I think something that's been on a lot of people's minds lately is summer travel plans! Whether you're planning a trip away or choosing to make the most of your time at home, there are certain tips you'll want to keep in mind before you start soaking up the sun. I'm going to share a few experience's from our family's trip to South Carolina last summer that highlight these best practices for managing your medication and finding restaurants on the road.
Protect the Auto-Injector
Your auto-injector should always sit at the top of any pre-trip packing list you make. But did you know that epinephrine auto-injectors work best when they're stored between 68°-77°F (15°-25°C)? I hear too many stories about people leaving their epinephrine in their car or other unprotected places during temperature extremes.
One resource I've been using since last summer's family trip to Myrtle Beach, SC is Medpac. These bags are helpful because they include an extra layer of insulation on the inside to help the medication maintain safer temperatures. I also like the different designs - which work when I'm walking the beach or clipping the pack to my golf bag.
What to Look for When Eating on Vacation
Going out to eat with family is one of my favorite things to do when traveling even though this can be difficult with food allergies. The best approach may vary depending on what allergen(s) your family avoids - and there's nothing wrong with cooking in the hotel room and enjoying a home-cooked family meal if that's what you decide makes everyone comfortable!
But if you decide to venture out, there are a few things to look for that have always served my family well:
Identify Chains that Offer a Consistent Experience
My family has a few go-to chains that we'll hit up and down the East Coast whenever we travel. The best chains are great because you walk in with some idea of what to expect which can help to ease *some* of the tension. Of course, you'll still want to notify your server, ask about each item you order, and take every other precaution that you ordinarily do.
The nice thing about a restaurant chain is that A) you go in with an idea of what's going to be safe for you to eat; B) can reasonably assume the staff underwent similar preparation training; and C) can recognize if the experience at one location is different from what you've come to expect and spot red flags more easily.
One favorite that we'll look for on beach trips is Margaritaville. We frequent their Myrtle Beach location whenever we stop at the Ripley's Aquarium.
Make Sure the Staff "Gets It"
One of my favorite prime ribs in the world is from Chuck's.
Chuck's is also great because you can tell the staff "gets it." We ask about my allergy every time we dine there despite going at least twice per trip, and every time the waitstaff always feels comfortable answering the questions. They know what items are free of my allergens (peanuts and tree nuts) off hand but still double check with the chef to confirm my meal will get extra attention.
If you find a place you enjoy this much and feel comfortable at, you can't ask for much more in life! On the flip side of course, if you pick up on something that doesn't feel right - like staff that doesn't understand allergies or who aren't positive when answering, you always have the option to change your mind. Dining out should always be a fun, comfortable experience!
Look for Restaurants that go Above and Beyond
One of my favorite experiences whenever I go to a restaurant is when the staff is willing to not only accommodate my condition, but does something extra to make me feel completely welcome. I had one of these experiences last year when dining at Carolina Seafood and Steak.
I wasn't able to eat the bread they serve because it came from an outside source and they were concerned about possible cross contamination. I was disappointed, but this is a regular occurrence with a nut allergy. While I sat with my family, the waitress surprised me with a special appetizer they prepared - just so I wouldn't be left out! This made my night - and made my family members jealous because it was so good!
The main point of this story is that some places demonstrate a much better understanding of what food allergy families need to have an enjoyable experience. I'm always so grateful whenever I come across a place like this. If you want two great resources to consult when you're planning your next trip, I would strongly recommend:
Both of these pages are full of stories like the ones I shared about restaurants in the United States and around the world!
How will You Spend Your Summer?
My team and I love to help families and individuals travel safely with food allergies! We'd love to know about your summer experiences. Let us know in the comments where you will go this summer, or where you typically travel during regular times, and what tips you've used!