Friday, 7 March 2014

Travelling with the Dairy Free Baby

So, it'll soon be Easter. Have you sorted your hols for this year, yet? 

That's what we Brits do at this time of the year, isn't it? Plan our hols?? It's the only way we cope with the cold and the rain ;/

We've given it some thought, but as of yet, our plans are on hold. At some stage I know we may have to take to the skies to see a relative of The Hub's, who has not been at all well and this thought worries me! NOT quite so much as it would have done in the early days, but...

Before 'Baby' arrived, naive first time parents that we were, we booked a ski trip, for about the time that 'Baby' was four months old. We thought we'd have everything sussed by then. 


Of course we hadn't reckoned on milk allergy, tongue tie, breastfeeding problems, sleep deprivation, attachment problems etc. etc.

We had just sorted the tongue tie and the breastfeeding problems by the time we left for our skiing trip, but they were so recent that we still felt the need to take tins of hypoallergenic formula, expressing equipment, bottles etc. You can buy single use sterilised bottles now - wish I'd known that earlier! See hereThere was simply no way we would have got this all on the plane, so we decided to stage a two day road trip through France and meet our friends in the Alps!

Got your passport sorted? 'Baby' needed one, even at the age of four months

The people carrier that we had just bought, turned out to be only just big enough for everything we wanted to take - except The Hub's skis!! So they had to stay behind. 

And that was even though we stayed in a (half board) catered chalet!! 

Of course it ALL seemed very essential at the time!

Luckily that was before I had to go gluten free as well. Once that happened, we decided to holiday here in the UK, as although we've managed to hone our requirements when travelling, we've found it difficult to find flights that will cater for both a dairy and gluten free diet. It seems you can have one or the other, but rarely both! Add soya, cashews, and OAS into the mix, (just to mention a few of my other restrictions) and... things get even more tricky!

Usually, we stay at Center Parcs, where we can self-cater and where we have found that some of the restaurants onsite can cater for us. These posts here and here outline our experiences so far.

Since then, I've learned of Higher Lank Farm. Check out their amazing allergy page here and read about Alexa's experience of staying there, here.

However, with friends and rellies in Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, America, Canada, US and Hong Kong we're having to think about travelling further afield and here's what I'm now thinking (with a few additions from mums who recently contributed to a post on our Face Book page):

1. Plan carefully:

Do your research. It can save you anxiety and stress when you get to the other side!
  • Find out which (if any) airlines can offer food that is suitable for you. Some might offer room for extra baggage, for formula/food etc. if you contact them in advance. You need to be aware of hand luggage restrictions at Ul airposts and possibly in the countries to which you are travelling. This Government guidance lays out what is/not allowed at UK airports. A letter from your Doctor may be necessary, to prove your requirements. Katheleen (one of our Face Book community) suggests:
If you call the airline in advance, you may be able to request a special meal. Still, I always bring food for my so just in case. Things that won't go bad, or food packed in a thermal lunch bag.

Alexa (whose child is anaphylactic) would go further, she advises: 

Always take your own safe food. Don't eat airline meals: Clean seats, tables with sterilising wipes...

Must admit, I've often cleaned high chairs and tables in cafes, with cleaning wipes (before seating 'Baby') myself!! Of course you worry that you might look OCD, BUT I'd rather be safe than sorry!!
  • Research hotels and restaurants (the EZ website is useful for US restaurants, in particular), in the towns in which you'd like to stay and also at your airports. Did you know, for example, that Leon restaurants now have an outlet at Heathrow Terminal Three? For those who don't know, they're a great chain (based in London) who have full embraced the idea of providing dairy and gluten free options on their menus. If you want to know more about them, then check out this post from our archives.
  • Research supermarkets/shops in/near the towns in which you'll be staying. The Hub has already been checking out what's available in supermarkets in Switzerland - Migros is online just like Tesco, Sainsbury's etc. are, here in the UK. You can translate the pages into Enghlish by using Google's translation option. It's not perfect, but better than nothing! 
  • If you're travelling to somewhere where there is a potential language barrier, research common terms for various forms of milk, so that you can read ingredient labels. 
  • Check that your travel insurance covers your health needs.

2. Pack carefully:

Obviously you have to be selective when you have baggage restrictions, but there's certain things you'll definitely need to take:

  • Allergy medication, whatever you use - antihistamine, epi pen etc. Check it's in date and take spares, if possible.
  • Translation cards - if you're travelling somewhere where English is not the first language and you are not fluent in the language that is spoken there. See this helpful post, for a few options, or this site.
  • Dairy free formula - if required for a very little one. Check it's in date and make sure you estimate your needs carefully. 
  • Smaller cartons of dairy free milk. And make sure you've packed them in sealed plastic bags, in case they leak. A suitcase with hard sides might come in handy too, as you know what baggage handlers can be like! You may only need a few cartons for the journey or the first few days but I find the smaller ones are better, if you don't have somewhere to store larger cartons that you haven't finished. Of course, not all varieties of dairy free milk come in smaller cartons, in which case you may find the following information from Caroline helpful. She says:
I had a case of oat milk for our two boys. Infants get 10 kg, children with a seat get 20 kg + 1 ltr carton weighs approx 1 kg

If you don't have access to a fridge, it may be wiser to take lots of smaller UHT cartons, like these!

  • Snacks/treats that you usually rely on back home. (I'd definitely take some chocolate ;)) Lucy advises: 
Definitely take your own food -even if you order special food here's often a mix up and you won't get it (and your little one will  probably not like it!) 
We also take dairy free spread, snacks, milk and I often bake a cake etc. to take = full suitcases!! Depending on the shops where you're going we find that plain crisps are the only available option, so take things like biscuits that fill up tummies!

Anne Marie agrees: 

I ended up taking mini party rings, dairy free choc, crisp, soya yoghurt, fruit pots and her own food. They let me thru with it at the airport. Also in the case was extra stuff such as Weetabix for breakfast, puddings, crisps, sweets and treats

So does Alexa:

 Pack safe snacks & non perishable food in suitcase to tide you over for hol

Caroline too:

Take your own. We travelled to Mexico and there was noting our DF SF boys could eat... I called ahead and they supplied a vegan meal (with soya) .. I bought food at the airport too, Jamie Oliver hummus and veg sticks, rice cakes etc. glad I did

Please note, you need to check if this is OK with the country to which you're travelling - New Zealand for example do not allow you to take food/drink with you. 
  • For a quick and ready breakfast, you may want to something along the lines of Udi's new products, such as the Pop Tarts and Breakfast Bars, which we reviewed here. Again, I like these because they're individually packaged - so you could stuff them easily into your pocket or handbag.
  • It may also be advisable to pack a few ready meals, if you're uncertain that you'll be properly catered for at the other side. Those that can be kept at room temperature and don't have to be cooked obviously - although if you can get them warmed, they will probably taste nicer! Pouches such as those by Plum Baby and Ella's Kitchen are, of course, very transportable - better than heavy jars that could break. There are now also toddler meals, such as these. The great thing is, that if you're not used to buying baby food, most food manufacturers have search engines on their websites, these days, which will help you quickly sort out which are dairy free etc. For adults or larger small persons needing a ready meal, Ilumi may be just what you need. Their ready meals come free of the major allergens, but are only available online from their website.
  • If you're a dessert person, again think long life - Alpro, Wot no dairy? and Xotic all make a range of dairy free long life desserts. Or, most larger supermarkets stock individual long life jellies, usually near the custard and meringues.
New to the market

Or, there are the dessert shakes, that Tesco sell in the chillers of their larger store. These do not, in fact, require chilling! Now, I'm pretty sure that this list of advice isn't at all exhaustive, so if you have any further advice, I'd really appreciate it if you would leave a comment below. 

Many thanks and enjoy your holidays!! xx

Update 2015:

We have since been a little more adventurous, check out these posts, to find out how we got on travelling to Disneyland Paris and Switzerland!

See also:
Flying with a Food Allergy - Anaphylaxis Campaign
Allergy UK advice sheet

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for including my blog! Lots of great advice you've provided here. So nice being able to connect with you like this. Hope to be planning a trip to the UK in the next year, so may be in touch. ;) -Heddi