“Wow, your kid has such severe food allergies, that must be SO hard.”
“How can you possibly travel with a kid with those allergies?”
“Wait you’re taking him out of the country to a country where you don’t speak the language and he has food allergies?”
Yep. We are!
As a matter of fact, we take him everywhere.
Nope it’s not hard.
Yes, we travel to lots of countries where we don’t speak the language.
We have never let John Paul’s food allergies limit us. While it’s not hard, it does require a little bit of extra planning. Below are some tips for how we travel with our kiddo who has severe food allergies:
- Take an epi-pen everywhere. Put one in your purse, one in his backpack, one in your carry on, one in your checked luggage.
- Take Benadryl (in a travel-sized bottle).
- Tell the flight attendants. They’re more than happy to help! If your kiddo cannot be on a plane that serves nuts tell the airline ahead of time, then tell the gate agent, then tell the flight attendant.
- Bring snacks! As a fellow JGOOTer David once told me at a local JGOOT gathering; “when traveling with kids never travel with less than 5,000 calories.” According to him we could be stranded in the Amazon and survive a week based on our snacks alone. Bring snacks that your kids love. I don’t do a lot of sugar in my house, but I always pack some kind of special treat for the plane. I pack things that my kids might not get at home. I always pack a sandwich and a protein bar. I also pack something chewy to help with their ears as the elevation changes in the plane.
- Order groceries in advance and deliver them to your hotel room using Amazon Prime Shopping.
- Not only does this allow you to control the food you’re bringing in, it also helps save a ton of money. We always request a mini-fridge in our room. We have small staples delivered for breakfast and picnic stuff for lunch.
- Know the menus of every fast food restaurant. They’re posted online. Look them up before you go. Know what things your kiddo can and cannot have at McDonald’s Chick Fil A, Taco Bell etc. Knowing these things means I can always have a fall back if we’re delayed in an airport or running short on time.
- Use an app. There are lots! If your kiddo (or you) have Celiacs there’s an app that can tell you all the local restaurants that have Celiac friendly menus. It gives it a rating from 1-10, so if you’re kiddo has severe celiacs you would want to pick a level 10 that has zero gluten crossover. There are similar apps for nut allergies.
- Know your go-tos. I know that Chiptole will always have options for John Paul. I know that Applebees does not.
- Ask, then ask, then ask again. Can I see the ingredient list (U.S. law requires all restaurants to have an ingredient list available to the public)? Just to be clear are you sure there are no nuts in this? That it has never come into contact with nuts? Can you double-check on that for me?
- Print a card ahead of time. When traveling to a foreign country print out a card ahead of time. We made one that was business card sized and made several dozen. John Paul always has one in his pocket. In Germany we could hand the card to the server that says (printed in German): “My son is allergic to milk and eggs. Does this item contain any milk or eggs? Can you suggest something that does not have milk or eggs?” In the Dominican Republic we could use the same card printed in Spanish. This was our standby when our phones weren’t with us or we didn’t have wifi. John Paul always had one in his pocket.
- Use Google Translate! Use it both ways. Have the baker, or the server, or the restaurant owner speak directly into the google translate app (Using speak to text) and press translate. Use it yourself to ask questions in the local language. If the server seems unsure double-check. If the baker can’t remember ask again. If there’s nothing on the menu dive into that bag of snacks that you always have with you.
This article was contributed by Brooke Merkle.
Brooke is a mother, wife, teacher, JGOOT subscriber, and after her 10th JGOOT trip – our director of customer support. She used to travel to visit family, and, if it fit-in, take a vacation every two or three years. Now, she and her family travel 8 to 12 times a year, and she is a regular contributor to the JGOOT blog.
Comment below & let her know what other travel advice you’d like to hear from her.