A primary goal of mine has been to not let keto change our way of life (diet aside). We’ve done theme parks, museums, long days out, quick overnighters, weekends away, full weeks away, road trips, and plane flights. Fortunately, keto has not slowed us down in the slightest!
I’ve always subscribed to the mantra “listen, smile, and agree. Then do whatever you were going to do anyway” which I’ve become even fonder of when dealing with any issues others may have with what I’m doing for my daughter. I highly recommend adopting this way of life! Being in new environments seems to bring this out a little more.
Either way, it’s important to stop at nothing to do what’s best for your child.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way to make traveling go a little smoother.
Get a prescription for the ketogenic diet. Preferably on the old school prescription pads (rather than a document that looks like you could have made it yourself and printed it off the computer). Reese’s has her information on it and then simply says “ketogenic diet for epilepsy.” I keep it in my wallet at all times. I have yet to actually use it, but having it makes me feel more empowered. Now that I have a prescription, the way I figure it is that an establishment can not restrict my bringing in my daughter’s food any more than they could restrict a person’s oxygen tank that required it, a person’s epi-pen to someone allergic to nuts, or a service dog to someone who is blind. As our dietician put it: because of how strict the diet is, you need specific foods, specific brands, and specific quantities, in specific combinations – other food will not suffice. It’s simply a medical necessity.
Don’t be afraid to sneak food in places anyway! We went to Disney on Ice and security wasn’t letting anything slip through. They were even finding mints and cough drops in women’s purses and diaper bags and confiscating them. Now, don’t get me wrong, I doubt that anybody who has ever met me would say that I have trouble standing up for myself – I don’t mind confrontation when need be – but I was at Disney on Ice to enjoy the day with my kids. I can get anxiety in crowds. I can get riled up. So rather than slow up the line, have to explain myself, have to explain why I needed the exact items I had and that nothing inside the venue would suffice, I just snuck them in. I hid them well (clearly), but if they did find them, I would have happily enlightened the security team. But in that situation, I was a lot happier and calmer just sneaking in my items and avoiding the drama.
Call the airline ahead and ask any questions about their medical equipment luggage rules. I wanted to bring an ice chest for a 4 day trip to Seattle (because I didn’t want to waste hours and hours going to multiple grocery stores that I was unfamiliar with, hoping they had the exact products I wanted, only to use small amounts of each item and leave the rest behind once we left) so I called in advance to ask their policy for ice chests. Alaska Airlines said that it was free and wouldn’t count toward my luggage maximum as long as it was exclusively medical. When I arrived for my flight, I let them know it was a medical ice chest. They asked if I had documentation, I said yes and offered to get it out, but they said that wasn’t necessary. I had no issues.
Call the hotel ahead if there is any doubt about whether or not their accommodations will work for you. A big one I’ve had to learn the hard way is the difference between a “cooler” and a “mini-fridge” when listed on a hotels website. Mini-fridge typically means a small fridge with a freezer in the top corner, whereas cooler means a type of refrigerator, but basically just for beverages and doesn’t seem to feel near as cold. And no freezer. I don’t have any frozen keto items, but I almost always have ice packs with the food I bring for the day. So I need a way to re-freeze those each evening. That tiny freezer is important to me! I also wouldn’t trust a cooler to keep my dairy products cold enough.
Confidence is key. In the early days, I’d been told my stroller wasn’t allowed certain places, but confidently told them it should be treated as if it were a wheelchair and had no issues. I think that if I were shy about it, it may have been an issue. You can’t allow doubt room to creep in.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve found that for the most part, people are happy to help. A nice attitude, smile, and a sincere “thank you” go a long way. I like to mention my daughter’s epilepsy hoping that it will let people know why I have the specific (and often sort of weird) request. I understand that I owe nobody an explanation, but I find it helps. Maybe it just helps me to feel like it’s a slightly less weird/needy request. In a pinch, I’ve asked for mayonnaise, but only if it was full fat… because of my daughter’s diet to control epilepsy. I’ve asked a closed Starbucks for an ounce of heavy cream and a pump of sugar free syrup (for meds)… because of my daughter’s diet to control epilepsy. Almost always, people have kindly helped. As would I, if the shoe were on the other foot.
If you bring food with you on a road trip or airplane (which I highly recommend because… why not? Spend the time on your vacation enjoying yourself, not grocery shopping!). I like to pack a full sized ice chest with whatever I’ll need for that trip. But I also pack a full days worth of food and keep it in my purse. You just never know! And often, even in the car, the ice chest gets tucked away real well and getting stuff in and out during the drive is just a pain. Plus, keto meals (in terms of size) are generally small. So it’s not that difficult. I love these bags by PackIt that have a built in ice pack. They’re small enough to fit in my purse. Sometimes I even take one for each kid.
For medicine, if you check luggage, be sure to have at least a full days medicine with you (in your purse, diaper bag, backpack, etc). Personally, I make a habit to pack all medicines for any trip (plus extra) and keep it in my purse. Note that if you have a lot of medical items, a bag that is exclusively medical won’t count towards your carry on maximum. You just never do know if your checked luggage gets lost or you get stuck on the plane due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances… we’ve all heard those horror stories of being stuck on the tarmac for hours on end. You also never know when your quick weekender turns into a long weekend and having an extra few days worth of medicine has helped me more than once.
If your child is still at the stroller age, I highly recommend the PockIt stroller. I made a simple strap to go around it so I can carry it like a messenger bag when not in use. Even if your child isn’t actually in the stroller, if you’re anything like me, you have a heavy diaper bag (rescue meds, normal meds, and food on top of standard diaper bag supplies) and can put that in the stroller when your child isn’t (storage isn’t great, but it fits enough for us). It’s been convenient, and when you’re not using it, it folds away to a little larger than a phone book (at restaurants, I tuck it under my chair). I’ve taken it on planes and (at least the ones I’ve tried) it literally fit to wheel down the aisle. Then I’ve folded it up and put it in the overhead bin. Unless a medical necessity, this will count as a carry-on item. Reese gets her own ticket now and carries no items, so that hasn’t been a problem for us.
Always carry the basics with you, like a travel scale (I like this one, although it only goes to the nearest whole gram, which works for me for the amount I use it and I like that if folds up small).
Consider creating an excel spreadsheet or another method to calculate meals on the go. We’ve had eating strikes that I was unprepared for, but since I had a way to adjust Reese’s meals on the go, we were able to carry on with our day. I have it on my phone because… well, I always have my phone with me so I don’t need to carry around anything extra.
Set up the iPhone Medical Alert to alert emergency responders of your child’s condition in the event that you are incapacitated. To find it, on the lock screen, press Emergency, then press Medical ID. I put my name and birthday, but I also listed Reese’s info. You just never know when you’ll be in an unfamiliar place and something may happen to you. I’ve heard stories about very well intentioned emergency responders giving children candy bars to try to help them through a tough situation. Such a kind gesture, but it would do far more harm than good in our situation, and it’s what I’m hoping to avoid by listing Reese’s condition and specifics. To edit it, go to the health app on your iPhone, then on the bottom right, click on Medical ID. Input the information there – I listed Reese’s info in the “other” along with emergency contacts.
Have any useful trips for traveling while keto? Contact me!