Traveling with Celiac Disease or Severe Allergies

Traveling –  to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship; take a trip; journey: to travel for pleasure. 
Traveling, it’s a word that is exciting for most; traveling to see friends, family or to take that much deserved vacation.  For those with Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivities or those with life threatening allergies traveling has a completely different meaning, and for many that is FEAR! 
This Autumn we are planning our first family vacation which requires flying to our destination.  The thought of sitting on a plane for more than 4 hours with my son who is environmentally sensitive to gluten is not pleasant.  The thought of arriving at our destination with a little boy who will be sick for 3 to 4 days and covered in a rash is even less appealing.  I can’t ask the airline to scrub down the plane nor can I request that all passengers refrain from eating grain containing products prior to, or during the flight.  I can however take precautions, and plan ahead for emergencies. 
This past April I took a business trip and it was a total disaster.  Without going into details I learned a very valuable lesson.  Even though I had followed the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Guidelines and Procedures there is still much confusion amongst those working for the TSA.  I can not afford to have another incident like I had in April while traveling with my son, so I have not only contacted the TSA, but several airlines to obtain information regarding their policies and procedures.  This is what I have found.
The TSA has a Customer Service Center (1-866-289-9673), so if you need clarification, or cannot find information on their website this is the place to start.  I have also found that each airport has a TSA Customer Service Supervisor.  Since we will be traveling through 3 airports I was given the name and number of each supervisor and contacted them directly.  All of the supervisors were very understanding of the situation, answered my questions, and gave me instructions to call them directly, a few days before our flights.  They will note our flight information and brief the TSA Agents on Duty to be expecting us.  Mind you it’s going to be hard to miss the D-Man with his Rock and Roll hair and a surgical type face mask covering his mouth. 
I also explained that if a TSA agent needed to touch our belongings he or she would need to put on a fresh pair of gloves, this was acceptable to each Supervisor I spoke with.  I confirmed with both the TSA and the Airlines that I would be permitted to travel with a small cooler, one that would fit under the seat or into an overhead bin.  This is necessary because several of the D-Man’s medications need to be refrigerated.   I would recommend contacting the airline directly as each seems to have different policies on cooling methods.  The TSA allows Dry Ice, and Ice Gel Packs, but Continental prefers that no dry ice be on board their planes.  I also confirmed with the airlines that I will be permitted early boarding to disinfect the area where we will be sitting, and I will be allowed to cover the D-Man’s seat with a throw/blanket. 

I know all of this may sound like overkill, but I have found it’s best to err on the side of caution. The other item of note is while many items we will need for our trip will be packed in our checked luggage, other items will be mailed to the hotel. The manager I spoke with had no problem accepting a package for us, and will have the box in our room when we arrive. This will not only save time and money but ensure that we will have many of the “safe” items we need to make our trip stress free. 

Planning for this vacation is far from over.  I’m still in the process of contacting hotels for the second leg of our journey, rental car companies, grocery stores and restaurants, but progress is being made.  I will keep you updated, and hopefully what I learn will make your next travel experience a little easier.  If you have suggestions to make traveling easier, I would love to hear from you!

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