having items I know Kiddo can eat prevents being caught in a "she can't eat anything" situation.
9. Talk to whom you are visiting. No matter if friends and family already know, reminding them (and the other kiddos in the house) is no biggie. Maybe even plan for a supermarket run right when you get there to stock up on safe foods. Same goes if you're to a wedding, like we are. Even though you think you're "bothering" the bride with an email about what the food situation will be, what the menu is, and so on, you aren't. Trust me. The last thing a bride wants on her wedding day is for a guest, especially the flower girl, to have an allergic reaction and be rushed to the hospital. An email or a phone call makes sure the big day goes well for everyone.
10. Talk with your kiddo. I always tell Kiddo what is coming up, what to expect, especially if we are going to be in places people are offering us food. At the airport, I give her a head's up that we are going to eat only the stuff we brought with us on the plane. Since we are going to a wedding, with lots of eating out, food that isn't in our control, I'm already reminding her to always ask or come and get me before she eats anything -- even the brownie that Aunt Susie is offering her.
What's your best secret for traveling with an allergic kid?
Image via smemon87/Flickr