Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dairy Allergy Family Travels…South of the Border!? Travel preparation checklist and timeline.

This is the last installment in this topic and is in a format I hope you can easily adapt to your plans.

4 months in advance
Booking Airfare:
Take the first flight of the day. The planes get the best cleaning overnight and you will be dealing with airline staff that is fresh and more likely to be customer friendly. Of course the farther in advance you book the better. Strategically, if you sit at the back of the plane more people will pass by you with contaminants on their hands.   Likewise sitting in the aisle increases your chance of 2nd hand exposure.  Weigh this against your need for emergency potty breaks.
4 months in advance
Booking ground transportation:
Nothing to remark here!
3/4 months in advance
Booking lodging:

Location.  Beach resorts tend to be grouped on a single strip in a tourist zone.  In Mexico this means that you are farther from local facilities; you’ll want to know how far you are from the city center, emergency care and grocery stores.

Key management staff.  Before we arrived, we started weekly communication with the reservation staff, front desk management, and the medical advisor (doctor on staff). Short emails reminded them of our allergy.  It started with requests for Restaurant menus to see what was off limits etc.  We went so far as to share resources (Welcoming Guests) from the FARE website.

Kitchen Staff: Our initial request to prepare our own food in the restaurant kitchens was declined.  So we started a dialog of how to train the servers and cooking staff about allergy awareness sharing more FARE resources!  Fortunately we were accommodated with a kitchenette, so it became a moot point.

Cleaning staff: For people with environmental allergies a visit to the desert in the middle of summer is, well, a great idea!!  Cleaning a sandy room in a low humidity environment is easy.  This is compared to our experience in Cancun, where humidity is high, vegetation, pollen and mildew is more of a concern.  HVAC in Houston (the most air conditioned city in the nation) is great, anywhere else…eh.  We take it for granted that the air inside will be cool and dry.

2 months in advance
Introduce medical staff:
This was a little miracle.  By chance the hotel doctor on staff had been in residency in Houston.  By chance our allergist is from Latin America.  As a professional courtesy to both I arranged introductions by phone before our arrival.  Now these coincidences were more than I could have planned for, but the Drs. common experience and compassion for healing was one more way we bridged the awareness gap.

2 weeks before travel
Meet with allergist:
This is where we received the signed documents identifying all medications that we are travelling with, what their purpose is, and also the statement that foods are necessary to ensure safe food is available throughout the trip and not only the flight.

Day of travel
Arrival at the terminal:
Do not take advantage of curbside check in!  You don’t want risk your checked luggage not making it to the ticketing counter and have someone hold it up because of the food and  / dry ice.

Day of travel
Ticketing and check in:
Here is where you have to explain that you are carrying the cooler full of perishable foods.  This is where United charged for the hazardous material (dry ice) and the cooler gets labelled as such with additional stickers.

Day of travel
We were able to get through check without incident.  Be prepared with print outs from the TSA website describing their policy; in case you get a new hire.

Day of travel
Boarding the plane:
United did not allow preboarding for small children by policy.  But if you can show that you are doing them a favor by entering the back of the plane 1st and not holding up everyone else they may see it your way!  This will allow you a little more time to wipe down the seats and armrests around you.

Day of travel
In flight :
While we did not benefit from this, airlines in Canada have implemented a buffer zone.  The flight can be arranged so that flight attendants make a proactive effort at restricting nuts during flight.  You have to make the arrangements a few days in advance of the flight.

That's it!  best of luck & Buen Viaje!!

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