Travelling with food allergies Guest Blog – by Rachael Lalji

I am super hyped and excited to share with you my first featured guest blog by non other than the beautiful, (inside and out) Rachael Lalji from Luxe Family 5.  Rachael is indeed the very person who gave me that final push, the encouragement, motivation and confidence to follow my dream of starting up my very own blog.  Without Rachael, I would still be here wondering what if…

Most of you will know that I love to travel when the reality of my life allows.  You will also be aware that is, if you are one of my lovely followers on here or my social media pages that cruising is my preferred choice of travel for many reasons.

So how did we originally get into cruising?

We spent many years without travelling after I had my daughters, Hollie and Eden, you see – both girls were born prematurely (the reason why remains unknown) and both girls had to fight, not that you’d know it now.  This fight has continued and will do so throughout  their lifetime.  It took years of hospital stays, tests, toing and froing to London’s Great Ormond Street hospital to find out that the girls have a rare blood disorder.  Whilst this can be a serious concern, it doesn’t usually affect their everyday life and we all tend to brush it off.  The main concern is the fact that both girls have a lowered immune system and have fallen victim, in the past to illnesses you would never wish upon anyone, especially not your own children.  in 2013 we finally took our first holiday together out of the UK, on board Royal Caribbeans Independence of the Seas – with an on board doctor and helipad we were good to go.  In addition to this feeling like it was the safest option, we agreed this would be the case for my husband too.  He has a peanut allergy.  I mean, I can barely open a jar of peanut butter on a different floor to him and his lips begin tingle!  Joking aside, having a food allergy can be a serious concern. I lost an old school friend to a peanut allergy many years ago.  She and her husband had ordered their meals of choice whilst in Thailand,  it is believed now that perhaps one of the pans had not been washed properly and was still contaminated with peanut oil.  She was on her honeymoon.

The following is an honest – as it is -blog aimed at travelling with children and with allergies. The views are that of the lovely Rachael Lalji.  This post is incredibly poignant to me.

Forever grateful 

Claire x

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While for most family travel is a time of excitement, for others it’s a time of anxiety and worry. Especially if you have a child with severe food allergies.

I’ve suffered from a nut allergy for as long as I can remember. Not just a get-a-rash-and-feel-sick-to-your-stomach allergy, more of a have-your-throat-swell-shut-and-go-into-anaphylactic-shock-and-die kind of allergy (yeah thanks for that fate!!!!)

So I know only too well the deep set dread that an 8 hour flight 40,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean with no medical facilities can trigger

Questions, questions, questions …… Oh my god so many questions!!!!

What’s the Thai word for peanut again? (trust me I know this in at least 10 languages)

Can I carry an epipen in my hand luggage?

What if my child has a reaction mid flight?

Food allergies are real and can be severe. One in 13 children under the age of 18 has life threatening allergies. Yes it’s real but i’m damned if one lone peanut is going to stop me from travelling the world and i’m here to share how it shouldn’t stop you either

O.k, so it takes a little extra thought and planning and a lot of confidence but we live in a time where the world is becoming more and more aware and with a little preparation and a few tips below there’s no reason why we all can’t explore this wonderful planet we call home.

Here are my top tips for travelling with food allergies  – A parents guide

Plan Ahead

Speak to your doctor and seek advice on travelling with serious allergies. Ensure your prescriptions, medications and emergency plan are with you and up to date.

Plan your holiday to allergy safe countries 

For families with food allergies, deciding on a destination might take some extra thought. For example I traveled to a remote island off Thailand (quite risky) where my only safe food source was boiled eggs for a week (yup just boiled eggs !!!!). Not an ideal choice looking back!!! Maybe stick to a mainland resort within easy reach of medical facilities.

Language barriers can make it difficult to communicate allergy concerns. Try and limit yourselves to countries where English is spoken.

 Research medical facilities close to your hotel

Does your hotel have a 24 hour doctor on call? The Ritz Carlton in Dubai had a doctor to our door with 5 minutes of calling, very reassuring to know for the future.  Most hotels do have this facility.

Where’s the nearest hospital?

What number do I call in case of an emergency?

Where am I?

Do I need insurance ?

Choose your airline carefully 

With food allergies on the rise many airlines are becoming allergy friendly, although there are a few still seriously lagging behind in the sympathy stakes. A few things you can do  before travelling are:-

  • Alert the airline a few days before you fly of your child’s allergy
  • Make friends with the flight attendants and inform them of you child’s allergy (you need them on your side).
  • Ask the airline in advance to remove all snacks with your allergen from the trolley  (most will gladly do this)
  • Ask the airline to make an announcement asking people not to eat products containing your allergen (most are more than happy to do this).

From my experience the most nut allergy friendly airlines are 

  • British Airways (cashew nuts are served in business class but they are happy to take them out of service at your request.  No nuts are served in economy).
  • Quantas – (by far my fave)
  • Jet 2 (will remove peanuts with notice)
  • Easy jet (will remove peanuts with notice)
  • Ryan Air ( will remove peanuts with notice)
  • Delta Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Swiss Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines (offers nut – free meals)
  • Virgin (require 48 hours notice but will remove nuts)
  • KLM

And the worst!!!!

  • Cathay Pacific (do not make general announcements) serve nuts
  • United Airlines (as above)
  • Etihad  (as above)
  • Emirates – (no announcement and will not accept any responsibility for any allergic reaction on board)
  • American Airways

Pre – board your flight as if you’d broken your leg

An allergy is classed as a special need. Pre-board and take antibacterial wipes to wipe down your seats prior to other passengers boarding

Take an early morning flight

Yes on more than one occasion I’ve sat down, only to find a deadly peanut staring back at me from down the fold in the seat.

Avoid any cross contamination by taking the first flight of the day when the plane is sparkly clean and disinfected. Just because you’ve requested a nut free flight doesn’t mean the inbound flight was one.

Take your own food onboard 

NEVER eat the airline food , always take your own safely sealed food onboard .

When flying from heathrow terminal 5, you can pick up an allergy friendly meal to take onboard by Gordon Ramsey   – Plane food

Safety v Healthy 

If it means your child only eats crisps for 6 hours, so be it. I always say safety over healthy in these circumstances

So you’ve made it to your destination safe and sound now for the rest of the holiday

Alert the hotel of any allergies in advance

Most hotels with multiple restaurants will pass the information on to each restaurant manager.

If booking through AMEX a note will be made on your account and passed on to every hotel with each booking in the future . This includes all outside restaurants bookings.

  • Call through and get all nut products removed from the rooms. 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask. 

If in doubt ALWAYS ask to speak to the chef. In the Maldives I informed the chef on the first night of my allergy and my fear of eating from the buffet in case of  cross contamination.  Each night he prepared me my own dish of my choice separate and off menu.

  • Invest in some allergy alert cards 

Lost in translation???? Omg I’ve lost count of  the number of times I’ve gone hungry in a restaurant because the waiter just couldn’t understand my allergy request or the amount of times I’ve tried to learn the word peanut in multiple languages.

These cards are a god send and come in 70 languages covering all allergies. An absolute must while travelling.

Pick yours up here  – Select Wisely or here  Allergy uk

  •  kids club

Kids club is the saviour of a family holiday but not if your panicking about snacks that may be given out

  • Inform the club upon arrival of your childs allergy
  • Hand them your child allergy plan and medication
  • Have your child wear an allergy alert bracelet

Please note; Most good kids clubs will have allergy notice boards set up for all staff  to see your child’s needs.  Make sure all staff are fully briefed before you leave them.

So finally, YES travelling with a kid with a food allergy does require extra time and preparation but trust me the rewards of seeing your little ones exploring the world is 1 million percent worth the effort.

If I’ve given just one family the confidence to step out of their comfort zone and travel after reading this then my job is done.

Until next time lovelies 

lots of love xxxx Rach

 

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please share it with your friends on your  Social media by copying this link 

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I know that Rachael would love to hear if you’ve taken the leap of faith and booked a holiday.  You can catch her on  Instagram

 

 

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