How about an all-inclusive trip to the tropics? Just think about it: a stroll on the beach, relaxing by the pool, dinner at a seaside porch… It definitely beats the -25 temperatures we’ve had lately!
But as tempting as a winter getaway may seem, travelling with a child on an autism diet is not always a breeze. It requires a lot of planning. The choices for destinations and accommodations are also more limited. Still…it’s doable.
The last time our family went on a sunny getaway was two and a half years ago. We travelled to Montego Bay in Jamaica for a four-day, all-inclusive stay. What a treat!
This was before we had Linnea on a strict autism diet. Her food was gluten-free and dairy-free, but not “clean” in the sense of organic and free from additives and artificial colours. We enjoyed lazy days on the water, and trying exotic dishes from the dinner buffet. Of course, we had to deal with unwanted “behaviours”, but hey, we were on vacation and the whole family enjoyed it.
Today, with Linnea’s much stricter, organic diet, a trip like this would be a lot trickier. Pesticides are commonly used in agriculture all over the world. Unless a food item clearly states “organic”, we have to assume that the food on our plates have been exposed to pesticides. Another getaway like our Jamaican trip could work… but would require a lot more thought and preparation.
Whenever we travel these days – whether it’s to visit family in Sweden or friends in Toronto – we find the following strategies to be helpful:
Number 1: Research and planning. We look for answers to questions like: Where are we going to stay? Will the place (hotel) have organic, gluten-free and dairy-free food? Will there be stores nearby? Will the stores be likely to carry organic food? Will there be a stove and a microwave that we can use? If we were to visit another tropical country, we would research organic vacation opportunities in the area of interest, or ask for suggestions from friends and on-line forums. For example, a friend who currently works at the Cayman Islands tells us that local grocery stores there carry organic food. This information alone is enough for us to put the Cayman Islands right up there on the list of places to visit!
Number 2: Meal preparation. We plan in detail what our daughter will eat every day, and carry the list with us at all times. For the day of travel, we heat up a meal and keep it warm in an insulated thermos. We also bring a second meal that can be had cold or warm (some roadside stops will heat up a child’s meal). A good supply of snacks, bread, fruit and cookies will bridge the time between meals. If we know that we will have access to a stove at our destination, we bring frozen food that we can cook on site. Otherwise, we prepare and combine each meal at home in advance. Put in labelled containers and stored cold, they become practical “grab and go” meals at destination.
Number 3: Portable cooler. We couldn’t travel so easily without our big, portable 12-volt cooler! It probably wouldn’t make it as a “carry on” on the plane. But whenever we travel by car, it’s absolutely necessary. In it, we store refrigerated supplements, beverages and food. At destination, we simply plug in the voltage adapter and use it as a fridge. Very practical!
What are your tricks when traveling with a child on a restricted diet? Please share your tips and stories below.