Traveling with a child who has food allergies can be a challenge, but it shouldn’t stop you from taking family vacations. After all, 1 in 13 children have food allergies in the U.S.—you’re certainly not alone. As a parent of a peanut and tree nut allergic child, I understand the tremendous anxiety allergies bring. But with some preparation, good communication, and vigilance, you can fly with ease. We’ve put together a checklist for a great takeoff!
Here’s your food allergy airline travel checklist:
☐ Contact your child’s allergist to discuss any special precautions you may need to take, make sure prescriptions are up-to-date, and to ask for a letter stating that you need to carry medications (i.e. epinephrine auto injector) and special foods when you travel.
☐ Check online for the allergy policies of the airlines that fly to your destination. (see below for more on that). Then call the airlines to clarify policies and for confirmation.
☐ Try to book a direct flight and the earliest flight when the plane is super clean and there is less chance of contamination.
☐ If you’re flying internationally, consider purchasing an Allergy Translation Card. Language barriers and unfamiliar foods can make eating the local cuisine risky when you have food allergies. These cards help you communicate clearly with restaurant staff.
☐ Keep your child’s epinephrine auto-injectors (recommendation is to always carry two), along with a signed emergency plan and the letter from your physician in your carry on bag or purse (never in checked luggage). Consider buying a medical ID bracelet for your child.
☐ Let the agent at the gate know that you are traveling with a child with food allergies and ask if you could pre-board. Once inside, give your seats, armrest, and tray a good wipe down. Avoid using the airline’s pillow or blankets, bring your own blanket.
☐ Pack your own food if possible, as the majority of airlines cannot guarantee their food to be free of peanuts/ tree nuts or safe from cross contamination. Make sure you check TSA guidelines—certain foods (yogurt), while allowed, fall under the “liquid” category and must be under 3.4 oz. Some good choices are applesauce pouches (GoGo SqueeZ are 3.2 oz), yogurt tubes (Stonyfield makes them in 2 oz size, Nut-alternative snack packs (SunButter Packs are great), and Granola Bars (We love Enjoy Life bars and Vermont Nut Free bars).
☐ Don’t forget wipes (both for cleaning the tray and for hand washing) , napkins, and plastic utensils.
We love this comparison chart by Allergic Living.com, but make sure to check with the specific airline for its policies, as things change. Here are quick links to twelve popular airlines’ food allergy policies:
- US Airways / American Airlines
- British Airways
- Etihad Airways
- Air France
- Virgin Atlantic
- Air Canada
- Qantas Airways
Side note: A proposed new law introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) on August 5, 2015, would require all airlines in the U.S. to carry epinephrine auto-injectors on every flight, and to train in-flight staff on when and how to use them. This legislation needs public support! Contact your representative and let them know you support this bill and want their support.
Happy and safe travels!