Coping with food intolerances when travelling
I wrote this whilst on a flight to New York. I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings as I was experiencing them, so as to ensure I didn’t forget the emotions that I felt at the time.
I’m on a plane, travelling to New York with my family.
My five year old son has a dairy and wheat intolerance so traveling anywhere with him always requires a certain amount of planning ahead.
Knowing we were going on a long haul flight, I wanted to make sure that he would be able to have something to eat along the way. So I called BA customer services to make a request for a special meal. I did this so as to ensure that I spoke to a real person about it, rather than booking it on line. The problem was that on line you couldn’t specify that it was both a child AND a special meal that you required and also, you could only book either a gluten free OR dairy free meal (actually specified as ‘low lactose’) and not both.
I was assured that the request was made, but I wasn’t fully convinced. I spoke to somebody who didn’t speak very good English and I had a niggling feeling that something would go wrong or be lost in translation along the way.
So I decided to take a few things along with us, such as gluten free bread rolls and biscuits, plus a note from the paediatric doctor confirming my sons intolerances in case the flight company had a problem with us taking food on board. Luckily they didn’t as the first thing that happened when we got settled into our seats was that we were presented with three children’s meals. And you guessed it, the special meal request had not been made. The children’s meal was made up of breaded chicken, mashed potato, yoghurt, chocolate and biscuits. A whole tray full of dairy and wheat based goods.
The flight steward told me that they would have mixed up the request for both a child’s meal and a special dietary meal, as they can’t do both. Which is precisely why I rang up in the first place!
To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Let down, yes. Upset, yes. The staff said they would try and provide him with something, which amounted to a banana, some raisins, more fruit (melon, which he doesn’t like, unfortunately) and a green salad. I challenge anyone to find a five year old who will eat a green salad! A little later they managed to find some jam, so at least I could offer a jam sandwich (with my own bread roll!).
We ate lunch in the airport,so it was not a case of my son being starving and yes I did take some things of my own, but the thing that bothers me most about all this is the vulnerability you feel as a parent responsible for a child who would be ill if he ate the normal things that other children do. How could I have coped on a 7 and a half hour flight with a sick child?
I often find myself apologising in restaurants, as though we are a burden for asking for something different, when really it’s not my son’s fault, he can’t help being the way he is. Yes it is a burden, but for my son, the person who has to live with these restrictions and not anyone else.
All I can hope is that he one day grows out of it, otherwise he may face his whole life feeling as though he is putting other people out. Either that or attitudes need to change. I thought they were, but it feels like there is still a long way to go.
Linked to Perfection Pending, Manic Monday’s Blog Hop.