There a number of questions I am asked frequently, so here is a place to answer some of those most common questions.
Q: Do you go over a safety plan with the people you will be staying with before you travel and if so what does it include?
A: My family and friends know how to use an epinephrine auto-injector. When I was a kid we went over everything with any adults that I was staying with. My mom would write out pages of information. This included info about the medications, emergency phone numbers, what needed to be explained at restaurants, what to look for on packages, etc.
Now as an adult, I travel alone often, which is why wearing a Medic Alert bracelet is such an essential. When I stay with friends, they know about my allergies and where my comforts lie as far as sharing a kitchen, eating out, etc. Since I have been on numerous trips alone, I am a pretty self reliant person, but when I am with people it is certainly good for them to know the basics!
This is a topic I feel quite passionately about, however there is currently not one airline that is truly on top of their game when it comes to food allergies. Some airlines are better than others though, like Jet Blue and Easy Jet. I’ve tried to answer these the best I can. Until we have consistent policies and better education for airline personnel, this will continue to be a problem.
Q: Do you inform the airlines about your allergies/ask for an announcement once you’re on the plane?
A: I do usually inform the airlines if I know they serve bags of nuts. Otherwise it usually depends on their policy, length of flight, etc. Announcements were never something I grew up having, so if they make one, great. I don’t ask for one though.
Q: What’s your favorite airline?
A: The airlines that have been the most understanding to me about my allergies have typically been JetBlue and Southwest in the U.S. and EasyJet in Europe. I still think that all airlines have significant room to grow with their food allergy knowledge and understanding (including these airlines, however I appreciate that these ones make an active effort). Most airlines who acknowledge allergies solely focus on peanuts and don’t understand that life-threatening reactions can happen from ingesting any foods. Having them acknowledge at least the top eight as a start would be helpful for many since we should all have the same accommodations, like to pre-board to wipe down seats.
Q: Which snacks do you pack for your flights?
A: Typically, I eat a warm meal before I fly and then I pack snacks like safe granola bars, fruit, hard boiled eggs (to eat at airport, not on flight), cheese, etc. I basically aim for anything that is easily transportable and not crumbly. I know foods that are safe for me are not for others and so I try to be cognizant of that as much as I can.
Q: How do you choose an airline to fly with?
A: I often have to base it off of cost, miles, and which airlines fly to that location. If I can avoid airlines that I know have challenged me with my allergies in the past, I try to if possible!
As far as flying goes, focus on what you CAN control. Carry your epinephrine and other medications with you at all times. Pack plenty of hand wipes to use before you eat and to wipe any surfaces that need cleaning. Eat before you fly and pack PLENTY of safe snacks. I’ve been stuck at the airport for 15+ hours before. It was unexpected and that is how travel often works. Unforeseen circumstances lead to long airport days. Better to have more safe snacks just in case! Also, I don’t expect that airlines will be able to accommodate me with safe food on the flight. Even if they said something was safe, I won’t trust it. It is not worth the risk. Check out my travel tips for more airport recommendations and follow me on Instagram for new tips every Tuesday!
Teenagers: Traveling with Food Allergies
Q: My 13 year old wants to travel to Italy on a school trip. She has multiple allergies with the worst being dairy. Is this doable?
A: You all know how much I LOVE those Italy questions! Yes, it is absolutely possible to travel safely there. The school program that she is going with has likely dealt with food allergies before. I would suggest talking with them to get an initial read on their knowledge, how they handle it on the trip, etc. It is important to feel confident with the adults that are leading the trip and it is essential to trust your gut with this decision. Other things to think about are getting chef cards translated in Italian and making sure your daughter is comfortable ordering out at home before going abroad and having to advocate in another country.