• Gayle Rigione, Allergy Force

Stay Safe Tips for Summer Travel with Food Allergies

Summer's here. The school year has come to a close for most. Time away for a change of space and pace is on many people's minds.


A recent survey from thevacationer.com found that this summer 2022, almost 80% of US adults (~208 million) have plans to travel, and of those, 55% will travel more than once. Rising prices, travel delays, and strains on hospitality providers from staffing shortages and supply chain pressures — COVID reminders that we're not yet on post-pandemic terra firma — don't seem to be deterring travelers who itch to go see and do after two years staying close to home. 


Beyond the research and planning you'll need to do to cobble together time away, if you'll be on the road with food allergies you will need to take extra care re: safety as you prepare for time away from the same old-same-old.


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Find some best practice tips here to refresh your food allergy travel skills for your summer vacation.


When you travel by car...


1. Single vs. Multiple Destinations.


Do you really need to visit a dozen national parks across three states with a detour to your cousin's place in Las Vegas? A single destination will be easier to navigate with food allergies than a trip with multiple stopping points along the way. Factor this into 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 an Airbnb at your destination than to stay with friends or family who may be unfamiliar with food allergies and the risks and requirements. You need to weigh your allergies (the severity, the types, the number of them), your family & friends' food allergy IQ & EQ, and your budget as you make lodging decisions..


3. Essentials To Pack.


The most important things you need to pack are your allergy & asthma emergency medications {unexpired & extra}, action plan, a good supply of wipes for hands and surfaces, safe snacks, and a flexible mindset. (Don't forget the sunscreen, either!)


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. If you have the trunk space, consider bringing a minimalist kitchen box — with a pot, pan, baking sheet, muffin pan, small crockpot, sponges and cooking utensils. Add some disposable eating utensils and paper plates while you're at it.


5. Zero-in On Grocery Stores Before You Go.


Grocery stores are great sources of packaged, labeled food when you're on-the-go. Some 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. When you're on the road is NOT the time to experiment with new foods.


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 an Airbnb, alert the staff about your food allergies before you arrive. Be sure to sanitize surfaces and wash all the cookware and dishes provided after you check-in. Be wary of kitchen sponges and brushes.



When you travel by plane...


1. Tap Into Helpful Resources—You're Not Re-inventing The Wheel.


FAACT, FARE, Allergy Force, and Equal Eats 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. (The equipment will have been cleaned overnight.)

  • Be sure to alert the airline to your food allergies when you book and make your accommodation requests (e.g., pre-boarding, on-plane announcement, buffer zone).

  • 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. Be a Packing Minimalist.


Packing light is the challenge of the day. You will want to go short on 'things' and long on 'safe food' and extra epinephrine. 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. Depending on your destination and lodging plans, a checked bag filled with safe food is also a possibility.


4. Stay Mindful As You Travel.


When your travel day arrives, it's important to stay mindful, present and watchful.

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

  • Review your food allergies with the gate agent and request pre-boarding and an on--plane announcement (if it's an accommodation you asked for when you booked.) about your allergens. These requests should already be documented in your reservation.

  • 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.

  • Choose your seats in the airport waiting area carefully and sanitize them with wipes before you sit.

  • Try to only eat foods you have brought from home. Avoid buying food at the airport. Airport stores and food vendors are chock full of allergens. They have limited display/shelf space and cross contact risk is high. Do not eat the food served on your plane, either. Even if your airline has offered you an allergen-friendly meal option, cross contact risk is high given the many transitions the food has gone through (from kitchen to airplane) and the tight spaces crews work in to prepare and serve meals in-flight.

  • 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 a seat mate, tell the cabin crew, tell someone 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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“So much of who we are is where we have been.”

—William Langewiesche





The Allergy Force Team wishes you and yours safe summer travels. #makememories


 
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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



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Images: Thank you MBRimaging and Ole Witt on Unsplash