We had a wonderful time in NYC and got home without any incidents. We already want to go back!
But I wanted to share some things that happened as an illustration of why I think allergic teenagers still need an adult advocate with them on a big trip like this, where they are at the will of the tour guide company and there is one nurse for 80 kids.
The tour guide company wants to try to plan the allergen-safe meals themselves because you are paying a lot of money for their service. You decide to let them try because you know you will be along for the trip. Someone in the office calls you to give a progress report. “I have spent HOURS on the phone tracking down this information. I asked for the ingredients in the meal at the first restaurant and the person on the phone LAUGHED.” She then tells you, in so many words, not to sue them if things go wrong.
You packed some food but are unable to bring food into many venues due to heightened security. You do not return to the hotel until nighttime each day. You are in a large group and are not able to go off on your own to buy food very often. You make sure to have small prepackaged desserts and some nut butter packets for protein, being very careful of your nut allergic friend and using lots of hand wipes.
You have poured over the entire trip schedule making plans for each meal. The very first stop on the interstate is listed as a choice of two restaurants. Your bus pulls up in front of a third choice with nothing else nearby.
You find the manager at the first dinner restaurant and ask if there is dairy in either meat being served to the group. “No. No dairy.”
“No milk, cheese, butter….”
“Oh yeah, there’s butter in the rib marinade.”
You get a double order of chicken.
Because you are in a group of 100 people being served a limited number of choices, the dairy-free options are often gluten-free and vegan as well. Plain roasted vegetable salad is not a big hit.
Your small group also includes a nut allergic child, necessitating at least two stops for lunch during free times: one for a nut-free meal and one for a dairy-free meal. These girls have been friends since Kindergarten, and happily coexist eating each other’s allergens.
Your tour guide often says you need the “gluten free meal” instead of the dairy-free meal, and mistakenly tries to order you a bun-less cheeseburger like the one the gluten-free teen on your trip is eating.
Because your meals are prepared separately, your group is often the last one to eat, sometimes having to leave food unfinished. Your chaperon may or may not have lost her mind during the last meal and told you to sit and eat because they aren’t going to leave without you. 🙂
These incidents are all par for the course and not worth getting upset over, but I do think they are too much for an eighth grader to deal with alone. Adults sometimes don’t take kids’ concerns as seriously as they should. It pays to have an adult allergy spokesperson who won’t take no for an answer.