Category Archives: Travel

An Allergy Friendly Vacation In Photos

My parents, husband and I recently vacationed at the beach and had a great time. However, it takes a ton of preparation, thought, and luggage to have an allergy friendly vacation. While food is an obvious part of the process, there are other things that many of us have to think about when planning to be away from home.

couch

I once had a reaction to a couch that had sunscreen in the fabric, and couch foam and fabric can also contain soy. I always bring a sheet to place over the couch along with a throw blanket in cooler months.

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I always bring some king size sheets so I am prepared for whatever size bed is available. I also bring my own pillows and blankets.

toliet_paper

My own toilet paper is a critical part of packing.

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I bring my own towels from home that are washed in my laundry detergent.

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Housekeeping is very tricky when you travel with your own toiletries and sheets. When my husband and I travel alone, I request no housekeeping. When I travel with others that want housekeeping, I put a sign on my bed so that sheets are not mistakenly changed.

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I also bring my own soap as well as a sign for a bathroom requesting no housekeeping so that my toilet paper, towels, etc. do not get mixed in.

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I try to drink from my own glass bottles whenever I can, but the recent floods in South Carolina made it necessary to drink from plastic water bottles. I labeled my bottles with my initials. This is not just to keep from drinking after someone else to avoid germs. Drinking after someone can expose you to allergies based on what they have been eating.

SunandEarth

Other items I took with me were dishwasher detergent, dishwashing liquid, household cleaner, and laundry detergent.

For someone that is newly diagnosed with food allergies, planning to be away can be a daunting task. The good news is that is gets easier and easier. Try making a list of everything that you pack for your first vacation, save it on your computer, and make changes to it each time you travel. It will take the stress out of forgetting something, because you will have everything written down.

I can also tell you that now that I am accustomed to bringing my own personal items, I am able to relax so much more. There’s something very comforting about being surrounded by your own things from home, and you can feel like you are really creating a safe environment.

Calling All Food Allergy Survivors: What other items do you enjoy traveling with that help keep you safe?

Shopping Safely with Food Allergies

Minerals

To finish off my birthday week, my family and I visited North Carolina yesterday to get away from the heat and have some fun. We visited a beautiful waterfall and had a GREAT time at a gem mine. There was only one problem: While the actual gem mine was outdoors, the indoor store was running a machine that was pumping some kind of nice smelling aroma through the air.

When I arrived and spotted the machine, I immediately left the building and the clerk turned off the machine. Even though the clerk turned off the machine, I left because I knew there could still be allergenic particles in the air. After we finished gem mining, I briefly went inside to discuss a black star sapphire that I wanted for a necklace, but the machine had been turned back on again. I left as quickly as I could, but it was too late. A few minutes later, I was feeling itchy.

There are many types of stores that can pose issues for those with food allergies, because many foods are used in the making of air purifiers, cleaning products, and the actual merchandise. This can apply to any store, restaurant, your favorite fitness center, massage therapist, yoga class, or even your friends and family’s homes.

If you are entering a new area and you have someone with you, ask them to go scope it out for you first. Keep in mind the following things:

  • How does the air smell? While some allergens will not produce a smell, an aromatic shop or home could signal that it is time to ask more questions.
  • Be aware of any area that calls for a shop to spray cleaners on a surface. I have had employees spray cleaners right in front of me and accidentally on me. (And yes, I had a reaction.) This may be a jewelry store cleaning their counters, a restaurant cleaning their tables, or simply someone washing the windows.
  • Does the store sell candles, home fragrances, or potpourri? Remember that those products have likely been sitting there for quite some time in an enclosed space.
  • If the store sells food, do you see any bulk bin aisles that could have products like flour or other small items with your allergens that could easily get into the air?
  • Make sure you wash newly purchased clothing in your own safe laundry detergent before wearing.
  • For me, I have to carry toilet paper and soap with me wherever I go, so certain allergens may call for you to avoid using a store’s personal care products.

By being aware of our surroundings, we can better enjoy our shopping experiences. I have to admit the retail therapy is one of my favorite ways to relieve stress, so get out there and shop safely!

Calling All Soyvivors: Share your shopping advice in the comments below!

Travel Report: Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand

A little sand crab peeks out at me as I sit on the beach.
A little sand crab peeks out at me as I sit on the beach.

My husband and I recently vacationed at Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. Pawley’s Island is below Myrtle Beach and part of South Carolina’s Grand Strand. Even if you have never visited South Carolina’s beaches, you probably know that these beaches are some of the most highly rated in the world.

What I love about the Myrtle Beach area is that there is something for everyone to do at any time of the day or night. There’s great shopping, family activities, and lots to do even if it’s raining. This means that for those of us who are looking for fun that doesn’t revolve around food, there is plenty to do! Among my favorite things to do are Brookgreen Gardens, Huntington Beach State Park, Myrtle Beach State Park, the two Tanger Outlets, and Murrell’s Inlet. Other attractions include Broadway at the Beach and Barefoot Landing, two shopping, dining and entertainment centers.

The best thing about Myrtle Beach for a food allergy sufferer is that there are tons of restaurants and several different kinds of grocery stores. You will find Kroger, Fresh Market, Publix, Lowe’s Foods, Bi-Lo, and many other stores. All you need is room with a small kitchen, and you can easily make the meals that you need.

There are also many restaurants with allergen menus. Chains include Olive Garden, Red Robin,  Chipotle, McAlister’s Deli, Mellow Mushroom, Ruby Tuesday, and many, many others.

For those of you that do not have children in school, the lodging rates in the Myrtle Beach area are much lower in spring and fall when the weather is still lovely and not so crowded. That also means that grocery stores are more likely to have what you need in stock, and restaurants are less busy and able to give you more attention. Otherwise, there are many areas of the Grand Strand that are family friendly even in the summer. I highly recommended the Myrtle Beach area for a great time with the amenities you need for a fun and safe vacation!

Calling all Soyvivors: What is your favorite place to vacation?

Travel Report: Pigeon Forge, TN

My husband and I recently had the opportunity through my husband’s work to take a little winter vacation to Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN and also spend some time in Pigeon Forge. A year ago when I found out about my soy allergy, I honestly thought I would never be able to travel again, and especially not to somewhere like Pigeon Forge where there are very few grocery stores. Now, almost a year later, I am happy to report that we had a great time and a reaction-free vacation.

There are a few things that made our trip a success. First, my packing included my sheets and towels washed in my own detergent, my preferred toilet paper, snacks and non-perishable food. My food included dried apples, dried mangoes, chips, nuts, and Rudi’s soy free bread/almond butter/bananas to make sandwiches in a pinch. We stayed at Sunrise Ridge Resort, and they offer full kitchens and incredible views of the mountains.

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Before we left, I did some research on the local Kroger grocery stores in the Pigeon Forge area. There is one in Sevierville, TN and one in Pigeon Forge, TN. The thing about Kroger is that they have a separate section of freezer and also non-perishable “natural” foods. They include a few of the brands that you would see at places like Whole Foods as well as some local foods. I picked up some Amy’s meals and some local, grass-fed yogurt. Another idea that I had was to defrost some cooked shrimp from the freezer section and add some celery and carrot sticks.

Pigeon Forge has also changed a lot over the years. If you haven’t been in the past 3-5 years, you will be surprised to see many more chain restaurants that you will recognize from your hometown, and of course the Sevierville Tanger Outlets are some of the best outlets in the Southeast.

If you do eat out, remember to always call ahead, talk to the manager, and eat at times when the restaurant is less likely to be busy. There were many restaurants that I spotted that have allergen friendly options such as Olive Garden, Mellow Mushroom, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse and Longhorn Steakhouse. TGI Friday’s also has an allergen menu, but there isn’t much on their published menu that doesn’t have soy in it.

We chose to eat at Olive Garden, a place where I have had good experiences at home and also in Hilton Head, South Carolina. I called ahead and spoke with the manager immediately before arriving, but unfortunately this experience was not as good as I had hoped. I ordered a plain salad with no dressing and no croutons, and the server brought my salad with dressing in the salad. Fortunately I realized it before it was too late. I also ordered the baked parmesan shrimp, which was listed on their menu as soy free. I asked for them to leave off the bread crumbs just to be sure. This is my go-to dish at Olive Garden, but unfortunately the regular pasta they use also had fettucini pasta mixed in. This made me a bit nervous since I did not know why and where the fettucini had been. I did not have an allergic reaction, but I would not necessarily recommend this restaurant as an option.

On the next part of our trip, we had the wonderful opportunity of staying for two nights at Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN.

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This is something that we would not have otherwise have been able to do, and it was truly an incredible experience. If you are not familiar, Blackberry Farm is a beautiful hideaway resort with gorgeous rooms and cottages that boasts farm-to-table meals from some of the country’s top chefs. To top it all off, it snowed just enough to make everything beautiful and keep the roads safe for travel.

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Not only was this a breathtakingly beautiful resort, but the chefs and servers were incredibly meticulous in providing me with safe meals. Usually when you visit a restaurant, you are given a couple of options to choose from on the menu. At Blackberry Farm, I was able to look at the same menu that my husband was using and pick what I wanted. The food was at a level at which I had never experienced before and may never experience again unless I have the opportunity to return. We all know as food allergy sufferers that we must cook almost everything we eat, and to be able to go somewhere and have someone cook for me that I could trust and make to-die-for food was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

I am glad that I took the chance and traveled to Tennessee, because it will become one of our best vacations ever, and I can’t wait to return again soon.

My First Vacation With Soy Allergy

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Well, my first soy free vacation is over, and although I had a few tell-tale “soy rashes” on my skin, I am happy to say that I did not have any major allergic reactions. We traveled by car for a week-long visit to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, which is about a 4.5 hour drive from home.

I have to admit that I was very nervous, because anyone with a soy allergy knows how difficult and dangerous it is to travel. Fortunately, a Whole Foods had opened literally days before we arrived, so that eased my stress a good bit.

The other challenge with our trip was that this was a family vacation, and food has always been a big part of that. In years’ past, my husband and I would always join my parents for at least one big meal out a day. I knew that if I ate out every day, I would not only surely run into some soy, but I would also be very nervous and basically turn what should be a relaxing vacation into a stressful vacation. It was more difficult that you would think to avoid eating out, because there were a lot of emotional attachments to this tradition on behalf of my family that had to be sorted out.

We opted to only eat out a couple of times at restaurants that had successfully served me in the past. I ate my usual garden salad and baked potato at Wendy’s. Then, at Olive Garden, I opted for a salad with no dressing or croutons and added olive oil and lemon to the salad (no breadsticks of course.) Then, I ordered the baked shrimp parmesan which was listed as soy free on their allergen menu. There was also a Panera and Mellow Mushroom, which I have successfully used back home.

Otherwise, we managed to eat most of our meals without a lot of cleanup or fuss. We decided for this trip we would eat from paper plates, and we took a large cooler with us on the trip that included chickpeas and other items we would need. For breakfast, I had soy free cereal with rice milk, fruit, nuts and seeds for breakfast OR I had Erewhon graham crackers with almond butter, banana, and some raw pumpkin seeds. For our other meals, we rotated between grilled cheese sandwiches, Amy’s meals (offers some soy free options), Amy’s pizzas, hummus with veggies and chips, and often utilized the salad bar at Whole Foods for our veggies and for meals.

For dessert, I either made banana ice cream, or I visited Rita’s, which has several soy free custard and ice options.

I also brought all of my own hand soap, toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent,  beach chairs and sheets. I immediately washed all of the towels provided by the resort and changed the sheets to my sheets. I have to admit that it actually felt really good to sleep on my own sheets and use my own products, so it was well worth packing them. I also always kept a little hand soap in my purse for when we were not at our resort.

I did get a couple of minor rashes on my arm. We think one of them could have been from the couch in the living room which was likely laden with sunscreen from prior uses. I placed a towel over the couch and that seemed to help. The other reaction stemmed from a lady at Whole Foods who was cleaning a table behind me and sprayed my arm with her cleaner. The reaction was thankfully gone fairly quickly.

Overall, my first vacation was a success, and hopefully that will give me more confidence to travel in the future.

Calling All Soyvivors: Do you have other great travel tips?

 

 

Enjoying A Soy Free Summer

Enjoying a soy free summer can require a lot of planning, packing, and patience. My husband and I plan out-of-town day trips a few times a month, and it can be stressful but worth it. We are going to be taking a week’s vacation in August, and I am already planning! Below are some of the tips that I have learned that will hopefully save you some time and planning.

Items You Will Need

  • Coolers and ice packs are essential. You can even buy electric coolers that have an adaptor for electricity and your car, but I just use an old-fashioned cooler.
  • Storage containers
  • Silverware: I stash any unused plasticware that we get at fast food chains and keep it in my car’s glove compartment for emergencies.
  • Other soy-free summer traveling essentials: sunscreen, bug spray, hand sanitizer, travel soap; Note: most commercial products contain soy. See my reviews below for product recommendations
  • A good chain restaurant available at your destination just in case the food you have packed isn’t enough. For me, I eat a garden salad and baked potato at Wendy’s. Occasionally I will eat chili with my baked potato, but beware that the chili contains soybean oil for those that are allergic. And for those of you looking for dessert, the Frosty is soy free (and who doesn’t want dessert?!)

Food

Freezing complete meals is great, but I also try to cook and freeze some items that can be used in many different recipes.

  • Soak, cook, and freeze dried chickpeas to make hummus. Then, when you’re ready to travel, you can just throw the chickpeas in the blender, add a little olive oil and some spices (garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper) and you are ready to go. You can make hummus roll-ups with tortillas or add veggies and chips to hummus for a complete meal. (Just a reminder that some folks that are allergic to soy are also allergic to other legumes like chickpeas.)
  • Bake a cookie sheet of organic chicken tenderloins and freeze them. When you’re ready to travel, add defrosted chicken to a green salad or see my recipe for soy free curry chicken salad with yummy grapes, apples, and celery.
  • Another great on-the-go recipe: Mozzarella, tomato, fresh basil and olive oil. Slice the mozzarella and tomato, top with fresh basil, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with a side of soy-free chips. It makes a great snack or meal.
  • Another idea that I want to try: Cold soups like gazpacho. They would freeze well, pack well, and be a great addition to your cooler.
  • Fruit: It packs well and is a great snack with a protein like nuts, pumpkin seeds, or string cheese.

Other items that do not need a cooler:

  • LARABARS (Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, and Soy Free)
  • Soy Free Nuts or Pumpkin Seeds (watch for “may contain” statements)
  • Travel Packets of Almond Butter
  • Rice Cakes or Rice Chips (Rice cakes and almond butter are great and filling!)
  • Corn Tortilla Chips or Popcorn

Sunscreen, Bug Spray, and Soy-Free Travel Kits

Sunscreen

My sunscreen of choice is California Baby’s sunscreen. It is highly rated through the Environmental Working Group and is free of peanuts, soy, and dairy. I also reconfirmed with CeraVe that their entire product line is free from gluten, wheat, milk, soy, nuts, and egg. Note as of 7/1/14: I no longer recommend CeraVe as a soy free product. I usually need to order my sunscreen, so it is good to know that there is a product in pharmacies and grocery stores that I can grab in a pinch.

Bug Spray

A great bug spray is also made by California Baby, and it has a great, light citrus smell. I haven’t tested it in mosquito-infested areas yet, but the reviews are very good.

Soap and Hand Sanitizer

Sometimes I think that I react just as badly to the soy in bath and body products as I do to foods. Commercial hand soap can be the worst for me. I carry a small squeeze bottle of soy free soap in my purse when I travel and go to work. My favorite soap is made by Sun & Earth. I also recently discovered that Hugo Naturals makes soy free hand sanitizer. I ordered two varieties and like them both, but if you are like me and are sensitive to fragrances, I would recommend the Lavender. The scent is a little milder than the Vanilla Peppermint.

Soy-Free Travel Kits

Gone are the days when I can run into a store and grab travel size products for my trip. Two companies to try: Hugo Naturals and California Baby.

I hope you all have a safe and soy free summer!

Calling All Soyvivors: Do you have other great travel foods or products? Please share in the comments below!