Booked: the first abroad holiday!

Put the flag out. And find the passports. I’ve done it at last. I’ve just booked our first post-peanut-allergy-diagnosis abroad holiday.

We’ll be flying to Faro, Portugal with Monarch airlines and will be staying in a self-catering apartment in Vilamoura in the Algarve. We went there several years ago, pre-children, so I’ve taken some confidence from the fact that we know the resort has supermarkets selling some familiar brand foods.

Finding a nut safe flight

I’ve never been the most carefree flyer. I’m certainly not one of those people who cocoons themselves in a travel blanket, dons an eye mask and is snoring before the plane even taxis to the start of the runway. The chance would be a fine thing anyway, with a toddler and a preschooler in tow.

Add to this existing unease the fact that our doctors can’t definitively say that my son wouldn’t react to airborne peanut particles on a plane (it’s unlikely, but he might) and, hands up, I’ll admit it, I’ve not been relishing the prospect of our first post diagnosis flight.

However, my son’s now reached the age where he’s desperate to go on a plane (Dusty Crophopper, I’m blaming you) and, as beautiful as Cornwall is, we do want to venture abroad sometimes too. I know we can’t avoid it forever, so I resolved that 2014 is the year to get it sorted.

I spotted that Monarch fly from Manchester to Faro and gave their customer service helpline a call. They emailed me the following information and asked me to book online, then call them again, so that they could note my son’s medical condition against our booking:

“Whilst Monarch endeavour not to include nuts in any of the meals served on-board, there can never be any guarantee of this. Our meals are supplied from a central kitchen and minute traces of nuts can be found in everyday ingredients.

Passengers with a nut allergy are welcome to bring their own food for on-board consumption.

A note has been added to your booking to advise check-in, security and cabin crew of your allergy and that you will be carrying an EpiPen/sharps in your hand luggage.

The sale of nuts will be restricted on your flight(s) and the cabin crew will make an announcement asking passengers to refrain from eating any nuts or nut based products they may have with them.

Customers are permitted to take their EpiPens/Insulin into the cabin. However, we do require customers to carry a Doctors letter (dated no more than 14 days prior to departure) or a copy of a repeat prescription to be presented at Check-in and Security check points.”

I felt very reassured reading this and, having read about 17-year-old Sam Sadleir’s experience on a Virgin Atlantic flight, I was already planning on taking a packed lunch rather than opt for an airline meal.

I also found a discussion on Tripadvisor, started by a traveller noting that  “yet again, the 6th time in 3 years we were told by Monarch, that someone with a “severe nut allergy” was on board … Is it just a ruse to sell more Pringles and potato chips?”. Having read the subsequent indignant comments by other non-nut allergic flyers, I was further reassured about Monarch’s peanut policies and booked the flights.

Travel checklist

Here are the things I will be doing between now and departure:

  • Emailing the airline to confirm that a medical note has been added to our booking, that the sale of nuts will be restricted on the flight and an announcement will be made.
  • Asking my GP for a doctor’s letter explaining my son’s peanut allergy and our need to carry EpiPens.
  • Printing Allergy Action’s Portuguese translation card for use in restaurants and learning the various words for peanuts and nuts (see the second page). (Both Allergy UK and Allergy Action provide translation cards in various languages).
  • Packing safe food in our hand luggage (plus some basics in our suitcase in case, for some reason, the choice of safe food at the supermarkets is limited).
  • Packing dettol wipes in our hand luggage, so I can wipe down our arm rests and tray tables etc on the plane.
  • Applying for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for us all.
  • Checking that our travel insurance would cover anaphylaxis.
  • Emailing the reception where we are staying to ask whether their restaurant can cater for nut allergies. Although we’re setting our expectations at eating in, it would be fantastic to receive a positive response on this.

If anyone else has any handy tips on other things I could do to prepare, please do post a comment below – I would love to hear from you!

I will report back on how everything goes! In the meantime, if anyone has holidayed somewhere that was particularly good for nut allergies, please do share your recommendations below. I’ve recently heard good things about:

  • Esprit (who Nick recommended as they offer fully catered family holidays in ski chalets, with English chefs onsite).
  • Eurocamp (where Helen found well stocked supermarkets, when shopping for gluten free foods for her son).
  • Thomson Dream cruises (where Angela’s family had their own chef to look after their 16-month-old grandson).

(Thanks all, for these top tips!).

Further information

For further information on holidaying safely with allergies, see:

There are also some excellent articles on the Allergic Living website about flying with allergies. For example, see:

 

10 comments

  1. Well done Louise, always a challange when flying, we have taken our 2 nut allergic children abroad for many years. Like you alerting the airline and taking the letter from the doctor and have never had a problem other than maybe the odd tut from a passenger when told there will be no nuts sold on the plane!
    For several years we did the keycamp and Thomson Al Fresco holidays where we self catered, and more recently a villa still self catering,as luck would have it with an Iceland was just down the road last time.
    The translation cards are a great help, although we are still very cautious with eating out abroad. But rest assured we have had lovely hoildays as i am sure you will.

  2. Hi Louise, I would suggest you add a spare set of epipens to your list. We always carry two as standard, so increase to four. I was advised to take a spare set just in case you need to use the originals. My daughter (7) has a nut (all), seed and dairy allergy and we have been to Menorca for the past three years, self-catering. This has been a pretty good place to go as it has a high proportion of English visitors/ex-pats, which equals english labelling 🙂 Always check labels as we were caught out two years ago by some mayonnaise. In England the product is suitable, but in Menorca has mustard added to it! Luckily my daughter only had a mild reaction, hives and sneezing, but it made us realise that we didn’t really know where the local hospital or doctors was, and unusually there was no information in the apartment. So you may want to add this to your list too. Other than that we take some food bits with us, including treats, crackers and wraps – we find bread products a bit difficult, as most have traces of sesame. We’ve had some lovely holidays and usually manage to eat out a couple of times too. Hope this helps. Have fun!

      1. Hi how was your holiday? We are due to holiday in Spain next month and I’ve been spending all my time on Google and came across your blog which is very helpful. I know a lot of parents in the situation as myself but they are very relaxed about there children having a peanut allergy. I am not and have found this very frustrating when speaking to them. I have found your information very useful as you are taking this allergy seriously. I look forward to reading future posts.x

        1. Hi Angela – thank you – that’s great to hear you are finding the site helpful! Our holiday passed without any allergy incidents – although Monarch didn’t have a record of my son’s allergy (either on the way out or way home), so we had to deal with that at check in on both legs of the journey. From then on, the gate staff and cabin crew were excellent. Our hotel bar was able to provide nut safe meals and we were able to find safe foods in the supermarkets (and a lot with English labelling). So I’d definitely go back! (See http://www.nutmums.com/holiday-algarve-portugal-nut-allergy/ for the full story). All the best for your trip to Spain. Louise

  3. Hi Louise, great article, I remember our first trip abroad with our nut allergic daughter, over 7 years ago now. I was so nervous our first trip but have relaxed a bit since. We too travelled with Monarch & found them excellent on the flight. We have also travelled with Ryanair & Aer Lingus & they are also happy to restrict the sale of nuts on the flight & request other passengers not to eat nuts brought on board. I hope I’m not stating the obvious but anyone travelling with allergies should have their pens on them & not in the hold as you can’t access them in an emergency & also its very cold in the hold & it make reduce the effectiveness of the pens. I would even say have them on your person & not in the overhead bin. Other things we do is ensure we know the emergency number in the country we are flying to & locate the nearest children’s hospital. Luckily we have never had to use either. We stayed at self catering lodges in Euro Disney 2 years ago & found the euro Disney restaurants excellent for providing allergy information for the meals so we could eat out as well. Hope you have a great holiday & look forward to reading your blog update 🙂
    Best Anne Walsh

    1. Thanks Anne – very reassuring to hear you had an excellent experience with Monarch – and thanks very much for the top tips! (That’s good to know about Euro Disney too – have a feeling that’s on the cards for us at some point in the next couple of years!)

  4. Help!! My nearly 2 yr old has a severe peanut allergy. Are we mad to consider travelling abroad? We are thinking about going to the Mark Warner resort in Corsica. They have ensured as they will inform the airline (BA) and have said that when we arrive we will meet with the head chef and he will cook our food to order for the duration of our stay. This obviously all sounds very reassuring, but I am still really anxious about it, and can’t quite bring myself to book it 🙁

    1. Hi Amanda – we’ve only travelled abroad once so far (to Portugal, this time last year), so I’m definitely not a seasoned pro, but after that first holiday, I would definitely do it again! Flying plus travelling somewhere where English isn’t the first language was definitely daunting, I did feel thrown out of my comfort zone. But there are a lot of things you can do to feel a bit more in control of the situation, like translation cards, and packing safe foods. Would you like me to post your message on the Nutmums facebook page? (www.facebook.com/nutmums). Someone may have been to Mark Warner Corsica … and people might have some advice for flying with BA? Hope you have a great holiday, if you do decide to book! Louise

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