My two-year-old son has a peanut allergy. At first, his diagnosis was terrifying for me. Navigating the world of allergies is confusing and there are often more questions than answers available. But, like anything in life, his diagnosis slowly started to feel normal; we found our rhythm and some peace with the situation.
One challenge I still face is stepping out of my comfort zone and learning to trust others when it comes to preparing his food.
Traveling with food allergies can be overwhelming when caring for a small child. We took our first international trip this past year and while I had my trepidations, it was a great vacation. I put a lot of work into the preplanning and packing, which paid off in spades.
Flying With Food Allergies
Do your research when it comes to choosing an airline that works for your child’s specific allergy. Each airline has a slightly different policy when it comes to how they handle allergies.
In regards to peanuts, most airlines no longer serve them on board. Some airlines will announce a passenger on board has a life threatening allergy. They will request other passengers refrain from eating peanut products.
NOTE: We flew United and they do not make any such requests as a general policy.
Flight Attendants and Food Allergies
Every article I read suggested informing the airline of the allergy ahead of time, whether it be during the online booking process or making a call to the airline. I also informed the flight attendants and asked to pre-board in order to clean my son’s seat.
I purchased one of these disposable seat covers to minimize any food pieces left in the seat crevice. Keep in my mind my son is only two and sees no issue with picking random things off the floor, so I wanted to be extra cautious.
Before we left for the trip, I was really nervous about the flight. Flying with toddlers is hard enough, never mind one with a food allergy. But once I was on board and knew his seat was clean, I felt completely fine.
Flying with an EpiPen
We purposely sat him by the window, while my daughter and I occupied the other two seats. I brought a ton of snacks on board and was sure to have his EpiPen handy in case of an emergency.
In my research, I also read suggestions for bringing a doctor’s note or script for the EpiPen in case it was flagged at the airport. Thankfully, we had no issues whatsoever, but we did have the information on hand just in case.
How To Eat Internationally With Food Allergies
How to travel internationally with food allergies is a topic that has an unlimited amount of “right” answers depending on your specific allergy and how you approach eating out.
I felt comfortable traveling to Turks and Caicos in large part because we share a common language. I also conducted a good amount of research into the main grocery store on the island and made sure I could purchase some of the foods we eat at home.
Also, I packed a ton of food. I split the food between my carryon bags and checked luggage.
Eating Out with Food Allergies
I have two young children, so we didn’t eat out a ton for a variety of reasons. But I would recommend being super clear with the restaurant server and management if necessary about your allergy.
If you are traveling to a country where you do not speak the language, pre-print allergen cards in the local language. This will be a huge help when you need to effectively communicate with the staff.
If you are concerned about potential confusion, try booking an American hotel where communicating might be a bit easier. In my experience, reaching out ahead of time to management will help ease fears and iron out any potential issues.
We stayed at a rental house during our trip, which limited the need to dine out. Cooking the majority of his meals on vacation wasn’t exactly relaxing, but it gave me the peace of mind I needed.
Traveling With Food Allergies Doesn’t Have To Be Scary
I know planning an international trip (or any trip for that matter) with a food allergy sufferer can feel overwhelming. My husband and I mulled over our trip for days before we finally booked it.
I was scared of the unknown. The fear of landing on an island where I wasn’t familiar with the food (ingredients, labels, etc.) made me really nervous. But once I started looking at the flights, researching the grocery store, and packing our stuff, I started to settle down.
Traveling with a food allergy definitely has its challenges. This trip certainly took me far out of my comfort zone. As long as you feel confident that you can create a safe environment for your child, whether that be across the globe or at a neighbors house, you should go for it.
Little boy airport, holding peanuts, no nuts and food photos via ShutterStock.com