Traveling with Food Allergies

Before now, I have not traveled with a child with severe food allergies. On our last adventure to the JW Marriott in Muskoka, we were joined by another mom and her two children. Her 6 year old has a severe peanut allergy.  I took every precaution I could think of to make sure he would be safe.
food allergies
The JW Marriott, Muskoka

My first step was to contact the hotel and request that a food allergies notice would be placed on the room. Upon arrival, I reminded the check-in clerk who was already aware of the situation. Before handing the room over to us, we were assured that the management of the cleaning staff had gone over the room herself to ensure every hard surface had been cleaned and sanitized. My first impression upon seeing the room was that I had never seen cleaner countertops or a cleaner fridge in all of my travels.

food allergies
The shine reflecting off the JW Marriott kitchen.
food allergies
Someone at the JW Marriott worked very hard cleaning this fridge.

Whenever we ate in restaurants, we reminded the staff of the allergy and checked the list of ingredients for all of William’s meals.  For the most part, the servers were extremely diligent and already aware of the situation. At one point, he swallowed orange juice the wrong way and began to choke a little. Two staff members ran over while another pulled out a cellphone and almost called 9-1-1. They were clearly on high alert.

It was eye opening to travel with a family that deals with this sort of allergy. After learning how to administer an  EpiPen,  I left the vacation with a new appreciation for how stressful it is to travel with a child who has peanut allergy.

food allergies

Most allergy websites, travel advisories and parents agree that the safest place to travel with food allergies is Canada. In Canada, food labels and menus all must disclose whether there is a chance your food has come into contact with any allergens. Canadian airlines like Air Canada offer passengers who give the airline 48-hours notice of an peanut allergy an inflight buffer zone.  Passengers in the row the person is seated in and the row in front and behind are not allowed to consume any food containing peanuts or buy food that may contain peanuts.

All this information brought me back to our many visits to Beaches Resorts and I wondered how families dealing with food allergies would travel to large resorts with the same assurances. I contacted Beaches and was told that they are quite open to families of children with food allergies visiting the resort. They provide families with alternative menus and upon arrival at the resort the head chef meets with the family to discuss safe eating and the specific requirements for the person with the food allergy. Each Beaches Resort has restaurants that offer food off a menu instead of buffet style service which can be dangerous due to cross-contamination. On allergy websites, I was able to find testimonials of families saying the staff at Beaches baked their children separate safe muffins and provided great alternatives.

I hope this posts helps to spread the word a little about food allergies and gives an idea of what dangers food can present to other travellers. I pledge from this day forward to forgo my beloved yellow peanut M&Ms while in-flight and consume them only when I am safely away from possible allergy sufferers and my own children…that way I don’t have to share.

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