Sunday, April 24, 2011

Successful Trip to Florida including meals out!!!

We just returned from our trip to Florida and it was really wonderful!  Traveling with a food allergic child can be challenging and a bit daunting but with a little preplanning it can also be very fun and rewarding!  We chose to fly JetBlue because they do not serve peanuts and offer a 3 row nut-free buffer zone (one in front one in back plus our row).  Delta was out since they serve peanuts and have a pretty lousy allergy policy.  I informed the flight crew of Alexa's allergy when we arrived at the gate and again when we boarded.  The crew was great and we were very comfortable.  We booked a room at the Nickelodeon Kids Resort which not only caters to the kids but also offers "kitchenettes" with a refrigerator, sink and microwave so that we could make safe meals for her.  When we arrived I shopped for lunch and dinner foods but was not excited about having her eat microwaved food for 4 days especially since we don't do a lot of processed foods and certainly very limited frozen options.  I tried to be creative and find some "healthy" foods.  In the end I chose a package of grilled chicken breast which could be paired with a steamed fresh veggie, French bread pizza and White Castle burgers for dinners and cold cuts for lunch.  I also picked up some watermelon but planned to order her fruit when we ate out so she would feel included.  When I returned from shopping we started planning dinner for that night and Jason asked if the restaurant could handle allergies.  I told him, I really hadn't checked.  Why?  Well,  because I didn't want to risk spending our vacation in the ER and thought it would be easier and safer to make her food during our trip.  But, since Jason asked, I checked the hotel information book and on the second page and it stated "We can accommodate ANY allergy" and even had an allergy hotline! I was surprised and excited.  I called the hotline and got a recording so I went down to the cafe personally.  I spoke with the hostess who stated that "yes, we get lots of allergies here and we can accommodate anything-what are her allergies?" I listed them and she told me that the chef would come out and speak with us before we ordered.  Indeed, Chef Jonathan came out and spoke with us in detail about how they make allergy friendly meals in clean pans, clean utensils and are very careful about cross contamination.  He asked me lots of questions, as I asked him lots of questions and in the end they were able to make Alexa a safe meal that we all felt comfortable with.  She chose pasta-big surprise!  She was thrilled, we were thrilled and the food I just bought at the grocery store would now go to waste! But we didn't mind because we had a happy girl who was eating out as if she didn't have a care in the world!  We ate there 2 nights and she was really happy to eat off the menu like a "normal" kid.  On Friday night the grown ups wanted a REAL meal so we went to the Capital Grille.  Jason looked up restaurants on and called the restaurant before making a reservation.  We felt comfortable they could accommodate us and they were amazing.  The hostess confirmed the food allergies before taking us to our table and the waitress double checked all the allergens again with us.  She then spoke with the chef and gave us safe meal options for her.  Alexa chose to have a steak, green beans and mashed potatoes.  They even surprised us at the end of the meal with a berry plate which had Happy Easter written on it in a fruit syrup.  The waitress brought it without asking because she knew Alexa would not be able to eat any of the desserts they offered!  Alexa felt very special and said "Mom, Dad thanks for taking me out for my special birthday dinner, this is really so special. It's like it's my birthday!" BTW-her birthday is still 2 weeks away.   I was so happy she could eat healthy meals out and not some gross frozen french bread pizza!  So thank you to the Nickelodeon Resort, Capital Grille, and Jetblue for a great holiday away with our allergic girl.  We're feeling so good about it we are even considering traveling somewhere more tropical next year!
p.s. Happy Easter and thanks to Divvies for a great Easter basket filled with Popcorn, Chocolate bunnies, Rock Candy and Jelly beans!


  1. hope you get this re-post!! i just put yesterday that it was wonderful to read your story about your trip! my 3 year old peanut and tree nut allergic daughter will eventually get to disney in a few years although i was thinking about driving from PA bc i am afraid to fly with her....although your experience sounded great so there is hope!! i want my daughter to be "normal" and it sounded like your daughter was treated that way when you all went out to eat!! Love it! I am sure to check with Jet Blue if we do decide to fly. I am sure i will bother you again in a few years when we do decide to go!! thanks!

  2. Thanks T! Like you I was very afraid to fly with Alexa the first time. She flew once before we knew about her allergies but she had an ear infection so she ended up throwing up on the plane! The following year we knew about her allergy and at that time JetBlue would make it a nut free flight AND make a announcement about the allergy asking that others refrain from eating nuts. I was lucky that as I was checking in a Grandmother traveling with her Granddaughter was also checking in and she had a severe peanut allergy! Because the girl was older I felt at ease because a more experienced person was flying too-does that make sense? Anyway last year when I arrive at our flight I was told that they no longer make the flights nut free-would provided a buffer zone and would not make an announcement. It was terrifying. I was standing at the gate trying to decide if I should risk her life and get on the flight or cancel our trip! In the end I decided to go because I knew she had been around peanut butter and not had a problem unless she'd eaten it. The flight crew came over and reassured me that they could handle a reaction if it occurred and that made a big difference. This year I flew with confidence but I don't think we could fly on a flight where they serve peanuts-that would be too scary for me. BTW-Disney is GREAT with food allergies so you could go with confidence that many of the restaurants can accommodate you. Because we were not going to Disney I decided not to research much before we went. All in all a great experience. Go next year when she's 4 ;-)