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.
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!).
For further information on holidaying safely with allergies, see:
- Michelle Byrne’s guest post, Top tips to take the stress out of travelling with allergies.
- Allergy UK, Travelling abroad with a food allergy.
There are also some excellent articles on the Allergic Living website about flying with allergies. For example, see:
- Air Travel & Allergies: 8 Factors That May Reduce Risk by Gwen Smith (plus here’s a link to the Professor Greenhawt study).
- Flying Into Stormy Skies with Food Allergies by Gwen Smith.
- Comparing Airlines chart (Allergic Living is a Canadian and US magazine, so this table is North America focused).