Does the thought of leaving home for a week throw you into a spin? It can be hard enough to relax on vacation without adding food allergies into the mix. But three moms and members of the Food Allergy Alliance of the MidSouth speak from experience on how to manage allergies during summer travel.
Make your own meals
Jill Connell, mom of two kids with food allergies, feels safest preparing meals while on vacation. She packs a few small appliances and looks for hotels that provide refrigerators and microwaves in the rooms. Connell plans meals for the week, shopping for groceries beforehand. Her menus usually include sandwiches for lunch and themed dinner nights, such as quesadillas she prepares using a quesadilla maker. Her go-to sides include individually packaged fruit and veggie cups.
Take-away: Plan meals ahead of time. When packing the car, keep the cooler handy for easy access to snacks and meals.
Dine out with caution
Julie Crenshaw, mom of a food allergic tween, feels comfortable dining out at select restaurants while on vacation. She calls trusted establishments before leaving home and asks if favorite menu items have changed ingredients. Once at the restaurant, she speaks with the chef to ensure her son’s favorite dishes are prepared and handled properly to avoid cross-contamination with his allergens. Her family had an instance last year where the information she was given on the phone did not match what she received once at the restaurant and they had to eat elsewhere.
Take-away: Call restaurants ahead of time, ask questions about food preparation, and remain flexible in case plans must change.
Look for resorts that are knowledgeable
Meredith Schuessler’s family thinks Disney World truly is the happiest place on earth for food allergy families. She shared the lengths Disney goes to provide safe accommodations for their allergic guests. The chefs in Disney-owned restaurants complete food allergy training and many kitchens have separate food prep and cooking spaces. By substituting different ingredients, most Disney restaurants can accommodate these food allergies: Gluten or wheat, lactose or milk, peanuts and tree nuts, shellfish, soy, fish, eggs, and corn.
John Schuessler (9) and Chef Willere from Disney's Whispering Canyon Café. The chef made John his first ever milkshake.
Schuessler says her son was even able to order an ice cream sundae for the first time and the chef topped it off with the works: sprinkles, whipped cream, even cotton candy. “I’ve never seen a smile on his face as big as he has in Disney photos,” she says. “It was really wonderful.”
Take-away: When at Disney, dine before or after the major meal times to avoid crowds. To learn more, go to Disneyworld.com and type in dietary requests.
For more information on food allergies and FAAM, visit their website.