As I look back at 2018, I am humbled by how the year unfolded for Allergic Traveler.
To begin with, 2018 was Allergic Traveler’s best year to date.
This is clearly because of you – my supporters, my food allergy friends, my
food allergy parents and the food allergy community. We shipped more chef cards
to more states and more countries than ever
Everyone gets to eat!
I am a big advocate of making sure that everyone has something to eat. I pride myself on making dishes that can accommodate those that are gluten free, dairy free, pork free, or sugar free or vegans, or…. Of course, all the dishes that I make need to accommodate to my dietary restrictions as well. The dishes cannot have any eggs, nuts, shellfish, mushrooms, pork, soy, sesame or garlic in them. I am not one of those that can cook something even though I am allergic to it. The reason is because most of my allergens I cannot even touch. For instance, you would never find a pecan pie at my house because I am allergic to nuts. There are even some of my allergens that are airborne to me, eggs and shellfish. So, I cannot touch, ingest or smell some of my most sensitive food allergens.
With all these restrictions, you would think we ate a bucket of ice or a bag of air for the holidays. Not true! There is always something for everyone at my house. I am a big fan of experimenting in the kitchen. I believe in the art of substitution. For instance, if something needs to be dairy free, then I will substitute olive oil for butter. The trick to substitution is that those without food allergies cannot tell the difference.
My goal, whenever I entertain, is to make sure everyone can eat. And that everyone feels safe. No one is going to the hospital or grocery store on my watch!
Tips on surviving the holidays
Here are some tips for having something for everyone during the holiday meal –
- Ask your guests before their arrival of any dietary restrictions. If they have restrictions, invite them to bring their own dish as well. Let them know you will have a dish for them, but many feel safe if they can also bring their own.
- Make your dishes with as few ingredients as
HURRICANES ALLERGY STYLE
As a born and raised Florida girl, I’ve seen my fair share of hurricanes. However, since becoming enlightened about my food allergies I had only been through one hurricane before moving to Durham, North Carolina for grad school. This time I was on my own, without the comfort of my parents four refrigerators, three freezer, and gas stove top to ensure I would always have something safe to eat. Florence was my time to shine and prove I had this whole allergy thing down.
As I stood in the grocery store with frantic shoppers buzzing by me, the realization hit me like the rushing lady’s cart taking a wide turn down aisle 13 to grab the last package of bottled water. I had no idea how to feed myself if I lost power in my apartment with its little electric stove top.
With no time to hesitate, I quickly scanned the aisles for anything and everything I could potentially consume. Thankfully we were just grazed by the storm and never lost power. However, this experience made me realize how unprepared I truly was at a time when one cannot afford to be. They say hindsight is 20/20, so now I am learning from my mistakes so we all can be ready the moment the weather man mentions our area in a storm’s path.
ALLERGY HURRICANE GUIDE
Any proper hurricane guide should contain a necessary needs list. I will be breaking my list down into four sections: Nonperishable Goods, Pre-prepared Foods, Staying Safe in Shared Locations, and Medical Kit Musts. Be sure to tailor any suggestions to fit your own dietary and medical needs.
Stick with brands and flavors you know (but remember to always recheck labels).
- This might be obvious, but no decent hurricane guide would leave it out – WATER!
- Enough for 1 gallon per person each day. (usually the rule of thumb is to prepare for 3-4 days)
Your favorite form of nut or seed butter will always be a good idea!
ARE in its mission to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies.” Before getting into the details of the award, let me tell you first how I came to know and appreciate FARE.
My Intro to FARE
Having food allergies my entire life, you would have thought that I would have known them for many years. Alas this was not the case. I only became familiar with FARE after I launched Allergic Traveler in 2011. Knowing in my heart how important Allergic Traveler’s mission is (to enable those with food allergies to have the courage to travel and eat out), I knew I wanted to partner up with the organization making the biggest difference in the food allergy community.
I joined forces with FARE and sponsored many of their Walks across the country. To meet young children from Atlanta to New York, raising funds to bring more awareness to the food a
llergy community was truly humbling. During the very first Walk Allergic Traveler attended, I could not help but think, I wish I had this peer network when I was a child with food allergies. Back then, my sister and I were the only kids at school or in the neighborhood with food allergies. Not once have I ever regretted having food allergies. I actually look at it as a gift. If it were not for my food allergies, I would have never met so many remarkable people, parents, kids and companies with such a passi
on to make my eating experience a little safe. Imagine! Truly I am spoiled to have so many advocates in my corner.
Who is FARE
FARE is one of the many remarkable organizations advocating for those of us with food allergies. They provide services, grants, education, camps, clinics, walks, research and so much more. I applaud them for all they do. Food allergies are by no means “main stream” but FARE is making it their purpose to continually push forward in the advancement of awareness of food allergies. If you are so inclined, I encourage you to make a donation. Your funds go toward making that little kid with food allergies feel extra special!
About the Award
The FARE award is for businesses, schools, individuals, companies, allergists, and teenagers were all nominated from across the country for their continuous dedication to our plea. Please join me in congratulating all the nominees for their endless efforts. I do not know where we would be without them. I want to personally thank Fare for making this kid feel extra special. The award ceremony will be held in Washington DC on Nov 3. Safe travels to all and congratulations on all your hard work.
When a friend calls you up and asks you to go to Las Vegas for 72 hours, you naturally say yes, right? I did of course, but maybe I should have said “how about 96 hours instead?” Don’t get me wrong, this Allergic Traveler is very grateful for the opportunity. I am also thankful to have a friend who gets me. She knew I would not say no. But this was a little insane, even for me. Keep in mind that we were coming from the east coast.
Logistics of the trip
We left on a Sunday night out of Raleigh and returned on the red eye on Wednesday. This meant I had three dinners, two breakfasts and two lunches to prepare for. Naturally there was no food on the plane, so this meant eating at the airport on the way out. We went to a restaurant called California Pizza Kitchen. They prepared a beautiful quinoa salad without the nuts for me.
Bombshell number one
While we were eating, my friend Ashley, asks me if I brought my Epi-pen. Naturally I said “Yes!” She then wanted to know where I kept it. Whenever someone does this, it always stops me dead in my tracks for two reasons (wrong choice of words, but you get the point!). The first reason being is that it reminds me that my life is in her hands. And the second reason is because she cares enough to ask. Ashley truly does have my back. Clearly, she is a keeper. If her questions did not stump me, then the next statement/action pretty much had me choking back tears.
Bombshell number two
Ashley said to me, that she watched a youtube video on how to administer an Epi-pen before going on this trip. I was touched and shocked by this! I have no idea if any of my other friends have ever done this, but I promise you If they have, they have never told me. Watching this type of video is not something that people do on a regular basis. It is kind of like taking a CPR class. Once you’ve done it, you think you’ve got it. However, a refresher CPR course could never hurt. Just as is the case with a how-to video on using an Epi-pen. Staying current is key! I applaud Ashley for her due diligence when traveling with me, but even more so, I thank her and love her for keeping me safe. The food allergy battle is something that needs support and a strong entourage from those within and outside the community.
Back to survival mode
Once we got through dinner at the airport, we boarded the plane. There was no food, so we just spent the flight talking. We should have slept! People often ask me how I fly with my long list of allergies? The answer is simple… I don’t touch anything! When you don’t eat on the plane, you have no reason to touch the tray table. The only thing I touch is when I must fasten and unfasten my seat belt. Granted it is not comfortable, but it is fine. It’s just a five-hour flight.
We arrived in Las Vegas around one in the morning our time. Ashley and I headed to the hotel and off to bed. The next morning, Ashley went to have breakfast in the lobby. I ate in the room. She returned with black coffee for me to help get me through the next few hours. We were attending a trade show. I knew from experience that I would not find any allergy friendly snacks along the way. By lunch time, I had a prepackaged salad with no dressing. When I got hungry during the day, I ate one of my many allergy friendly snacks. Did I mention I always pack safe food for me?
For dinner we went to India Palace. I love Indian cuisine. Even with my long list of food allergies (eggs, nuts, mushrooms, shellfish, chicken, pork, soy, sesame, etc.), I can usually find something safe to eat at these restaurants. The food was good, although it was a little spicy for my liking. I have a very sensitive palette when it comes to spicy food much to my husband’s dismay.
The next day, I repeated the same routine as day one, although instead of having Indian food for dinner, we headed back to the airport. Once at the airport, I had another prepackaged salad. We arrived back in Raleigh around five AM. Ashley and I went straight to Starbucks for some much-needed fuel. We then headed back to our respective homes. I spent the next 24 hours unpacking, resting, repacking and preparing my meals for my next upcoming trip which would be on that Friday to Richmond, VA.
I will share the tales of my trip to Richmond in my next blog post. Thanks for reading! So, am I insane? Would you have gone to Las Vegas in 72 hours?
Enjoyed the read? Leave a comment or check out some of our other blog posts here.
But what goes on with these food allergy manufacturers?
I just finished attending and presenting at the Gluten Free and Allergy Free Wellness Event in Raleigh. This Allergic Traveler had the pleasure of meeting some great people looking for guidance on their allergy travels. Many were newly diagnosed and were fearful of how to travel on this journey. I was part of the selected few vendors able to “show them the way.” During my presentation, I shared tips on how to travel with food allergies. Other vendors were sharing their gluten free, dairy free or egg free creations. What many do not realize is what goes into offering safe snacks or into traveling with food allergies. The first thing I can tell you for sure that goes into both, is trial and error. Whether it be the baker who is making a gluten free cake for the twelfth time or someone like me who is traveling through an airport starving because I can’t find anything to eat. We are both investing hours into bringing you safe snacks and safe travel solutions.
Do you know what Primary Immunodeficiency Disease (PI) is? I had no idea until I had the privileged of meeting Lauren Dunlap. Lauren and I met at the Gluten Free and Allergy Free Wellness Event in Charlotte. She gave me an education into PI. I wanted to share this with
Food allergy show in the triad
During this time of the summer, when the weather is steaming, and most people are out by the pool or the beach, I am indoors missing the food allergy community advocates. Typically, at the onset of summer, Allergic Traveler attends the Gluten Free and Allergy Free show in the triad. Then we have the glorious weather and activities that make summer fly by. And just when the season is coming to an end, we wrap it up with another Gluten Free and Allergy Free event in Raleigh. It’s the in between show time that makes me miss those that are making such a difference in the food allergy world. Luckily, I have lots of their products from the show to hold me through the dry spell. Allow me to tell you a little bit about them.
What I love most about these shows is that there are more and more products for me to try. There was a time when I could never buy anything pre-made that was allergy friendly. Times have changed! Here are some of the products and what this Allergic Traveler thought.
Who was there?
Dolci di Maria – At this show, they introduced their unicorn biscottis. They were so pretty and whimsical. These biscottis were gluten free. They had eggs in them though, so I could not try them. I did make their mint chocolate chip brownie mix. It was divine, not too much mint and just the right amount of chocolate.
Enjoy Life – They were missed at the show however they sent lots of samples. I love their new packaging. The teal blue makes it super easy to find in the grocery stores. Their chewy coco loco bars are ideal for travel. They don’t melt!
JPs Pastries – These guys are the kings in the gluten free world. Their products are so fresh and moist. They offer gluten free products, dairy free, egg free and many more varieties. You can find more and more of their product at retailers across the south east. I challenge you to find one you don’t like!
Naturally Me – I tried heir lemongrass oatmeal soap. It is made with gluten free oatmeal. The scent was heavenly and provide a nice lather. Their products specialize in skin care for sensitive and eczema prone skin, aka me!
Nutrimom – Tracy with Nutrimom is a self- professed food geek. Her son is allergic to peanuts, which is her motivation behind all that she does. She blogs, shares recipes and introduces us to many allergy friendly products. Tracy is always willing to take the time to give her thoughts on what is going on in the food allergy world.
Scented Balance – It is not all about food either! There were other products at the show that focused on clean living for the home. Scented Balance had a beautiful light room deodorizer mist. It was heavenly. I am very leery of these products as I believe scents are very subjective. However, their product was perfect! It was nice, clean and crisp.
Scout & Cellar – Can I tell you about wine? I have met lots of allergy folks that will not consume wine because they do not know how it is processed or with what. Scout & Cellar have spent years researching to find those wines that are Clean Crafted. This means they have no sugar added, no chemicals added, not manufactured in a lab and so many other characteristics. Of course, I was excited to try their product. It reminded me a lot of the wines you find in Europe with no headache the next day!
SunButter – Tracy from Nutrimom was giving out samples of this. What I love best about it, is the size. It is nice and compact, so it is great for travel or to fit in your purse for that mid-afternoon snack.
The Greater Knead – Imagine this if you will, gluten free raisin bagel chips! They do exist! The chips were nice and crunchy. They were filling and not too sweet.
There were so many other vendors there. I am still working my way through all the products I picked up at the show. Luckily the next Gluten Free & Allergy Free Event is a month away. The samples should hold me over until then. I will be able to re-stock and catch up with the food allergy vendors at the next event.
Even more vendors!
Here are some of the other vendors that were there:
If you have never been, then you are missing out! This industry is expanding. There is more and more product available to those of us with food allergies and food intolerances. Want a chance to win tickets to the next event? Simply leave a comment and share this on any social media page. Winners will be announced on August 9th. Good luck!
This year’s destination was Maggie Valley, NC. We headed here specifically for the Slingshots in the Smokies convention. It sits in the far west corner of the state of North Carolina. Maggie Valley is just down the street from Tennessee. It would be our launching point to the Tail of the Dragon. My husband and I own a Polaris Slingshot, which is a 3-wheel auto-cycle. We were very much looking forward to a respite from the heat. Maggie Valley sits right in the Smokies. The weather is refreshing from the heat of central North Carolina.
We packed our bags and strapped them strategically to the bike. They had to be attached tightly as to not fly off. The next challenge was to pack the cooler carefully. Ridding in the open air can be quite hot. There is no air conditioning so it is important to keep food and meds temperature controlled. This can obviously be challenging when it is 95F (35C) out. As we were heading out in the rain, we put our rain suits on and hoped for the best. We were headed to Asheville, NC for the night and then onto Maggie Valley. If you have not been to Asheville, I highly recommend it. The city is known for its restaurateurs and how it accommodates to special diets.
By the time we got to Asheville, we were soaked. As were our clothes and food. We unpacked and headed straight for Tupelo Honey. This is a GREAT restaurant! It was my first time eating at this location. They also have one in Charlotte, which I have been to. They handle food allergies beautifully. My meal happened to be gluten free ( I am not) as well as nut free, garlic free, celery free, egg free, etc! It was delicious. It gave me some innovative ideas to try and replicate at home.
The next morning, we headed to Maggie Valley, again in the rain. By the time we checked in, we were soaked again. We were there to ride the Tail of the Dragon, but we could not. It rained for 3 days. Hey – at least there was no heat! We spent a few days venturing around the town, checking out the shops and socializing with other Sling shot owners. By day 3, we all had cabin fever.
The Sun Came out!
On the fourth day, we saw the sun. Drivers united and hit the road to explore the Smokies. We spent 8 hours driving winding roads. My husband and I rode the Tail of the Dragon, Deals Gap and across the Cherokee Skyway. The twists and turns on these roads are comparable to any of the great roller coasters in your favorite amusement park. The Tailof the Dragon has 318 turns in 11 miles!
We saw animals galore. Deer, turtles, wild turkeys and snakes to name a few.
When lunch time hit, we had packed some snacks and were able to stop at the side of a mountain to take in the views. Eventually we ran out of snacks, and then we simply stopped in at the local grocery store to reload.
It was time to hit the road again and head home. Guess what was waiting for us? More rain! I had to go though because we had to be in Winston-Salem for the Gluten Free & Allergy Free Show.
All in all, it was a great trip. I would highly recommend the area if you like the great outdoors. Maybe plan better than we did though and order some sun!
Safe travels. Where are you heading this summer? Tell us for a chance to win a surprise snack pack. Simply share this post on any social media site and comment. Good luck! Winners will be announced Aug 31.
Nikki Everett with the Gluten Free and Allergy Free Wellness Event has given this Allergic Traveler the opportunity to blog and hang with some of the greatest bloggers in our industry , like Tracy from Nutrimom and Chelsea from Gluten Free Chelsea for instance. Aside from the fact that I blog at Nikki’s events, she also organizes a blogger dinner before each event which I attend. These dinners can be rather tricky for restaurants as typically there are multiple people at the table that have food allergies or dietary restrictions. We all take it in stride though as we have been here before. The process is always the same. We know that our table will take longer than anyone else’s. Everyone knows that I will always be handing the waiter my Allergic Traveler card. And there is always someone at the table that says “hey – that’s a great idea to hand them a card with your food allergies on it.” Thanks, I think so too! Midtown Café and Dessertery in Winston Salem did an excellent job taking care of us. A few people at the table were gluten free, others were dairy free and then there is myself who has an extensive list of food allergies (eggs, nuts, mushrooms, shellfish, garlic, soy, pork, chicken, sesame, celery and most fruits).
Inevitably, we start trading tips and horror stories. We compare notes on things like which restaurants are safe, which foods are good substitutes and how we keep our house safe when our allergens are eaten by other members in our family. These are just some of the things that we deal with daily. To be able to discuss this freely with others is truly priceless. The extra bonus is that Nikki also puts on a great show with allergen friendly vendors. Local companies as well as nationwide companies come to her shows to share with us their goodies that do not taste like cardboard!
If you have not been to her shows, I highly recommend them. The next one will be in Raleigh on August 11. If you are a blogger, you should also reach out to her. She takes very good care of her bloggers because she knows how important it is for us to share our experiences with others, whether it be from the food allergy world or not.
Allergic Traveler is giving away a set of tickets to the Raleigh show. For your chance to win, simply share this post on any social media site.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about all the products and future giveaways. I am in the process of tasting each one gingerly. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
#gfafevent #foodallergy #gf #allergictraveler #blogging
In the summer of 2017, I applied for my citizenship and went through all the necessary tests and interviews. By April of 2018, I was sworn in as an American Citizen. It was truly a humbling experience that I am especially proud of. The next step for this Allergic Traveler, was to apply for her passport.
This is when I had the opportunity to meet with Jeff. He saw the need to open the passport office in downtown Greensboro, NC. Before the office was open, you had to apply for it at the post office. Not only that, but you had to call in advance to set up an appointment and that could take anywhere between two to three weeks before you could be seen. While this system has been set up for years, it did not make sense to me. Clearly it did not make sense to Jeff either! As a side note, in Montreal, there must be at least five passport offices. You simply go in, wait and then drop your paper work off. Things I used to take for granted!
Anyway, I digress, back to Jeff. When he first opened this office in November of 2016, it was by appointment only. By September 2017, he had it fully staffed to allow the office to take walk ins. His staff is actually ex-USPS employees. Most of these employees have retired from USPS. They are fluent in the regulations on how the application process works. They know them inside out and backwards. His staff will also take passport pictures on the spot if you so desire. Since they are so well experienced, they can typically get you in and out of the office in twenty minutes! (in Montreal, you wait for hours!)
The passport office offers standard processing or a rush processing, with an additional fee. Regular processing time is three to four weeks. Expedited processing time is two to three weeks. Mine took approximately 18 days and that was regular processing time. So, what are you waiting for? Go get your passport. Summer is right around the corner, you know travel is in your future!
If you go to the passport office, tell them I sent you! If you already have a passport, let us know what your experience was like. Clearly every country processed them differently.
Either way, safe travels!
Gluten Free and Allergy Free Event
We attended the Gluten Free and Allergy Free Event in Charlotte with many other wonderful vendors whose sole focus is food allergies. Companies like Norm’s Farms, JP’s Pastry, Whole Foods, Southern Olive and many more were all there. All these companies are making a difference for us! They are providing alternatives to the dangerous foods out there that can harm us. It is nice to be part of a movement that is looking out for our well being in the kitchen! Well it is not just in the kitchen where change is happening. Take Allergic Traveler for instance, we are making changes in the travel industry and restaurant industry. Businesses are becoming accustomed to receiving a food allergy alert card or a chef card. The reception from the dining industry is always positive and appreciative. Imagine! They are thanking you for bringing awareness to your allergy. It really is a great feeling.
Another company making a difference in the food allergy world is Sandals Beaches Resorts. Pamela DuVal with Promised Hearts and Sandals Beaches Resorts was exhibiting at the event in Charlotte as well. Aside from being their representative, she also has Celiac and a dairy intolerance. She is quite familiar with the severity of allergies but also enjoys traveling. I had a chance to sit down with her and ask her some questions about how does Sandals Beaches Resorts handle food allergies? Take a peak!
Allergic Traveler (Tarah Jakubiak) – Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. I know a lot of our readers are nervous about traveling. They know that I travel a lot, but I wanted them to hear from the industry directly. So, can you tell us, what are your dietary restrictions? How long have you had them?
Sandals and Beaches Resorts (Pam DuVal) – I have Celiac, for about 10 years now. I discovered it myself when I could not get any help from local doctors, by eliminating certain foods from my diet. Lately I have become lactose intolerant as well.
AT – Have you ever traveled prior to Sandals? If so, how did it go?
SBR -Yes, I have traveled to New Orleans and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, the chef said I could eat everything on the salad bar. It included pasta. He was not very well educated with regards to the gluten free diet. Except for while at Sandals & Beaches, I only eat what I know to be safe. I don’t feel I can trust some of the chefs to understand. I always carry Glutenese or Gluten Cutter when I travel. It helps.
AT -Does Sandals & Beaches accommodate all food allergies?
SBR – Yes! AT – What precautions do you take for these allergic travelers?
SBR – First step is to make note on the reservation of the allergies and as the Travel Agent we can email the staff at the resort before our guest arrives to alert the team of the allergy/intolerance. Next, the guest can visit the culinary concierge upon check in at the resort. Our guests can meet with the chefs on property to speak with them about dietary needs/restrictions and feel comfortable about trying new cuisines while on property. The chefs will assist in also helping create menus at each restaurant that do not include those trigger foods. In addition, the waitstaff in each restaurant will greet the table, introduce themselves and ask if there are any allergies at the table before even taking drink orders.
AT – What are some benefits to your properties?
SBR – All inclusive, eat all you want, anytime!
AT – Is this realistic? I am sure there is limitations based on their restrictions. So how much food is available to someone that is allergic to milk or peanuts for instance?
SBR – Yes this is realistic! A specific example is Melissa O’Hara’s, our area manager’s own mother who just visited the three resorts in St. Lucia. She is severely allergic to shellfish and was able to enjoy Soy, the sushi restaurant three of the nights they were there. The restaurant sushi chefs made sure to prepare her non-shellfish options and explained in depth each ingredient to ensure no cross-contamination.
AT – Are there gluten free menus at the restaurants? If not, how many items on the menu are GF or allergy friendly?
SBR – The menus denote the GF options up front and the culinary concierge can also revise some menu options to accommodate intolerances.
AT – Out of the chain or hotels, is there one resort you would recommend over another? If so, which one and why?
SBR- Not really. I love them all! Of course, some may appeal more than others. Some are busy with lots of nightlife while some are quieter.
AT – What are some obstacles to the properties?
SBR – You will need a passport and some of the resorts are a long drive from the airport. One of my favorites has 16 restaurants and it is 90 min from the airport. I don’t mind, but some might. They have the best gluten free pizza!
AT- What type of medical treatment is available to your travelers?
SBR – Each resort has a nurse’s station or medical pavilion on site.
AT- Can travelers contact the chef or hotel beforehand?
SBR – Yes! I can provide all the names and their contact information.
AT –Wonderful. Thank you for speaking with us! This has been very helpful.
SBR – My pleasure!
This is all very encouraging for those of us with dietary restrictions. Of course, we always recommend that you travel with your Allergic Traveler card to use at the airport and at restaurants outside of the Sandals Beaches and Resorts’ properties.
So, what do you think? Are you more motivated to an all-inclusive? Should we organize a group trip and go together?
Let us know your thoughts. We are eager to hear.
Check out this video to give you more insight.