After our daughter was diagnosed with food allergies, the idea of taking a road trip gave me the heebie-jeebies. Fast forward a couple years and add on another toddler = even more anxiety. However, my 95-year-old grandpa (who hadn’t met our 19 month old!) was the motivation we needed to bite the bullet and drive the four hours to St. Louis for Christmas this year. Hotels? Eating on the road? Dining at extended family’s houses? Check all three!
Officially two days back from our trip I can report that we not only made it through, but it went incredibly smoothly (with two toddlers AND food allergies!) I learned that with some diligent preparation, we could enjoy our trip and ensure we weren’t missing out on certain moments/life experiences.
A few things we did to ensure the trip was smooth:
First, I planned and shopped for our snack list the week before. That way I knew we always had a grab bag of safe snacks for all of us to eat while in the car. I also pre-made a batch of quinoa breakfast bars so that a quick and healthy breakfast was on hand. One of my fears is that our daughter would have a reaction while barreling down the freeway in an unfamiliar city. By packing snacks, we ensured happy toddler tummies and I breathed easier knowing a reaction was unlikely.
I double-checked my emergency kit contents (which I keep in our diaper bag) before traveling to ensure it was stocked with everything we would need in case a reaction occurred. I always carry an extra set of epi pens in my purse as well, especially when traveling.
Before we left town I did some quick research to find the closest hospital to where we were staying in St. Louis and verified they take our insurance. I took a picture of their contact information to store in my phone. That way if a reaction occurred, I would know where to go/where to have an ambulance go without having to think about it. I also called our hotel ahead of time to ask for a refrigerator. If you have a medical need (food to prevent an allergic reaction qualifies) they will provide you with a refrigerator in your room free of charge. If your road trip isn't too far in distance, then you can bring refrigerated items with you!
There were a couple times on this trip that eating out was hard to avoid. Seeing as we were in St. Louis (the home of Panera Bread!) I pre-checked their menu online for safe options (that way I wouldn’t have to spend 20 minutes at the register going through each item). Once there I informed the person at the register of our daughter’s allergies, and they immediately grabbed a manager (at both locations!) We were able to quickly review the ingredient list for their mac and cheese (great option since we are nut allergic and it doesn’t involve baked goods). The person preparing the food switched gloves before preparing Ellis’ food and put it in to go containers to cut down the risk of cross contact. We also wiped down the table with disinfectant wipes. The restaurant staff was helpful, courteous and we had one happy toddler.
Lastly, we talked to our family that was hosting the holiday a couple weeks ahead of time about Ellis’ allergies and what we could all do to make the holiday fun and stress free. We agreed that my family would bring a few dishes where the ingredients were easy to travel with and could be prepared at their home, ensuring our daughter had safe options to eat. All nuts were left out of the equation. It always helps when you have gracious family and friends such as ours that are willing to understand/accommodate her allergies.
So the moral of the story is that road trips are work. But then again, when you have little kids they’re always going to be a bit of work:) But with a healthy dose of preparation and good communication, it’s very doable! Feel free to reach out if you’d like to discuss any of my “road tripping hacks” further.
Until next time,