We recently took our very first extended road trip as a family of four and made the long haul from Texas to Florida! Things surprisingly went better than expected. The key is VERY low expectations and A LOT of prep work.
Everyone knows that going on a road trip is a lot of effort. Anyone who has kids knows that going anywhere with children is a lot of work. When you combine those two and throw food allergies on top, you’ve got the complete trifecta!
PACKING ALL THE THINGS:
About a week before our trip, I started a ‘notes page’ in my phone and kept a running list of all of the things we would need to bring with us: baby monitor, sound machines, Pack-n-Play, Bumbo seat, books, toys, etc.
When I’m packing, I pull out everything that I can think of off the top of my head. Once I have it all laid out, I then refer to my list. I erase any items that I have already packed and then hunt down any remaining items from the list.
It’s an almost fool-proof method. I continue to add to the list even the night before. I usually leave the super important items, such as the beach house key, on the list until I am walking out the door to ensure that we have it al!
True to myself, I created excel sheets for organizing all of our food needs. Luckily, we have visited Florida enough times and are familiar enough with the local grocery store to know what allerGene-friendly items they have in stock, or rather what they do not have in stock.
On the first spreadsheet, I created our Meal Plan. We definitely did not stick to eating these specific meals on these exact days, but it was a nice visual way to lay it out and make sure we were going to have enough food. Please feel free to judge the unhealthiness! For those of you who think that we eat super healthy because of Gene’s allergies, here is your proof that we definitely do not, especially on vacation!
The second spreadsheet is where the real magic happened. I listed the meals that we were having in the left column. Next to that, I had two columns: one for allerGene-friendly items that I knew we needed to bring with us because the store didn’t carry the products and another for items that we could buy at the store that were needed to complete the meal. The final column consisted of snacks and items we knew we’d need.
You might see a few things in the “BRING” column that you know they would carry in any grocery store, like cheese. That’s because these were items that we already had at home that we were going to need and decided to take with us since we had the room.
PACKING THE FOOD:
We traveled with two coolers. One was your standard large cooler that went in the bed of the truck. It was loaded down with the allerGene-friendly items that we brought from home to eat throughout the week. Once these items were packed in the cooler, I highlighted them blue. The second cooler was a smaller one that we kept in the back seat that was easily accessible.
There’s nothing special about where we chose to stop to go to the restroom and get gas. We’re just like everyone else and made our best guess as to which place was the cleanest (example A: Cracker Barrel).
Since stopping at fast-food restaurants along the way wasn’t an option for us, our smaller cooler was filled with our lunches and snacks that we ate along our journey. On the way there, we ended up stopping at the Mississippi Welcome Center to stretch our legs, go to the bathroom, and eat lunch. We ate outside at a picnic table, enjoyed some fresh air, and even had a few running races to the big tree and back. It was the perfect break!
We currently have a grocery delivery service membership and we take full advantage of it, even when we’re on vacation! When we were about 30 minutes out, I referred to my handy-dandy excel sheet and ordered our groceries from an app on my phone. I picked our delivery time and they were delivered shortly after we arrived at the house.
*You may have noticed that we had “Alfredo & Meatballs” on the menu for dinner. Fun Fact: Alfredo sauce has egg in it. I discovered this when I was ordering our groceries and double checking ingredients. We switched to plain old olive oil and parmesan for our sauce.*
Our drive to the beach is just over 10 hours with no stops. Adding in 3-4 stops for eating, gas, and potty breaks, we’re looking at about 11-12 hours total. Since we left at 5:00 in the morning, that meant we were going to arrive at the house right around dinner time. I knew that our rowdy crowd was going to want to chow down as soon as possible.
Since I’m such a smart momma, I planned ahead and made sure that we brought all of our dinner ingredients with us from home. When we got to the beach, we unloaded the truck, grabbed a beer for the parental units, and headed down to the beach just in time to watch the sun set. Mind you, it was about 4:50 in the afternoon, but that’s what you get in late November.
From there, we came inside and I whipped up “homemade pizza” with Schar crust in under 15 minutes. You just can’t beat an easy meal like that after a day of traveling!
If you’ve read this novel of a post, you might be thinking that this is all way too much work for a vacation. I agree with you, but I know firsthand that food allergies don’t take vacations. They are a 24/7 lifetime job that require the utmost attention to detail.
In the end, all of the planning and prep-work was easily worth it. The Florida weather and views were beyond gorgeous as usual. We had the best time playing in the sand and riding bikes, and in addition, saw more dolphins than I’ve seen in the last 20 years combined! We even ventured out to a Mexican restaurant, La Cocina, where the staff was highly knowledgeable on food allergies and made Gene his very own batch of corn tortillas! We will definitely be going back next year for Thanksgiving break. Who wants to go with us?