As holiday season is upon us, we braved a trip abroad with a child with multiple severe allergies, in an all inclusive resort. How did we get on? And were there any reactions?
Last year, I didn't speak much about our much anticipated holiday abroad for fear of jinxing it. We'd not had a holiday abroad for a very long time due to Callum and his multiple allergies, and the very real concerns of not being able to keep him safe, particularly if foreign languages we can't speak come in to play.
Well, I'm now writing this after we returned from a successful week away in Turkey!
Yes, we did it, we flew out of the UK, to a country where we don't speak the language, and to a resort that we were trusting would be able to feed Callum safely.
And guess what, they did!
Holidays abroad and allergies, can it really be done?
And more importantly, can it be done safely?!
Well, last year we decided to put this to the test. We’d ummed and ahhhed for the past 4 years, but always chickened out of it as we just couldn’t get the reassurance we needed that Callum could be kept safe. As with many parents dealing with allergies, our worst nightmare was that he would suffer a severe allergic reaction abroad, away from local hospitals and restricted over the medical support he would require to combat such a reaction. And how would we convey the seriousness of the situation as we don’t speak the language.
So, we spent 6 months fully researching possible options and looked at many different countries to see what was available. Should we go for French speaking seeing as I can speak French fluently – would that make things easier? Should we go to the USA as there’d be no language barrier at all if Jon needed to jump in? Or should we go somewhere recommended to us even if we couldn’t speak the language at all.
Tripadvisor, Allergy Travels, facebook support groups all played a part in our decision as we started to build a picture of possible places we could travel to.
And what about flights?
Which travel companies would we feel safest with?
Of all the companies, which take allergies seriously?
It’s a huge minefield, and I won’t lie, I almost bottled it, several times!
In the end, we decided to try Jet2 Holidays, having been recommended them by a number of friends.
We also chose Turkey, not too far to fly (just over 4 hours), not too hot (38-40c average) and covered by our insurance company without needing to remortgage the house! As an example, a trip to the US would have cost us the best part of £1000 to insure Callum alone, never mind the rest of the family.
We decided to go all inclusive so that we could get a set menu organised through the hotel for Callum, although I did take a lot of back up with us, which I’ll touch upon a little later on.
Out of 3 resorts, we opted for Rixos Sungate. Reports suggested friendly staff, great menu options, English speaking and with a can-do attitude to customers. It basically ticked all the boxes, but would they actually deliver according to our expectations?
You have to remember, since Callum’s diagnosis some 6 years ago, we have NEVER been on a ‘proper’ summer holiday abroad with the children, we’ve only ever stayed in places where we can speak the language, and are self catering, so this was a HUGE deal for us. I’ve needed a true break for a long time, and Mr Intolerant G was desperately in need of a proper holiday too.
And whilst I am known for positivity and actively promoting seeing the best in everything, this was testing me to my limits. I was fearful for a reaction, totally out of my comfort zone, and whilst looking forward to going away, niggling doubts were constantly in my head.
Would Callum be safe?
Could we dodge reactions?
Will the medikit we take with us be enough?
What if they don’t understand the severity?
Upon booking the holiday (some £3.5k paid for by ourselves) I attempted to contact the hotel, but to no avail.
This immediately got me worrying. If I couldn’t get in touch with them before we got there, how on earth would I be able to trust that they could cater safely for Callum and his complex requirements?
Emails were also unanswered, which concerned me even more – but it shouldn’t have because the hotel and Jet2Holidays proved to us immediately on arrival just how good they really are! And the reason for the unanswered calls and emails…. They were still sorting out the hotel (which closes out of peak season) and training up staff ready for the new season!
We flew out of East Midlands airport, and that in itself was a simple, smooth process. We left the car at one of the park and ride areas, and having checked in online, once we reached the airport, we simply needed to scan our paperwork to print out our boarding passes.
Going through security was a little longer than normal, as they checked Callum’s medication (which I expected and had back up in the form of a consultant letter explaining why we needed to carry the medication) but we were soon on our way.
We even managed to find a restaurant in the airport that could cater safely for Callum, so we all had a decent meal before our flight. We chose to do this because the food available on the plane was NOT suitable for Callum, and we’d be landing around 10pm our time so didn’t want to arrive hungry as well as tired. We had snacks for the plane, but wouldn’t need much.
The flight itself was without issue, and should we have required it (Callum doesn’t have airborne issues thank goodness) they had a pre recorded audio asking people to refrain from consuming peanuts/nuts on the flight.
This immediately impressed me, and the cabin crew advised they actively watch passengers to ensure they adhere to the message if it is played out on the plane!
We landed at 10pm in 32c and 90% humidity, which immediately had me worried about Callum’s asthma and eczema. He wasn’t phased by it at all though, and was more interested in the huge collection of coaches waiting to transfer everyone from the airport to their respective hotels.
As we jumped on our coach, our rep welcomed us, then mentioned to us that he was aware of us being the family with a child with allergies, briefly talked to us about our requirements and organised to meet us early on the Saturday morning (we landed on a Thursday night) and said he would sort everything out with the hotel.
We didn’t realise quite how quickly he would sort everything out for us!
After an hours drive, we arrived at our hotel, which was around 11.30pm by this point, and whilst booking in, the receptionist advised that our rep had called ahead to warn the hotel of Callum’s needs and that they had already set the wheels in motion to make sure he was fully catered for. We had a meeting booked for 8.30am the next day to discuss exactly what he could and couldn’t eat with the guest services manager and kitchen manager and as we had brought back up with us just in case, this was fine with us!
We then were taken to our room, or should I say suite…. It was truly stunning!! 2 interconnecting rooms, with balcony, 2 bathrooms, tv area and well stocked fridge which was all part of our package (we paid for everything to be included, food, drink, towels for the swimming pools etc)
After a fitful sleep, we made our way to guest services for our meeting. This is the point at which I was blown away with how good they were!!
Their English was impeccable, they understood everything we mentioned, the concerns we had, how to keep Callum safe, and more.
Between us, we came up with a menu for Callum, which would be cooked fresh on arrival to the main restaurant each day for lunch and dinner. They even bought in special oat milk for Callum because he mentioned it was his favourite. They also made him fresh porridge every morning using his safe milk, because again he told them that’s what he liked best. Nothing was too much trouble for them.
The whole week, we were able to feed Callum safely and extremely well. Not once did he feel he was missing out. He had fruit from the self service fruit section, freshly grilled fish and meat, fresh salad and more.
We felt safe, relaxed, and truly on holiday, and I can’t recommend this wonderful hotel enough.
On our last night, we ate at the Mexican restaurant onsite, and I was worried they may not be able to cater for Callum.
As before, I had no need to be worried!
Our rep had called ahead, explained everything, and they talked me through the menu, brought out labels for me to read (I had a Turkish to English dictionary with me so I could translate without worries) and we had a fabulous night, eating right on the beach.
It was quite simply the best holiday, and we will definitely be returning.
For anyone looking for a holiday where they can truly relax with allergies, I can’t recommend Jet2Holidays and Rixos Sungate enough!
I would recommend taking the following with you for peace of mind:
• Small cartons of safe milk
• Small boxes of safe cereal
• Fruit bars
• Boxes of raisins
• Safe crisps/nachos/biscuits
• Packets of bread rolls
• Individual portions of safe spread
• Rice noodles + safe stock cubes
I put all of these in Callum’s suitcase that went in the hold, and it meant that I knew we had safe backup food just in case. We barely touched them because we were so well catered for!
If you want to book the same holiday as us, this is the current listing for this year: