To the Bahamas with Multiple Food Allergies
It was a website that hooked me on the idea of the Bahamas. A site that held the promise of palm trees, white sand, smiling tourists, cavorting dolphins, and the prospect of escaping sub-zero temperatures. We needed a vacation; we needed to get away for at least a solid week, and it had to be somewhere warm. I braced myself for the “sell”. Upon showing my husband Mark and our 6-year-old daughter Maya photos of a family-friendly resort – the Atlantis – I waited expectantly.
And then it came. “What are we going to do for food?” asked Mark.
I couldn’t help but sigh. What would we do indeed? I’d traveled by air on my own, with my multiple allergies, to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, and egg, many times. I’d traveled to Rio de Janeiro, England, and throughout North America, and reacted only once, as a teenager. Careful advance planning had prevented future reactions. But traveling to the Caribbean with not only my own allergies in tow but our daughter’s idiopathic allergy (food culprit as yet unknown after basic skin scratch testing, but the allergist prescribed an EpiPen Jr. and advised us to keep a food diary) felt riskier.
If we were going to do this, we’d have to plan really well. I began to have some doubts. Maybe Disney World was more our speed?
The beach and our idealized dolphin swim won out, however, and it was time to plan. This involved calling the chef’s office at the hotel and filling out their forms, buying travel health insurance, preparing an allergy emergency plan, obtaining extra epinephrine auto-injectors, Googling the distance between the resort and the nearest hospital, and requesting a mini-fridge. (Thank you, Atlantis!)
I was delighted to learn that the Canadian airline, WestJet, had an Atlantis package deal available. WestJet is well known and appreciated in Canada for its allergy awareness. Unlike many airlines, they make on-plane announcements on request, asking that peanuts and/or nuts brought on board by other passengers not be opened due to the presence of an allergic flyer.
Next up – food. I pack allergy-safe staples when I travel, so I prepared the list, which included canned fish, cereal, cookies, and crackers. (These were handy when the restaurant at which we had hoped to dine the first evening was closed.) Before leaving, I learned that there was a supermarket a short cab ride away from the hotel, so on arrival, we stocked up on U.S. import staples such as milk, luncheon meat, cheese, and juice. It saved us a fair bit of money as well, as we enjoyed breakfasts and most lunches in our rooms.
Next: The flight and eating at the resort