I am thrilled to report that family vacation was a success! Never underestimate what some good planning combined with amazing family member support can accomplish.
Last Thursday, the day we were set to leave, started a little rough. I woke up to no power. Power outages are never fun, but they are even less fun when you have several loads of laundry to do and a whole lot of packing before your hubby gets home from work. Not to mention a trip to the grocery store for Ricky’s vacation food that was not happening due to my car being trapped in the garage (this 35 week pregnant lady was not about to manually lift the garage door). Now add the fact that I was panicking over the potential thawing of my fresh stash of freezer meals. No good, no good at all. Come 5 pm there was still no power, but we were bound and determined to get on the road that night!
Karl got home and drove our chest freezer over to my sisters and we loaded it up with everything we needed/wanted to save. I packed as much as I could and included the necessary unwashed items to wash when we arrived- thank goodness the place we were staying had a washing machine! We stopped at the grocery store on our way and ended up only being around an hour behind schedule! Gotta love some efficient team work.
After a few trips with Ricky I have determined that weather and the amount that the little man sleeps can really make or break a vacation. The weather was perfect and Ricky went down without a fight for every nap and bedtime. Did I mention that this trip was a success? Since the weather was so nice we were able to stay outside at the beach with him almost the entire time, which made avoiding food contact a lot easier. During meal times we simply sat at the edge of the group and used our own booster seat, which we returned to our room after every meal. Our immediate family was so helpful- sometimes I don’t give them as much credit as they deserve. My in-laws took turns with Karl and I feeding Ricky and playing with him outside during meal times so that Karl and I were able to socialize and enjoy our meals as well. We truly are lucky to have such supportive and caring family! We have traveled with Ricky in the past, but this time he was older and therefore far more active! Here are a few things I learned about vacations with a food allergic toddler.
Tips for vacationing with a food allergic child:
1. Rent a cabin or condo type space rather than stay in a hotel room. This gives you the option to pack and prepare all of your own food if necessary. If you do bring your own food- be sure to label it clearly if you’re sharing a kitchen with others! We kept ours in large ziploc bags labeled “Ricky’s Food” and as separate in the fridge as possible (we commandeered a drawer at the bottom of the fridge).
2. Don’t try new foods, but do try new things! One of the things I was most excited to do with Ricky was roast marshmallows. Marshmallows are one of his favorite treats, so I couldn’t wait to share this traditional summer activity with him. I purchased a roasting stick ahead of time that only he used (to avoid cross contamination from others making smores). Of course he didn’t actually like the roasted marshmallow (silly kid, he’ll learn…), but he did like sitting by the fire, watching the kids and eating a plain marshmallow.
Only un-roasted marshmallows for me please!
3. Make sure everyone you are travelling with is aware of your child’s food allergies. We vacationed with family- immediate as well as extended family members. Because they all know Ricky well, most of them know to either abide by our food rules (which mainly means washing up extensively after eating/before playing with Ricky) or keep their distance. Since the group did include some that aren’t around Ricky a ton though, I had to be sure to remind people rather than expect that everyone remember 100% of the time- I know how tough that is! Reminding people can make you feel like a nag, but as long as it is done gently I like to believe that people, especially family, understand that it is necessary to keep our tot safe.
4. Sometimes a little isolation is necessary. Isolation from others is never fun, but sometimes it is better than the alternative. Since we were staying in a retreat center, everyone shared one eating and cooking area. There were a lot of kids on this vacation and unfortunately, that means peanut butter. Because this was not a situation where we could require or really even request that peanuts/treenuts not be present, that meant we had to be extra cognisant of what/who Ricky came in contact with. We spent a lot of our time out on the beach, sometimes playing with others and sometimes just by ourselves. Karl and I made the most of Ricky’s nap times to hang out with family, but while he was awake our main priority was keeping him safe, and sometimes that meant isolated.
5. Don’t limit yourself more than necessary. Karl and I were VERY hesitant to go on vacation because we were so afraid of possible allergic reactions. We could have taken the easier route and stayed home, but I am so glad that we decided to calm our nerves and go! Traveling or being away from home in general is tough with food allergic kids, but it is also important that they lead full lives and get to experience as much normalcy as possible. For us, normal means being around lots of family, so we are bound and determined to figure out the best solutions to make family gatherings enjoyable experiences!
A few of my favorite photos from the trip: