Monday, November 26, 2007

Travel Tips #1: Surviving the Flight

Ah, Mexico. Sunshine, margaritas, white sand, turquoise-colored ocean waves, rainbow-colored fish, Mayan ruins, dolphins, iguanas… Cancun was fabulous, and our trip was smooth, easy, and a lot of fun.

We travel a lot, and we’ve had some minor challenges with my son’s food allergies over the years, so I’ve learned a lot about how to plan ahead and stay safe so that the trip is a blast and not a bust. Since traveling with food allergies can be scary, especially if you’re new to the whole experience, I’ll spend this week and next explaining how I do it. It may or may not work for anyone else, but it’s how I cope.

This week I’ll talk about the first challenge, which is, of course, the airplane ride. To survive the flight without problems, I always carry two things: HandiWipes, and my own meals and snacks. With the HandiWipes, I can clean off the tray tables and arm rests before my son starts handling them. He doesn’t react to peanut dust in the air, fortunately, so we can be on planes that serve peanuts if I’m just careful about cleaning his area.

You can call ahead and request a no-peanut flight. I’ve had varying degrees of success doing this. It depends on the airline, the flight, the person you talk to, the flight attendants assigned to the flight, the alignment of the stars and moon, the political instability in Outer Splatvakia, and the mating rituals of sea porcupines. I’ve been chewed out by flight attendants because I didn’t call ahead, and I’ve been chewed out by flight attendants because I did. And most of the time, I just forget to call ahead or decide I don’t have hours to spend on hold. So I take my Handiwipes and my own snacks. Call it a cop-out.

As for in-flight meals, here’s what I do: I have a collapsible insulated lunch sack. In that, I tuck a couple of empty quart-sized Ziploc freezer bags (depending on how many flights are involved – 1 per flight). Then I put another Ziploc bag of ice in the lunch sack to keep the lunches cold until we get to the airport. Finally, I put in sandwiches that I’ve made, or lunch meat and crackers, cookies, etc. If we’re staying in the U.S., I can pack fruit. If we’re going to another country, you can’t take fruit across the border, so I’ll pack fruit leathers.

At the airport, before I go through the security line, I throw away the baggie with the ice in it (don’t want security getting concerned about a bag of ice), then go through the security gate. On the other side of the gate, I find a fast-food restaurant and ask them to put ice in one of the empty bags (sometimes the soda fountains are out in the public area, so I can fill my own bag with ice). Then I put that bag back into the lunch sack. Voila!

That’s how we make it through the flight. I still have to fend off flight attendants trying to give me peanuts (I am shocked at how many airlines still serve them). But at least I feel like I’ve got my little part of the plane under control.

Next week, I’ll explain how I handle food while we’re on vacation.

Meanwhile, now that we’re back in Utah, I’m trying to remember to put on socks instead of flip-flops in the morning. I’m never quite ready for a vacation to be over!

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