We just got back from a trip across the country. Two boys, one dog, one mom and one dad.
When we started on this food allergy journey, I would have been totally freaked out about having to travel with such restrictions. Seven years later, it's old hat.
A few tips and tricks I've learned along the way made it a lot easier for us to have a great trip, and maybe they'll help you, too.
1) Plan, plan and plan (and make lists)! When you know that you can't just stop at the rest stop and pick up a quick bite, you have to think about what you'll need before hand and get it all ready. Write it down! Shop, cook, and use your freezer to spread out the work.
2) Bring a variety of snacks -- sweet and savory-- and drinks so that you don't have to munch on the same old trail mix for hour after hour.
3) Take advantage of help when it's available.
How do these tips translate into a real-life vacation?
The first part is obvious. Write down what foods, drinks and medications you need to make your travel enjoyable and safe. Then, write down shopping lists divided by store, so that you get all the ingredients you need in one shopping trip. Make sure you have all the medications you are going to need. For us, that's not just EpiPens and Benadryl, but allergy medicines and inhalers and Sea Bands--nifty accupressure wrist bands to prevent car sickness.
We also pack our own soap and shampoo, even when we're going to a hotel or family member's house that will have them. When you have a nut or milk allergy, fancy soaps can be dangerous!
The second part is fun. Part of the joy of traveling by car is eating stuff you wouldn't normally get to enjoy with such abandon! For this trip, I baked zucchini muffins and blueberry muffins. I baked them in papers so they'd travel better, then wrapped them in sets of four in aluminum foil and popped those in freezer-safe bags. I froze the muffins as I made them, so that I wouldn't have to be overwhelmed with work at the last minute.
I also baked up a double batch of granola. I made little sandwiches with Sunbutter and jelly and others with hummus. I bought some chips and dry cereal and juice boxes. We had non-dairy milk boxes and coconut waters for the grown-ups. We had grapes and apples. We also got squeezable pouches of apple sauce and apple/banana sauce and fruit leathers.
Each boy got a snack pack, which was his own bag filled with little bags of the snacky-type foods. That way, they got to have a little control over what they ate and when. I gave out the muffins in the morning and the sandwiches at lunch time.
The third part is crucial. We look for help from hotels that we stay at. Whenever possible, we choose hotels that have a refrigerator and a microwave when we're going to be there for more than one day. This does not have to be a big, extravagant hotel. Last summer we stayed at a Holiday Inn Express with a kitchenette that worked out great. On this trip, we stayed one night at the beginning of our trip and one night at the end at a little motel near my mother-in-law's and it had fridge. I could unpack my cooler and the ice pack and re-chill everything while we slept.
We ate dinner at my mother-in-law's house. She was not comfortable buying all the food we would need for dinner, as she doesn't have the experience we have in reading labels. So, we brought pasta and sauce and cookies with us, and she provided salad and fruit--foods she could feel confident providing.
Before we left, I emailed my sister-in-law with a short shopping list. I listed brand names of the basic foods I would need to get my family started when we arrived in Virginia. This was a life saver. After traveling for two days, I didn't have to jump in the car again to go grocery shopping. My boys had Beanadillas (refried beans, Daiya and tortillas) for dinner with fruit and more of the cookies I had baked in Chicago. Later, we were able to go shopping together, so that we could make meals that would work for everyone.
That just left the return trip. Again, my sister-in-law took me shopping and hung out with me while I baked more muffins (zucchini and apple pie) and made more sandwiches. I also made a Mexican Lasagna for us to take with us to my mother-in-law's on the way back.
We really had a wonderful vacation, and I can tell you that I didn't worry about food at all. I have followed these tips for short trips to hotels, car trips, plane travel, and camping.
All it takes is being prepared and asking for help. (Shameless plug--a copy of Welcoming Kitchen also came in handy!)
Please share any tips you find helpful in the comments.
Kim and Megan