I just sent my 12 year old to his first overnight camp for an entire week!!
Any fellow parents out there can relate to that feeling that comes the first time you send your child off for a week without you—fear, worry, doubt, and anxiety may cloud your mind.
Throw in a chronic disease, like Cystic Fibrosis, and a food allergy—and that anxiety and fear may escalate to the point that you are ready to say, FORGET IT!
We were there this past week. This is when parenting is HARD. Really hard.
Do you let the food restrictions or disease dictate your life, or do put in the effort to accomodate your restrictions you/your child, can do the things they want?
We opted to empower our son and say YES to this trip.
We sent him to camp with meals, with medications, with electrolyte solution, and most improtantly with PRAYERS.
I was NOT going to let CF win this battle. I felt that by entrusting my son for 5 days, we were giving him the opprotunity to be prepared to deal with caring for himself for longer periods of time–because one day he will move out of our house (but I can’t talk about that now.)
And as I packed allergy safe meals for an entire week for a child that needs at least 3500 calories a day, I realized that so many of YOU would benefit from this information.
So I am here to break it down for you. Make it easier for you. Empower YOU to take that trip or let your child take that trip. It can be done!
- Contact the leaders of the group you will be traveling with, the facility where you or your child will be staying, restaurants they are visiting and ASK specifically about you/your child’s allergy/restriction. Is the facility exposed to nuts, any risk of cross contamination of eggs or soy, etc. If you hear ANY hesitation that food is safe, assume it is NOT safe. Better safe than sorry. And sometimes, you will be amazed and the facility is BEYOND capable of hosting your family.
- Ask specifically if there will be access to a fridge, microwave, silverware, dishes, etc. You need that information to know how to pack.
- Will the facility be able to provide beverages, milk for cereal, some snacks, or it is all up to you?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a refund for the food portion of the trip. That extra money can help cover what you need to pack for food!
- Start by writing down all the meals/snacks you or your child will need over course of trip. Don’t be overwhelmed. One step at a time. Place that on your fridge, several weeks prior to trip.
- As you make some of your favorite meals, jot down ideas on your meal list. Better yet, make extra and place into freezer and microwave safe containers and freeze in preparation for the trip. As I prepare for trips, I make extra muffins for breakfasts or snacks, and freeze leftover meals for a great option for trip.
- Get 4 large gallon zip lock bags and slowly fill with ice and store in your freezer, so you don’t have to buy bagged ice at the last minute.
- Pack an epipen if needed. Allow your child to carry in a cute bag or back-pack at all times if allergies are severe. If not, be sure to teach leaders/chaperones how to adminster epipen and the importance to have at all times.
- Give consent for facility or leaders to administer medical treatment to your child if needed.
What to Pack
- Sweet Potato Chips
- Snap Pea Crisps
- I find baby carrots and cherry tomatoes hold up well too to travel.
Nonperishable Protein Sources
- All nautral beef jerky
- Roasted Edamame
- Peanut Butter Cups
- Nuts of any kind
- Packaged milk/nut milk
- Protein Powder
Treats: (You know desserts will be everywhere, be sure to find some options for your child)
- Allergy-Free Packaged Cookies
- Homemade Treats
- Oatmeal Packs: Place 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats in baggie with nuts, protein powder, dried fruit, cinnmamon, etc. Add 1 cup boiling water to packet in bowl and serve.
- Bagels with a package of nut butter
- Muffins. I like make Paleo Lemon Muffins, Blueberry Muffins and freeze ahead of time.
- Freeze greek yogurt packs ahead of trip.
- Make pancakes and freeze ahead of trip. Be sure to add small container of jelly or maple syrup as well!
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins or Corn Dog Muffins
- Ham and Cheese Sandwiches or Peanut Butter Sandwiches–make and freeze ahead of time.
- Crackers with jerky, cheese sticks, peanut butter, etc
- Mini Organic Pizzas (gluten-free/dairy-free if needed)
- Leftover casseroles like Creamy Cheesy Chicken and Rice, Rotini Bake
- Pulled Pork and Baked Potatoes (slit baked potato open and place pat of butter in it with salt and pepper and then freeze before trip). Package Buns with meal.
- Baggies of salad for first day or two.
How to Pack
Gallon Size Bags: For each meal, I took a gallon size bag and placed everything needed for that meal right into the bag and labeled each meal (Monday Breakfast, Monday Lunch, Monday Dinner, etc)
Mircrowave Safe Containers (BPA Free): These were essential for me. As I made meals, I placed into container and froze. Then I was ready to put right into cooler right before leaving. I also labled each meal and how to reheat.
Cooler: I didn’t use any fancy cooler, just one on wheels (like this) I placed 2 gallon size bags of ice on bottom of cooler, all the frozen/fresh food in my bags right into freezer and topped with 2 additional gallon size of bags.
Box with Lid: I placed extra snacks, a few extra microwave shelf-stable meals to use as last resort, granola bars, meal replacement shakes (medical grade) and electrolyte packets to add to water bottles.
Ice Bags: I wanted this to be SO easy for my son to manage. I had 4 gallon size bags of ice total. I used gallon size bags, so they could be easily dumped in hotel sink and refilled at hotel ice machine. I placed 2 on bottom of cooler and 2 on top and instructed my son to change daily. Because everything was frozen, I knew that the food would stay safe and cold for the 12 hour trip to the camp as well.
Final Tip: LABEL IT ALL!!! Don’t assume your child or your child’s leader can create meals from a bunch of random food, or that they know how to reheat things or that they will remember whose food is what.
If you take the time to plan, you can eliminate most of your stress and EMPOWER your child to take that trip despite their limitations.
Check out my Facebook Video where I show you EXACTLY what I sent with my son–you are sure to gain a few more tips!
More Food Allergy Resources