Traveling, short or long, needs planning and coordination. And when on a special diet travelling requires extra precaution. Food intolerance and allergies don’t make it any easier. Over the years I have learned to plan way in advance, I didn’t take any short notice trips until at least I understood the game: traveling on a special diet is laborious.


While every special diet has its unique requirements, ours has multiple. We have gluten free, yeast free, low carb, egg free, casein free dietary needs. In addition we are on a food rotation plan, which means my son doesn’t eat the same food raw; we wait until the fifth day to observe the ingredients and recipe used earlier. We use specific kitchen utensils and amount of cooking time is monitored to the minute.


One of the first things we used to do was to research our destination and find out if they were open to our special dietary needs but it just was impossible. Today for each and everyone to enjoy the trip, the best way is to pack my son’s own food and to come up with the best plan that will make everyone’s life easier.


Here are few tricks that make preparation and traveling less stressful.

Meal schedules –  on a calendar.


During preparation, I set the weekly calendar and write down the menu of the week and each meal’s recipe; ingredients used; cooking style; oven or stove. Generally, preparation should be 5 hours before travel so the food doesn’t get “old”. The packing takes two hours.


Cook and pack individual meal

I make sure to cook and bake separate portions. Each meal is packed individually for easy grab and avoids leftovers.  An average day meal looks like this: three meals and two snacks. I label each meal, with date and time: breakfast 4/14/17 8AM – lunch 4/14/17 1PM – Morning snack 4/14/17 11AM – Afternoon snack 4/14/17 4PM – Dinner 4/14/17 6PM. I only pack freshly made food involving meat for the first day of the trip.


Plan extra snacks

I always pack what I call the “reinforcer snack”. In our experience, extra snacks became handy when unforeseeable situations occur, such as when my son with autism experiences an unwanted event.  Having a snack on hand encourages him to maintain the overall enjoyment and to reinforce appropriate behavior. The snack is usually a selection of anything dry; home made banana chips, home made nut bars, crackers, raisins, nuts, seeds (expect peanuts); I pack 2-4 types of nuts depending on the number of travel days.  Easiest packing is snacks in zip lock with date and time.


Pack meals that do not perish

It’s the worst nightmare to find spoiled food when you open your bags. I learned the hard way. Don’t pack too much meat or poultry or food that needs to be reheated. You might not find a fridge to store your food. I pack my food with ice packs but I still have to take into consideration that the ice-pack will melt and I just saved time by keeping my food “fresh”. After many trials I found out that a meal that doesn’t get spoiled is my oven baked food. My vegan lasagna is my most successful long lasting dish: serves two meals.


Find a kitchen that will cook for you.

This is definitely a stretch! But I ran into a kitchen that would cook for my son; with my own utensils and my ingredients. All I had to do was ask and the worst-case scenario is a refusal, which I am expecting as I come prepared.


Stretching rules

I never pack fruits as I usually find them readily available. Fruits are most reliably-allergy safe food that my son can eat without major risk. My son was only eating cooked fruits at the beginning of his restricted diet, until I observed he could tolerate raw fruits. However, if we ran out of snacks, I would resort to fruits from the nearest store, rather than an ice cream or yoghurt, which would definitely be harmful. Raw fruit isn’t a life threatening intolerance for us, but it is finding a way to pick your battle and make your trip enjoyable.


Breakfast made easy

We still keep an eye on food safety but what I found most difficult to this day is a safe breakfast for my son. Until I created recipes that my son would enjoy, our breakfast meal wasn’t any different from lunch or dinner. As the years go, by we refined our menu and are now able to create nut pancakes, yeast free bread, egg free muffins. So when traveling on special diet, I only pack a breakfast basket with baked goods: muffins, breads, scones, pancakes and crackers. When we sit in a restaurant we wink at my son’s gourmet-look breakfast. Today, for lunch and dinner, I can get away with sauce free, grilled chicken or meat and dressing free steamed vegetable.