How to Travel Well with Food Allergic Kids, Escape to Sun

in Managing Allergies, Travel & Dining
Published: June 30, 2010

Have Kitchen Will TravelThe adventure-loving McKenzie-Davison family proves that you can travel the globe with life-threatening allergies. It simply requires research, lots of precautions – and a suitcase jam-packed with food.

BEFORE having children, my wife Keely and I went trekking in Nepal. We felt so adventurous, traveling with just a guidebook. We walked from village to village, staying in huts without electricity or running water, and eating at local restaurants.

Keely and I knew when we had children that our days of backpacking through Asia, Africa and South America were over, but we still wanted to travel and to instill the love of travel in our children.

When Taya, our second child, was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, including peanuts, nuts, dairy, eggs, barley and kiwi, it seemed like travel was going to be impossible.

Our food requirements were already complicated since Keely and I are vegetarians and she is allergic to egg yolks. As well, I have environmental allergies to dust and cats to consider.

However, we have discovered that you can travel safely with anaphylaxis and allergies. With careful planning, by always staying in places that have a kitchen, and by bringing our special foods with us, we have been able to continue to travel, albeit in a different style.

So far Taya (who’s now 6) has been to Jamaica, Grenada, England, France, Spain, and even Morocco.

Villa Vacations: Sun, Surf and Safe

Are you tantalized by the thought of a vacation in the sun this winter? If you speak to a travel agent about such a holiday, you will be presented mostly with brochures for ‘all-inclusive’ resorts. This is outside our comfort zone since answers about ingredients to mass-prepared meals can be spotty at best.

Our preference is for villas with kitchens. Now most people think villa vacations are for the rich and famous. Yet many are no more expensive than an ‘all-inclusive’ holiday and, if you share a villa with another family, some are even cheaper.

Villas come in every size and price range. Some are part of large resorts, with access to a resort’s activities and facilities, while others are stand-alone. Catered villas with a cook are common in Jamaica, Barbados, St. Lucia and Mexico. Self-catering villas are more common on other Caribbean islands and in Europe.

If you want full control over the food, then self-catering is best. We also love having a catered villa when traveling with a group, but it does mean you have to explain the allergies clearly to the cook as well as the concept of cross-contamination. The good news is the same person cooks for you all week.

We always e-mail the allergy information, then call to speak directly to the cook before we arrive. We ask the cook to remove all traces of the major allergens from the kitchen. We go with the cook for the first grocery shopping trip to check ingredients and explain what to buy.

We always try to rent villas with their own private pool because our kids can have fun just playing and swimming in the pool all day. But if you are looking for lots of activities for yourself or your kids, consider renting a villa or condo that is part of a larger resort.

The Internet has made finding villas much easier. You can either rent a villa directly from an owner or go through a villa agent. For the first rental, I recommend an agent, and make sure the person has been to the properties and can make recommendations about which ones are suitable for your family.

An additional point on cost: in the off-season, prices are as low as half what they are in high season. If you can get away outside of school holidays, it’s definitely worth it.

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