There are a number of things to considering when planning a vacation with a food allergic family member. One of the first things you need to consider is where to stay. By now you are probably fairly used to having to cook a lot of your own meals and you can accomplish this while away from home if you play your cards right. Whether these options will work or not depends on what and how many foods you are avoiding.
If you are fortunate enough to have family members sympathetic and understanding to your food allergy needs, and who are willing to put you up for a few nights, this is a great option. You get to spend quality time with family and maybe even share meals together. As a bonus, this is also a far more frugal option in terms of lodging and dining. Just make sure that the family you are staying with is aware of issues of cross contamination and that you have a conversation about that before hand. You don’t want to show up with your peanut allergic child and have Uncle Fred eating a peanut butter sandwich at the table.
Another important note about staying with people; dog treats are often made with peanuts, peanut butter and/or wheat. If the family you are staying with has a dog, make sure you discuss necessary precautions with your host prior to your arrival.
Many hotels offer suites with full or partial kitchens. With this option, you’ll be able to plan and prepare a majority of your family’s meals. While these suites may be more expensive, you will save by eating out less, or not at all. When you arrive, make sure you do a thorough scrub down of eating and food preparation surfaces. This link to FAAN has some information about the best cleaners for this job. Usually in these suites, there are food prep items and dishes. Send your partner out to the pool or to play with the kids while you spend a few minutes scrubbing any nooks and crannies that might be hiding allergens (rims of pots, crevices in slotted spoons) and then run them through the dishwasher for good measure. While this is certainly not how most folks envision starting a vacation, if an hour of cleaning risky areas can prevent a reaction then it is worth the time.
If you’re going on vacation for a week or longer you might consider renting a house, condo or apartment near your destination. These short term rentals aren’t too hard to find, depending on the area, and typically offer a full kitchen. As with the suites, you’ll want to do a quick, but thorough cleaning in the kitchen/dining areas to reduce the risk of cross contamination.
While the above options are the most ideal for a family that has to prepare a majority of their own food, you might be able to make a regular hotel room work if your child is only allergic to one or two things. If you at least have access to a fridge and microwave, you can eat some meals in the room. Breakfasts of cereal with milk (or milk substitute), fruit and other snacks, sandwiches, canned soup, etc. It’s not eating like a king for sure, but on the most basic level it could work.
If a resort is in your budget, you may find that their restaurants are much more familiar with catering to food allergic individuals than your run of the mill hotel. When planning your vacation, call around to different resorts and ask about their policies. Ask to speak to the person in charge of food services for the resort. Resorts like Disney are famous for being very accommodating to folks with food allergies, and children with special needs in general. Make sure you notify them of your dietary needs when you call to make reservations at individual eateries. Some eateries within the Disney resort may be better equipped to handle food allergies so make sure you ask when you call.