MDW-IAD by air, DC-Philly by train, Philly-DC by train, and IAD-MDW by air over four consecutive days in August got me thinking about how different my travel life is today than in the years before my allergy diagnoses in 2005. It used to be when I travelled all I had to do was make sure I had some cash on me to get some food on the run if a short flight was delayed or if I wanted a snack or a meal on a train. No matter how much money I have on me now there’s really not a single thing I can eat in the sky or on the rails. Trust me. I’ve looked at all of the options offered on board all the major travel carriers and there is simply nothing that is milk, wheat, gluten, corn, AND soy free. 2 out of 5? Yup, you can find gluten free (wheat free) options. Not sure you could even hit 3 out of 5 unless you find a flight that’s offering nuts; something almost none of the airlines do anymore (and even if you do find nuts, you better watch out—I’ve seen airplane nuts for sale with wheat starch and/or soybean oil).

For short trips my hardship (if that’s what you’d call it) is minimal. Eat a big breakfast before the flight takes off and have a late lunch at my destination. Skip the in flight snacks and save some calories for later. It all seems pretty reasonable. ¬†And most of the time it works out ok.

I’m in the early stages of making arrangements for a work trip to Paris in March, on the other hand, and a whole host of travel issues I haven’t faced before have emerged. Trans-Atlantic flights even by 21st century high speed flight standards are still in the 7, 8, 9 hour range. There isn’t breakfast big enough to hold you (or me, in any case) for that long so I asked the people making travel arrangements to see what kind of special meal they could order for me. You keep Kosher? Not a problem, there’s a meal for that. Vegetarian? Not a problem, there’s a meal for that. Gluten-free? Not a problem, there’s a meal for that.

Allergic to more than one thing that can’t be solved by Kosher/Vegetarian/Gluten free alone? Problem. BIG problem.

Solution?

Bring my own food. But what do you bring for an 8 hour flight that doesn’t require refrigeration and can last 8 days since I’ll need to bring food for my return flight at the same time? I have some non-perishable food in a bag items I’ve found at Whole Foods and I thought I’d come upon the perfect solution. My favorite of these is a bison chili that is so good you can’t believe it came out of a bag. I mean people on the plane will be jealous of me when they see it and that’s fine with me. My turn and all, right?

Except I’m getting conflicting information from the airlines on the likelihood the flight attendants will microwave my meal. And, since there’s no way in advance to guarantee this will happen, I’ll need to bring the meal I want plus enough snacks to get me through in the event microwaving isn’t option. They’ve told me a doctor’s note will help. And for extra measure, I’m ordering the gluten-free meal in hopes that there’ll be something on the tray that works for me.

Anyone with multiple allergies fly across the Atlantic recently? Very interested to hear your experiences.

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