When you have an intolerant child, you cannot leave the house without a bag of food. Things are improving, in terms of the availability of gluten free food, but dairy free food is still pretty hard to come by and so it is simpler and safer to bring your own. Just last week, Zac and I had a busy day planned – morning play at a friends house followed by a big shopping trip – so as we would be out over ‘snack time’ and lunchtime, we packed his little Angry Birds lunch bag and were set for the day. But what do you do if you are staying away from home?
A while back I wrote a blog post about a recent hotel stay with the kids that required all the lunch boxes and ice packs we could find, just so we could take some ‘special milk, butter and yoghurts’, and give him a proper breakfast the next morning. Of course, he could have a cooked breakfast – no gluten or dairy in bacon, eggs, tomatoes and baked beans – but he is fussy and slightly afraid of a lot of food, so we took his cereal and bread along too. It was a hassle and we haven’t been away since, so I haven’t had to think about it again.
But this weekend, I was away – on my own, (poorly husband, kids with grandparents). I was staying at the Crowne Plaza in Reading for a friends 40th birthday party (adults only), nice hotel overlooking the river – a perfect start to the bank holiday. I decided to treat myself to breakfast in my room – didn’t fancy eating alone in the dining room, so I reached for the menu and was very pleasantly surprised. Not only was there a tick box for ‘gluten free bread/toast’ but they also offered soya milk! What a refreshing change. Shame they didn’t also offer ‘dairy free spread’ to go on the gluten free toast, but hey, this is progress and they should be applauded for this positive step. Do any of you know of any other hotels/hotel chains that are starting to cater for people like us?
We are staying at the LegoLand Windsor Hotel in June, thanks to the people organising the Blog Awards final, and I will need to plan carefully for that one too. So if any of you have stayed there, perhaps you could let me know how well they looked after you and your needs.
Our next adventure after that is a two week family holiday in Spain. It is two years since we were last there, Zac was still eating gluten then, so we didn’t have to take any special foods – but I did have to pack plenty of nappies and changes of clothes, because he was still blasting out of his nappies several times a day – no wonder! He was dairy free back then though and we found it easy to find soya milk and soya yoghurts, so I know that won’t be a problem – but what about bread and pasta and breakfast cereals and all of the other foods? Will I need to pack a huge suitcase of foods – just to get us through the first few days? I know coeliac disease is widespread but I wasn’t sure how easy the foods would be to find. Supermarkets here can be variable, so I just wanted to be sure.
My Mum was out there recently so I sent her on a fact finding mission. I had looked up the Spanish words for gluten free (sin gluten) and even had a look on the websites of some of the supermarkets close to our place, and sure enough there was a good selection at Mercadona and Carrefour. But that was online, and in this country, there is always more to be found online than instore – so would it be the same in Spain? I am happy to report Mum did find a good range of products in both supermarkets, so it looks like we can just fill his trunki with colouring pens and books – and just enough snacks to get him through the first day of course. A huge relief.
But what about when we are eating out in restaurants? I know it is unlikely that there will be much on offer but it would be nice to be able to ask and double check on the safety of foods etc. So I did a quick online search for some help and as usual the Allergy UK website was my first port of call. They had two pages full of useful advice. I was particularly impressed that they have produced translation cards. I am sure others are available too, but here is the link – just in case you need some too. Happy travelling.