I wrote about our cross-country flight with Tadpole and his peanut allergy, but it was more of our story and less of some tips that we found helpful. Here is down low on the things that we did that I found helpful while flying Southwest. (I’m only including the name of the airline we flew because I know each airline varies drastically in their policies regarding food allergies and we flew Southwest)
As you read this please, please, please remember that all allergies are different, all flights are different, and what worked for my family and I might not work for you and you family. This is a list to help me plan our next trip and to let you see what worked for us so you can make your own plan when flying.
Before you leave
1. If you book online, select the peanut dust allergy as a disability. If you book over the phone, inform the agent of the allergy so s/he can include it in the reservation. I’ll talk more about why this is important later.
2. Order disposable seat covers. Order enough for you whole row or your whole group. Order enough for the trip there and the trip home. I packedwhat we would need for the way there in my carry-on and packed the rest in my suitcase for the trip home. I chose to cover our whole row, you could decide how many seats you wanted to cover.
3. Stock up on safe snacks. Even if nuts won’t be served on your flight, don’t depend on the snacks to be safe. This is especially important if you are juggling multiple allergies. I also threw some extras in my suitcase for the trip home. This also isn’t the time to try new snacks! Stick with the tried-and-true favorites from home!
4. Print the airline’s policy for handling peanut allergies. I found Southwest’s online here. I didn’t need it, but I felt better knowing I had it incase I came across an agent or flight attendant that didn’t know the policy or didn’t want to follow the policy.
1. Wear long pants and long sleeves. I kept Tadpole in long pants and brought along a long-sleeve shirt to give him a barrier between his skin and any potential peanut dust that finds its way near him.
2. Make sure to get a pre-board document and a peanut document. Remember when I said to include a peanut dust allergy in the reservation? When you go to get your boarding passes and check your bags, be sure to tell the agent about the allergy. They will print a pre-board document and a peanut document. The pre-board document allows the person with the allergy and one other person to pre-board the plane, giving you extra time to clean your area.
3. Board early and give the peanut document to the flight attendant as you board! I asked the flight attendant to make an announcement, and they did… This might now always be the case, but hopefully it is! You got the peanut document for a reason, so use it! We arrived early enough to get checked in, get through security, and get to the gate with plenty of time to pre-board. This way our whole group had seats together and I could take my time cleaning our area before other passengers started boarding.
4. Clean, clean, clean. I used my trusty Clorox wipes to clean EVERYTHING… To the window… To the wall… The tray (inside and out), the seat back, the seatbelt, the arm rests, the chair… Everything. Then I put our seat covers on and put Tadpole in his window seat.
5. Ask passengers sitting next to you if they would mind not eating nuts. I know the flight attendant might make an announcement… but seriously, how many people listen to the safety spiel anyways? I wanted to make sure that, at the very least, the people immediately surrounding us would be kind enough to not eat nuts. I couldn’t force it, but I could ask nicely. Nobody complained, but it’s always a possibility. Maybe the seat cover and fanny pack loaded with medical alert pins and tags scared them into not eating nuts… or maybe they didn’t plan on eating nuts. Either way, it’s worth asking.
6. Don’t touch the seat pockets. Even though planes undergo a thorough cleaning each night, those seat pockets are just asking for trouble. I doubt they get thoroughly cleaned just because of the logistics of cleaning every pocket. I’m also sure that’s where many people stash their empty peanut bags on flights that serve peanuts (re. peanut crumbs galore) I took everything out of Tadpole’s pocket so he wasn’t even tempted to get in there and I made sure not to stash any of our stuff in the pockets.
7. Wash hands frequently! I probably washed Tadpole’s hands with somewet wipes every hour or so (I keep a canister in my bag at all times because of how often we use these things. They do sell small packs and individually wrapped wipes, but I love my canister!)… Definitely every time before he ate a snack… After walking back to his seat from the bathroom (and yes, also in the bathroom)… After touching the window during takeoff… Randomly… And I washed my hands just as often.
8. Breathe. It was hard… It was stressful.. I was a neurotic mess… But Tadpole was so caught up in the excitement of flying, I had to breathe and enjoy it. I soaked up his excitement as we were racing down the runway, I giggled with him as we took off. I had to just take a breath and remember to enjoy this time, too.
These are the things I did for our flights and it worked for us! It was a combination of planning, nice fellow travelers, and supportive flight attendants. I don’t expect every flight to go this easily, but I do hope that one day it will be the norm. What tips and tricks do you have for flying? What worked? What didn’t?