Road-tripping can be a challenge for anyone, but it’s particularly challenging bringing food allergies along for the ride. Add to that a vegetarian requirement, a budget requirement, and an overall desire for healthier choices, and it can seem insurmountable. I have not traveled with children, so I can’t speak to that challenge. But, here are my thoughts on road-tripping for two, based on our more successful moments. As always, you are responsible for your own safety.
Road-tripping in general:
1. Take shorter trips before a longer one. Prior to our most recent multi-day trip, we had taken several day-long road trips. We had also been camping together. Know the other person well, because you are going to be in a confined space together for hours on end. Account for the possibility that at least one of you might be overtired and cranky at any given time.
2. Bring something fun for the passenger. The license plate game is our perennial favorite, followed by travel bingo. I also take lots of pictures.
3. Bring a pillow, blanket, and possibly earplugs & an eye mask for the passenger to take a nap. I also brought my U-shaped travel pillow. You’d be surprised what a difference these creature comforts make.
4. Bring your favorite music. Be open to music you would otherwise not listen to if you plan on listening to the radio. We had an unexpected but delightful 70s interlude at one point.
5. Make sure your vehicle has been checked out by a mechanic, and spring for the best emergency auto-assistance plan you can afford. Have some sort of emergency funding available, even if you think you will never need it. You don’t know what the road has in store, and it’s best to be prepared.
Eating in motion:
1. The number one thing that works for us on any road trip is bringing a small cooler full of fresh food. At least on the way there, we are guaranteed something safe & satisfying. If you are able to, re-filling on the way home is highly recommended. We don’t always refill, but the times we have were so much better. You don’t want to be making food choices at odd hours of the evening. At least I don’t, because at that point, I will pretty much eat anything.
2. Don’t count on healthy choices being readily available. Yes, I saw bananas and apples more than I expected, but they were often more expensive than the easily found day-old hotdogs.
3. Bring fruit and vegetables. I had a large container of leftover salad that would have otherwise gone bad. I brought my camping utensils & a small bottle of dressing and had lunch in the passenger seat. I could feel the difference between this and my carb-laden choices on previous trips. Just make sure your salad is travel-friendly: no mushy stuff like sliced tomatoes. Grape tomatoes work better. I used diced Quorn cutlets for protein. Orange slices in their own container were also a great snack, and apples travel pretty well, too.
4. You will probably want snacks at some point. Even the healthiest among us needs a little treat now and then. If you pack healthier snacks, you lessen your chances of reaching for the powder-coated tortilla chips that seem to pop up everywhere. We brought veggie straws and popcorn for treats. There was also one chocolate rice confection that wasn’t even eaten until the ride home.
5. Stopping to stretch and have a meal: totally advisable if you don’t have allergies, a personal decision if you do. We did stop, and I was fine.
This is one area where I cannot and will not advise you. I’m not a Doctor. I’m not even a good example. But, here’s how I handle it:
1. I mostly eat food from home, but when I do buy convenience store food, I choose something that seems relatively safe- like fruit, or I stick with foods that have been safe in the past. There are plenty of people that can’t do this, and it isn’t actually in my best interest, either. For example, with a nut allergy: the person handling the fruit could have just eaten a package of nuts. Foods that were once safe can easily not be, due to changes in the manufacturing process or cross-contamination. The point is, you can never be sure, which leads me to #2…
2. I always pack my medication. So far, every attack I’ve had has been treatable with OTC medication. But, that does not mean it’s something I can count on. The first time I had a full-blown attack, I didn’t even know I was allergic to the food in question- just that it had made my throat itchy in the past. The severity of an allergic reaction can change over time. I always make sure that others know where my medication and medical information is.
3. I know that I cannot control my exposure entirely. There are factors that cannot be planned for. For example, I planned to the best of my ability, and then had to walk past my allergen on the way to some random bathroom in the middle of nowhere. Any time I venture out, I have to face the possibility of a medical emergency, but I also don’t want to stop living my life. I am lucky that I can actually make this choice. There are plenty of others who cannot.