February 23, 2011

Air Travel and Food allergies- flying the friendly skies safely

Now that the chaos of the winter holidays has died down... it's time to think about Spring Break! 

As much as I like to travel, I also quietly(?) groan when we commit to a trip.  How do I fit four people's things in three bags?   How on earth are two adults going to get three suitcases, three backpacks, two car seats, a bag of food, and two kids through airport check-in?  How will we keep two active boys entertained and in their seats (and, uh, not kicking the ones in front of them) for 6 HOURS??  Yes, traveling is stressful for me.  And traveling with food-allergic kids adds a whole other layer of worry, not to mention more stuff to bring.

Here are some tips I've learned along the way for a safe and, hopefully, more relaxing journey by air:

For the airplane:
  1.  Always bring a set of prescriptions as carry-on. Keep original boxes or prescriptions handy in case security would like to inspect. It’s a good idea to bring an extra set of medication in your checked luggage, especially if you are bound for a foreign or less-inhabited destination. 
  2. Ask your doctor for a signed note confirming your need to bring medications, safe foods, and liquids on-board. This ensures that you can pack what your child needs without worrying about that 3-oz limit on liquids.
  3. Notify your airline if you will be traveling with a peanut-allergic child. Also, reiterate this to the agent at the time of check-in. Airlines are often able to offer a peanut-free-only snack to all passengers if given advance notice.  
  4. If your schedule and pocketbook allow it, book the earliest flight when the plane is at its cleanest and the fewest passengers have been shuttled in and out of your seat. If your child is highly allergic, wipe down seats, tray tables, and arm rests with wet wipes before your child gets settled in. And always clean your kids’ hands before and after they eat.
  5. Pack safe foods and drinks. Stick with fresh or dried fruits, vegetables, and favorites.  A flight is a risky time to introduce any new foods even if the ingredient label appears clear of any offending allergens.  If you're abroad and forced to something you are unfamiliar with for the flight home, have your kid(s) try it a couple days in advance of flying to make sure it's a safe choice.  
  6. And always bring more food than you need.  Be ready in case of flight delays and picky eaters!
  7. Not related to food allergies, but just plain friendly parenting advice: Pack lots of books, stickers, little toy cars or dolls, portable games (like cards), paper and pencils!  We always happen to be traveling with my husband's work computer (he never leaves home without it) and we save its battery for DVD viewing, our last resort to stave off cabin meltdowns.  :)  

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