This month’s article: Vacation Planning
Happy New Year! It’s January, and around here, that means it’s time to start thinking about a summer vacation. Don’t laugh… I’m totally serious 🙂
When you have food allergies, especially when children are involved, you must be prepared with all of your options in advance. So, this month, let’s talk vacation!
First, pick a destination. If you have several food allergies, yet aren’t an extreme case, Disney should be at the top of your list, and no, they didn’t pay me to say that. Disney has been building its reputation among those with allergies, and they’re becoming a safe haven. They have very high standards in their kitchens, and will give you exceptional personal service. The catch is simple: you have to communicate your needs in advance. When booking your trip, do so over the phone. Tell the rep all about your allergies so everything is completely notated. They can make restaurant reservations in advance for you, and make sure that your stay is flawless. They also love to play it safe rather than sorry. When we took the kids last year, one item for our allergy kid was delayed. The waiter apologized and said there *may* have been a chance of cross contamination, so we decided to start that item fresh. sorry for the delay. Sorry?! No, thankful! They get it, and they were happy to keep our kid safe.
Don’t want to go to Disney? Think about the coast lines. There are many places along the West Coast that are excellent at handling food allergies. Oregon, Washington, San Francisco, and the LA area are all saturated with diverse diet types. On the East Coast, stick to the upper end of the coast, and Florida. The areas in between simply may not be able to handle your needs. Austin, Texas, is also a hot spot for alternative diets, and they may be able to help too.
So why are we talking about this in January? Simple, to give you ample time to plan an amazing vacation. If you’re a single allergy, especially gluten free, you should have an easy time, no matter where you go. However, like the rest of us, you must communicate before, and when you arrive. If at any time the staff have no idea what you’re talking about (or sound iffy), find another place to eat. It’s not worth the risk.
For those of us with severe allergies, sometimes it’s best to communicate in writing. You may be able to talk to the manager who can copy in the chef, so you can all ensure that you’re going to be OK.
Now for the down side: people in my boat. If you have severe allergies, and can’t even tolerate the slightest cross contamination from pans, how will you eat safely on a vacation? Raw food and juices are an option, unless you have a severe nut allergy. The other option is to rent a home and cook you own food in your own pans. Then there’s option three, which is our favorite – cook everything in advance. If you’re flying, you can consider mailing the food package overnight so it arrives the following day, or on the day you arrive.
What about a cruise? Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it, especially if traveling with children, unless it’s a Disney cruise. Did you know you aren’t allowed to bring your own food on a cruise ship? I had no idea either until the kids’ grandmother thought it would be a fun idea. Me, being the planner that I am, investigated and asked about backup food, just in case. I was informed that it was against the rules, so for us, it wasn’t an option. If you don’t have severe allergies, or have a “simple” allergy, a cruise may still be on the table for you. Again, communication is key. Make sure you also know what the refund and cancellation policies are.
If you’re looking for a more grown up get away, there are all sorts of little places here and there that may be able to accommodate you. I once found a hotel near Napa that was designed for people with chemical and environmental sensitivities. They whole place was designed to meet our needs, and they had an amazing, allergy friendly, restaurant in the hotel. Places like these however are few and far between, so you’ll have to dig deep.
If you’re brave, an RV trip is WONDERFUL for people with food allergies. Camping is great too. In both situations, you bring your own cooking gear, and your own food. What’s safer than that?
Again, why are we talking about this in January? Well friends, we have to book in advance, make sure that locations will be safe and able to accommodate, and plan, plan, plan. If you do intend to travel, keep a journal with names, phone numbers, emails, and conversation notes. Once you have your trip all squared away, make sure that you have non-perishable foods to bring with you as a back up in case you need them.
Finally, if your vacation goes well, and I can’t stress this enough, TELL PEOPLE. Those of us with allergies have to stick together. If you’re able to enjoy yourself, that means others may be able to do the same. By passing along the information, you can help someone else find joy in a vacation.
Happy planning! I can’t wait to hear all about your travels.