• Gayle Rigione, Allergy Force

'Best Of' Tips For Holiday Travel With Food Allergies


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Thanksgiving is right around the corner with December holidays to follow rapid fire. The chance to gather with family and friends to celebrate — in person — has taken on new meaning after the pandemic-dented months we've lived {endured?} since 2020.


A survey from thevacationer.com found that almost 63% of respondents had some plans to travel for the holidays this year. AAA forecasts that over 53 MM people will travel this Thanksgiving holiday.


During the holidays you may find yourself away from home base for a few days. When you're away, it can be harder to avoid your allergens because you may depend on others to buy, prepare and serve you food. Staying safe will require some research, some planning, lots of communicating, and at times, some creative problem solving.


Sharing some 'best of' tips that can help you stay safe during your holiday travels.


When you travel by car...


1. Single vs. Multiple Destinations. A single destination will be easier to navigate with food allergies than a trip with multiple stopping points along the way. Take this into account in your planning.


2. Staying With Family vs. Hotel/Rental. It may be easier, though more expensive, to stay in a hotel (with a kitchenette, microwave, fridge) or a vacation rental at your destination than to stay in a friend or family member's home where they are unfamiliar with food allergy risks and requirements. You need to consider different factors as you make your lodging decision, weighing your allergies (the severity, the types of allergens, the number of allergies), your family & friends' food allergy IQ, and your budget. Find some helpful guidance on things to discuss with your host before you go — here — so you can make the best possible lodging decision for your family.


3. Essential Items To Pack. The most important things you need to pack are your allergy & asthma emergency medications {unexpired}, action plan, a good supply of wipes for hands and surfaces, and a flexible mindset.


4. More Things To Pack. When you drive, packing 'light' is less of a consideration. So, think about bringing a cooler and an extra suitcase stocked with your favorite allergy-friendly foods and mixes {pancakes anyone?}. If you have the trunk space, consider bringing a minimalist kitchen box — with a pot, pan, baking sheet, small crockpot, cooking utensils. While not the most green, throw in some disposable eating utensils and paper plates while you're at it.


5. Zero-in On Grocery Stores. Grocery stores are great sources of packaged, labeled food when you're on-the-go. A little research can help you find grocery stores along your travel route and at your destination. Try to only buy foods you've eaten safely before. It is NOT the time to experiment with new foods when you're on the road.


6. Be Hospital/ER Informed. Research the location of hospitals with ER's along your planned route and at your destination.


7. Sanitize Your Environment. If you opt to stay at a hotel or in a vacation rental, beyond alerting the staff about your food allergies before you arrive, be sure you sanitize surfaces and wash all the cookware and dishes provided as soon as you check-in.


8. Be Encouraged & Inspired. Do not miss these two excellent articles by intrepid food allergy moms — Hillary Tolle Carter for FARE and Dr. Sarah Boudreau-Romano for Allergic Living. Their kids' complicated allergy profiles have not deterred them from taking road trips far and wide to discover the world. You've got this!


When you travel by plane...


1. Tap Into Helpful Resources—You're Not Re-inventing The Wheel. FAACT, FARE and Allergy Force offer travel resources at their websites, from important tips to planning checklists.


2. Booking Considerations. There are important food-allergy specific things to consider as you book flights and lodging.

  • Try to book direct, early morning (1st out of the gate) flights.

  • Don't forget to alert the airline to your food allergies when you book and make your accommodation requests (e.g., pre-boarding, on-plane announcement).

  • Make sure the booking agent notes the details in your flight reservation.

  • When you book your lodging, be sure to alert staff to your food allergy situation. Ask that your room(s) be carefully sanitized for your arrival.

3. Pack Smart. Pack Light Packing light is the challenge of the day. You probably won't have the luxury of bringing a cooler and a kitchen box, though packing a carryon with allergy-friendly food to see you through your travel day into destination arrival is important. Make sure the food you plan to carry on complies with TSA regulations for food.


4. Stay Mindful As You Travel. When your travel day arrives, it's important to stay mindful, stay watchful. This is not the time to be distracted.

  • Remember to take your medications, action plan, and wipes for sanitizing hands and surfaces. Don't forget your calm and positivity.

  • Be sure to review your food allergies with the gate agent and request pre-boarding and an on--plane announcement about your allergens. These requests should already be documented in your reservation.

  • Only eat foods you have brought from home. Do not buy food at the airport or eat any meals provided on your flight.

  • Minimize the number of surfaces you touch in the airport and on the plane. Wash and sanitize your hands with wipes as often as possible. Just using hand sanitizer does not completely remove allergen proteins.

  • Pre-board to sanitize your seating area. Consider purchasing a seat cover before you go.

  • Make the cabin crew your collaborators, your allies. Make sure the cabin crew knows where you've stored your medication and action plan for the flight. Keep them within easy reach.

  • If you feel like a reaction is starting, promptly tell the cabin crew so they can help. Never second guess the need to use your autoinjector. Epi first. Epi fast.

The Allergy Force Flight Strategies Guide provides a checklist that helps you stay focused to stay safe on your travel day.



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"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."

—Ernest Hemingway




Wherever you go, go with all your heart. The Allergy Force Team wishes you and yours a beautiful (and safe!) holiday season. May you know joy and be surrounded by people you love.


headshot-gayle-rigione-allergy-force-ceo

About the Author: Gayle Rigione is CEO and Co-founder of Allergy Force, the food allergy app. She’s also an allergy mom. She’s lived the heart stopping moments when her son ate the wrong thing, second guessed reactions and spent the night in the ER. These experiences inspire her to create tools for people with food allergies that make life safer, easier. Whatever you do, do it with a full heart. Audentes Fortuna Iuvat


Image Credit: Thank you Allergy Force and Nubia Navarro on Pexels for use of the images



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