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Top 5 tips for road tripping with food allergies

As I mentioned last week, our family took a massive road trip this summer. We piled three children ages 2, 6 and 8 into a minivan on the last day of school and drove over 8,500 miles or almost 14,000kms throughout North America. Let me give you a moment for that craziness to sink it.

Without food allergies, it's plain crazy. Throw in remote locations (as in just us in a desert and the vultures circling overhead), hotel breakfast buffets and food allergies...well, it made our summer truly an adventure.

It took a bit of planning ahead of time, but we managed to have an enjoyable, relaxed holiday with no incidents, no exclusions and memories to last a lifetime.

Without further ado, here are Blue Bear Aware's top 5 tips for road tripping with food allergies.

1.  Pack extra epi's and proper storage for them.
I'm still amazed at how many people take just one auto injector when heading out the door. Please always have a minimum of two epinephrine injectors with you (here's why). When leaving for our trip, we took almost our entire stock which ranged anywhere from 6-10. The numbers changed as we bought a few in Canada and my husband lost a few to the Dragon's Revenge waterpark ride, but that's a story for another day. Speaking of which - storage is very important. Our plans included visits to waterparks, hot deserts and mountainous glaciers - a wide range of temperatures! For the beaches and deserts in temperatures that reached 110F, we broke out our FRIO. A great product for maintaining cooler temperatures, the FRIO keeps epinephrine within a safe temperature for 45 hours! On the colder portion of our trip, namely the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, we broke out our neoprene cases from KozyGo. Neoprene has an insulating quality that helps keep temperatures near the ideal spot. For the waterparks, we used our Spibelt carrier with a LokSac water proof bag.
(R) Hiking the Rio Grande on the US-Mexican border where the temperature was 110F. (L) Bundled and canoeing on Lake Louise, Alberta, with glaciers in the background. Our epi's were in a FRIO inside the knapsack on the left, and inside a LokSac waterproof bag stored in a Spibelt on the right.

2.  Plan your route and mark out nearby hospitals. 
Whether you're on major freeways or off the beaten path, it's important to know your surroundings. This trip took us to Big Bend National Park in west Texas, one of the top 10 least visited national parks in the United States. Visitors aren't staying away because of it's lack of beauty, but due to it's very remote location. The Chisos Mountain Lodge in Big Bend is nestled in the bowl of a large mountain range and while the beauty was never ending, the list of places to eat was short. We made sure to call ahead and speak to the kitchen manager of the lodge before we booked. Feeling confident in their allergy options and training meant one less worry. We were also sure to note the nearest medical facilities and know the route to get there.

3.  Make sure you're covered with health insurance. 
If you're leaving the country as we did, do a double check with your health insurance to make sure you're well covered. You don't want a hospital bill in the tens of thousands to be your biggest souvenir.

4.  Bring food from home.

No trip to Canada is complete without testing their many
varieties of peanut and nut free goodies. All in the name of
research, my friends!
As food allergies moms, we usually walk out the door looking like Sherpas anyway. We've got enough snacks and meds to run a scouting camp for three days. With a road trip, make space for a bin of food that can survive warm car temperatures. If ever in doubt when eating out, use this supply and be safe rather than sorry. A few restaurants on our travels gave me a less than confident response to my allergy questions, so that's when we broke out the oatmeal packets, ramen noodles, granola bars, dried fruit and other snacks. I also made sure to have treats like lollipops and pretzels for when we were offered a treat or dessert.

5.  Get this fridge!
We found this handy car fridge on Amazon and loved it. I'm not sure how we did without in the past. I stored fresh fruit, yogurt and other perishables inside. It plugs into your car's lighter, and can be easily transferred into hotel rooms at night using the adaptor plug (not included).

The July outside temp in Texas - inside
the car was like an oven. 
6. Yes, I know we said 5 tips, but this is truly important and should be a rule, not a tip. Please do not store your epi's in a car for extended periods of time. Proper storage requires that the medication be kept at approximately 25 C (77F) with excursions permitted to 15-30C (59-86F). Extreme temperature variations for extended periods can cause degradation of the epinephrine.

Have a road travel tip you'd like to share? Please comment below. Happy Trails!

Navigating the streets of an unfamiliar place with food allergies doesn't have to be tough.


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