It’s that time of year again. My Facebook timeline is flooded with beach and pool photos as people head off to enjoy a summer holiday abroad. Holidays take on a new meaning once you have children, and even more so if you have a child with food allergies. What was once a week of relaxation and tranquillity can quite quickly become a huge source of stress and worry. To try and alleviate some of those feelings, here’s my top tips for travelling overseas with children and food allergies.
Decide which catering option is best for your family
All inclusive is often an attractive option in terms of ease and affordability, but before booking an all inclusive holiday make sure you’re confident that the hotel can provide safe foods. Most hotels and resorts should be able to accommodate, but if you’re someone who has difficulty trusting chefs/restaurants, or your child has a severe allergy and you prefer to avoid contamination risks then self catering may be a better option for you. If you have your own kitchen to prepare food you can relax knowing you’re fully in charge of the food your child is eating.
If you opt for AI communicate with the hotel before you travel, and if possible find out the name of a member of staff who will be able to help you when you arrive by pointing out safe foods, communicate with the kitchen on your behalf or show you where the information you need can be found.
Learn some key phrases in the local language
A recent study by Holiday Autos found that 27% of Brits make no attempt to learn the local language before travelling, often meaning they have trouble when trying to order food, ask for directions, or settle a bill. The study even found that more than 1 in 20 people resorted to drawing a picture to get their point across, and 1 in 10 have used their phone to help make themselves understood. Check out the video below to hear about some more seriously awkward lost in translation moments.
When it comes to something as serious as food allergies you need to make sure you’re able to confidently communicate with restaurant staff. Being prepared is the key to minimising stress – which is why I would highly recommend trying to learn, or even writing down, any key phrases you may need whilst you’re away before you travel. When I visited Northern Cyprus with Dil I made laminated cards with the phrase “We are very allergic to dairy and soya” printed on them in Turkish. These were a lifesaver when we ate out as I could just hand them to the waiter or chef and make myself understood. Allergy UK sell translation cards in a wide variety of languages or you can make your own like I did, just double check you’ve written it correctly before you go!
Check out the law on allergen labelling
If you’re holidaying within the EU you can be sure that the laws on allergen labelling are the same as they are here in the UK, meaning anywhere serving food has a legal obligation to provide information on the top 14 allergens. It also means that anything prepackaged should have allergens clearly listed in bold. Ingredients are often listed in English but it’s definitely a good idea to remember the above point, and make sure you know what milk/soya/any other relevant allergens are in the local language, to make your life a little easier.
Take familiar snacks
Most children prefer a bit of familiarity, and when dealing with allergies there’s always a risk you won’t be able to find something suitable. I always find that being prepared with some easy to carry, safe snacks can save you in a lot of situations. We tend to take things like crackers or pretzels, dried fruit, marshmallows and other non perishable items along just in case we get caught in a situation where we can’t find anything safe to eat. I usually pack some bourbon biscuits and dairy free chocolate too…! Most alternative milks are available in long life options so you can easily take a carton or two with you, and most larger supermarkets abroad seem to carry a few different options.
If your child has an epi pen make sure to keep it with you at all times, including on board the aircraft (not stored in the hold or overhead bin). If they suffer from ige reactions I would take along some Piriton just incase. You may also want to take Calpol, any creams your child has for eczema or anything else that may comfort them if they do experience a reaction. If your child has sensitive skin I’d definitely recommend taking their usual soaps and anything else you use on their skin rather than risk irritating it with new products.
Check your travel insurance
If the worst did happen you want to make sure you would be covered by your travel insurance provider, so always read the documents careful and make sure they are aware of any conditions they should be.
Yes, food allergies suck. They really do. It feels like there’s a million extra things to think about, and there’s the constant worry that something could go wrong. It’s important to have your wits about you, to be prepared and to plan ahead. It’s important to trust your instincts, listen to your gut and never eat anywhere if you don’t trust the information you’ve been given. But it’s always really important to relax, have fun, and try not to drive yourself crazy. The truth is that young children are very good at adapting, and if they end up only eating crisps and jelly for a week they’ll probably be pretty pleased with that. Allergies shouldn’t hold you back from creating memories and new experiences, and they shouldn’t mean you have to miss out on having fun and enjoying life.
Thinking about these tips before you travel, and being as prepared as you can be should help you reduce your stress levels and mean you’re able to have a brilliant time away. Now I just need to go get something booked!
For more information about living with food allergies like CMPA check out my dairy & soya free treat list and breastfeeding with CMPA resources. For more advice on eating out check out my Eating Out With Food Allergies video. Photos from our incredible stay in Santorini.
*This is a collaborative post*