How to Plan a Food Allergy Road Trip

Oh, road trips! How I adore thee…..and dread thee simultaneously. 😂

When I was a kid, long road trips were the absolute best! My parents would wake my brother and I up around 2 in the morning on the day we were leaving.

To my dad, beating the traffic was essential. And of course, my brother and I were more than thrilled to depart in the dead of night. It was as if we were secret spies setting off on a great adventure!

So my dad would pack the car like a Tetris rockstar while my mom warmed up her homemade breakfast burritos in the microwave for us all to enjoy.

Meanwhile, us kids would shriek and run around excitedly, talking their ears off the entire time. Now that I’m a parent, I have mad respect for how patient my caffeine deprived parents were with all our energy.

However, I am convinced it was all an elaborate parental trick because once we were in the car and on the road, my brother and I would crash.

They were able to beat the traffic, have uninterrupted conversations, AND two well-rested kids. Parental shenanigans I tell you.

Well, fast forward 20 some years and here I am, living my BEST life. It really was a wildly beautiful and amazing road to where I am now.

But it has not been void of hardship or obstacles.

In fact, one of the deepest pains of my life has been that both of my precious children live with life-threatening food allergies.

Between the two children, we manage peanut, sesame, and egg allergies.

As a result, it has complicated almost every single aspect of our lives. We’ve had to relearn how to attend parties, holidays, gatherings, festivals, school, and public events safely.

It also greatly impacts how my family travels. We don’t do impromptu trips or last minute weekend getaways. Indeed, our vacations have to be carefully orchestrated around our children’s medical needs.

And that’s okay! We have figured out what works for us over the years. Your family will find what is best for you too. 😊

For this reason, we want to share how our family plans food allergy road trips in hopes that it will give you some helpful ideas. We hope it is beneficial!

Step 1 – Research the Route

The more information I am armed with, the more confident I feel in making traveling decisions for my family. Hence, I research the routes ahead of time extensively.

Our Family’s Hospital Rule

The reason I need to know the route well is because I need to know where the hospitals are in case we have a food reaction.

One of our traveling rules is that we only eat a meal in a city that has a hospital. No exceptions.

This might change as my kids get older, but for their toddler years, this rule helps my husband and I feel safer as we travel.

Stop to Eat Meals

My family also stops to eat meals instead of eating in the car.

Again, this ties back into the hospital rule. We don’t want to be 20 miles outside of a city and away from medical help if one of our children suddenly starts to experience a reaction.

Futhermore, it is also a great opportunity for everyone to get out of the car to stretch their legs and run around.

We usually try to eat at a park or a rest area with picnic tables. One way to locate rest stops is through Google Maps. First, you can type in your starting location and your destination. Next, click on “options” and go to the services section and click on “Rest Stops.” We use this tool all the time!

Additionally, here are a few safety tips for eating at parks or rest areas:

  • Wipe down picnic tables with wipes before eating
  • Consider bringing disposable table cloths
  • Bring a blanket to picnic on the grass instead
  • Bring hand soap and water to wash hands

Remember: Hand sanitizer does not remove food proteins from hands. Soap and water are the best method! Lauren’s family and my family love using our portable Suds2go. Check out their website HERE!

Research Restaurants Along Route

This is not really an option for my family, but some food allergy families can safely eat at many fast food restaurants.

If your family does have a few safe chain restaurant go-tos, check ahead of time to see if they are located along your route.

Step 2 – Plan the Meals & Snacks

Before leaving on our trip, I meal plan for every single day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I know…so. much. work.

However, I do try to keep breakfast and lunch fairly consistent for the length of the trip to make it a tad easier.

A typical breakfast might be:

  • fresh fruit
  • safe bread option
  • safe protein option
  • oatmeal
  • homemade muffins

Tip: depending on your food allergies, Enjoy Life makes several breakfast oval options that are free from the top 14 allergens. Check it out HERE.

Lunch might look like:

  • fresh fruit
  • fresh vegetables
  • homemade sandwiches
  • homemade chicken salad with crackers

Additionally, I pack a suitcase full of safe snacks that my children have already eaten before. This is because we have another rule while traveling on the road – no trying new foods or brands. We don’t want to risk a cross-contract reaction OR discover we have a new food allergy while driving.

Finally, I plan all our dinners for every evening we will be gone. Depending on what we want to make, that will determine what cookware we need. That brings us to step three.

Step 3 – Pack a Portable Kitchen

Honestly, we pack more food and cookware than we do clothes! The reason for this is because we still want to have control over the food we eat, no matter where we are staying.

If you are staying with family during your trip, consider talking to them ahead of time on the cookware that you’d like to bring to keep your kids safe.

Similarly, if you are staying at a hotel or rental home, double check to make sure they have a fridge, stove, and microwave.

No matter where we stay, our family always packs a 30 gallon plastic tote box with all our necessities.

Those items usually are:
  • disposable spoons/forks/knives
  • disposable plates and bowls
  • sippy cups
  • water bottles
  • large soup pot
  • small cooking pot
  • large skillet
  • electric hot plate (We use THIS one)
  • Instapot
  • spatula
  • tongs
  • cooking stir spoons
  • slotted spoon
  • colander
  • metal bowls for mixing

In addition to the above items, we also pack a large cooler on wheels to take in the car as well, especially if we know we won’t have access to a fridge for awhile.

Step 4 – Triple Check the Necessities

I create a checklist of all the allergy safe items we need to have on our trip. Then I have my husband double check that list – just to have another set of eyes reviewing it. 

For example, the list could start with:

  • 2 epipens for each child
  • antihistamine
  • epipen carry cases
  • emergency care plans from allergist
  • map/details of our drive route
  • addresses of the places we stop at and are staying at (in case we need to call 911 and need a location at the ready)
  • etc.

Finally, we go through the list 3 separate times to ensure we did not miss a single thing! Is it overkill? Probably. And no, you do not need to do this. But for me personally, it helps me feel a lot less stressed out.

The key is to find a system that will help you feel more confident and less anxiety.

Hit the Road!

We understand that traveling with food allergies can feel stressful or even scary. We really do get it.

It will take time and experience, but you will be able to travel confidently with your family while making lifelong memories on your adventures.

And we will be here, waiting to hear all about it!


What to Read Next, “New Foods After A Food Allergy Diagnosis”

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