People often make fun of my Type A personality. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I can be a little extreme. When I was a child I used to alphabetize my sock drawer by color. Yep. I don’t do that anymore though, now that I have three children of my own… most days I don’t even have time to put my socks away. But I do like to be organized. I like to label closet storage bins and make spreadsheets for just about everything. I even plan vacations a year in advance. Laugh at me all you want, but I have children with food allergies. Planning is a must.
We just took our FIRST ever (just us) family vacation to Myrtle Beach, which may seem strange to people because our oldest son Mason is already 6 1/2. It was our first vacation, not by choice, but because of… food allergies. After Carter was born, we couldn’t go anywhere. His food allergies and Eosinophilic Esophagitis symptoms limited us for about 2 years. I could barely take him to the grocery store. Then Winston came along and the only place he went was the doctor’s office. Last summer he puked so much from his food allergies I had to have our groceries delivered.
I originally had this Myrtle Beach trip planned for 2018 spring break, not knowing that Winn was going to develop food allergies. So we canceled (because of this and other non-allergy family issues) and rebooked for 2019. I was DETERMINED to take our kids on a fun vacation. After what they went through, they deserved it… we all deserved it.
Of course, I made a packing list (in a spreadsheet – ha!) three weeks in advance to make sure we had everything we needed for our road trip.
- Clothes ✔️
- Toiletries ✔️
- iPads and Toys ✔️
- Bread and Yogurt ✔️
Bread and yogurt?
Yep. We have to bring our own allergen-free foods like soy-free bread and dairy-free yogurt because there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to find these foods in a new city. I also know that the only thing my allergy kids can eat at the continental hotel breakfast is probably an apple.
We decided to stop part way, knowing full well our 17-month-old wouldn’t last the full 16-hour drive. I chose a hotel in a town outside of Charleston, WV, for no particular reason other than the timing was good. Right next door was a Golden Corral restaurant, a place we had never been before – and probably won’t ever go again… yuck. But we didn’t know, so we ventured in. I was excited because Golden Corral posts their allergen information online, so I was able to pull up every item in that buffet and see who could eat what. I wish someone could have video taped me walking through the line, anxiously scrolling on my phone as I dished up plates of food. I was getting some looks from the local folk. Eh, whatever.
We finally made it to Myrtle Beach and checked into our villa… a 2-bedroom condo with a full kitchen. A full kitchen was a necessity so that we could make some of our own food. It was so stressful trying to find allergy-friendly restaurants for dinner, I can’t imagine trying to eat out for breakfast and lunch too. At the grocery store a couple miles away, I picked up our usuals… and boy was I glad we brought our own bread! There was not one loaf on that shelf without soy in it.
I promised my husband I wouldn’t go crazy with the activity planning and tried to just “wing it”. But this only made me more stressed out. We so wanted to eat at the fun local restaurants with the perfect views of the ocean, and we tried to… once. The children’s menu had chicken strips, hot dogs, spaghetti and some others, one of which I figured MUST be safe for the kids to eat. But when our waiter (who barely spoke English) just didn’t understand what I was asking about the ingredients, it was game over. Winn was starving and we had to leave. I was so bummed; honestly I went in the bathroom and cried for a minute. We don’t have the luxury of picking a random restaurant; it’s too complicated. So we ate at Burger King that night. Then we decided to plan out restaurants for the rest of our trip.
I got on the Allergy Eats app (which I highly recommend for people with food allergies) and started my research. Allergy Eats allows you to enter your location, then select your allergens. It will pull up all the restaurants in your area rated in order by how well each one accommodates those allergens. You can also read other people’s reviews.
The last three nights we ate at Longhorn Steakhouse, LuLu’s and Hard Rock Cafe, all of which have their allergens posted online. My favorite by far was LuLu’s. They actually had separate menus for each food allergen AND a second waitress came out to take our order; she said the cook would make the boys’ food in a different area of the kitchen, change his gloves and use all new equipment. The service was SPECTACULAR, and it makes my heart so happy to watch my kids pick out food from a menu “just for them”.
Overall, I’d say our first family vacation was a success. Our boys had so much fun! We swam in the pool, walked under sharks at the aquarium, saw a movie (when it rained), walked the boardwalk, collected shells on the beach, played at the playground, bounced away at the trampoline park, held baby alligators at Alligator Adventure, won 3,700 tickets at the arcade, golfed a little Jurassic putt putt, and rode go-karts and kiddie rides at the Broadway Grand Prix. We may have been making up for lost time, just a little. So worth it! ❤️