One of my readers contacted me this week asking for my tips when traveling with children with autism that also have food allergies. As spring break and summer are fast approaching, I thought I’d share some tips to use for your next cruise or all-inclusive resort stay.
Contact your company and ask the representative
All cruise lines in the USA have a special needs department known as Access or the Disability Desk
Make sure you contact them as soon as possible and have the representative tag your booking as ‘special needs ‘so they can be aware of your particular circumstances.
- Follow up with a detailed email or phone call.
- If you call do write down the representative’s name and his/her extension.
- Verify with the cruise line whether you can bring any drinks, snacks, prepackaged foods on board for use and if your cabin is or can be equipped with a refrigerator.
- Print out a detailed but simple list of allergen foods since everyone is a little different.
- Make multiple copies of your list to use on board and consider translating into different languages to use on shore excursions.
- Get your doctor to write a letter specifying your needs along with the diagnosis and other pertinent information.If you want to bring pre-packed snacks (many countries will not let you bring any open foods ashore) on shore excursions, you might have to translate this letter too.
- If your traveler with autism is young and nonverbal, you might want to check using temporary tattoos to inform temporary babysitters or caregivers (kids clubs) about his/her allergies.
- Pack the foods and drinks you have cleared with your cruise line Don’t forget snacks for the shore excursions.Two good websites to look at http://www.minimums.biz/ and http://www.picnic.com/
- You might consider bringing, at least, one (two if the child is young) set of bed sheets, pillow and a thin blanket to avoid any contact allergy from the industrial soap the hotels and cruise lines use.
- Bring your laundry detergent, soap, and shampoo to prevent unnecessary complications.
- Do not forget the medicines to treat the allergies, including those in the time of an actual allergy attack.
- Pack everything you need for your allergy traveler in your hand luggage and do not let it out of your sight.
- Notify your cabin attendant of your particular needs, including the fact you do not want your home provided sheets washed with the general load and whether certain detergents should not be used in the cabin while you are occupying it.
- Make sure the cabin vent is not directly over the person’s bed.
- Talk to the Main Dining Room Maître D’ and give him/her a copy of the food allergens. Ask for a small table that should be cleared of gluten products (even crumbs) especially if you have the late seating or anytime dining.
- If not already suggested by maître d’, ask to speak to the chef and coordinate how you can be accommodated. Most cruise lines will ask you to preorder the GFCF meal a day in advance so make sure you order at least two viable options for your traveler with autism, especially if he/she is nonverbal and young.
- Tell the dining room servers what foods to be avoided, and ask for fries or a veggie platter to be ready on your table in case the GFCF food is later than other dishes, so your autistic person will have something to nibble on.
- If you intend to eat at the Buffet, then go and have a quick chat with the chef about your autistic globetrotter’s preferences. Ask to double check labels as many products appear GFCF but are no such as salad dressings and pre- mixed sauces.
- For those highly allergic, ask the staff about the different dishes and methods of preparation to avoid cross contamination was much as possible. While helping yourself to food in the buffet area substitute the set thongs with a clean fork or ask the staff to bring a fresh set from the back.For foods prepared before you such as omelets insist on the cook using a new pan and utensils.Be extra careful with cross contamination when you eat off the soft ice cream or yogurt machines if cones are offered.
Inform the general manager as well as the daily staff what items are forbidden.
If possible, give your printed food allergens page each day to the caregiver in charge, in case the prior one got misplaced.
Shore Excursions Desk
Let them know that you wish to bring food on trips, so it does not become a point of contention and misunderstanding the day of the actual trip when everyone is anxious to go sightseeing, and your family is perceived as keeping everyone back.
If you or your family member are on a GFCF diet or suffer from allergies, how do you keep healthy and safe while cruising?
Revised October 17, 2015.