Do you Allow Pets?

This weekend, I stayed at The Inn on Long Lake in Nanaimo and it was a wonderful experience! From start to finish. I was EXTREMELY pleased. I called in 48 hrs before our arrival date and mentioned that I had severe allergies to pets (cat and dog) and wanted to know whether they allowed pets. The women I spoke with was extremely understanding and explained that yes, they do accept pets. She said that they “try” to keep the third floor free of pets, though they cannot guarantee 100% that there has never been a pet in those rooms. She said that the decision would be up to me, dependent on how severe my allergy was.

I expressed that my allergies were VERY severe and she offered to put me on hold whilst she spoke to her manager. Only a few minutes later she returned. She explained that they did have a few rooms that were a little higher priced as they had a king size bed and were more spacious. For the extra $20.00 I decided it would be the best decision for me. Now, some might wonder… how did you decide? Well, considering I have had a tough time with my asthma the last few months and that Inns, Hotels etc. usually trigger allergies, due to the cleaning products they use and detergent for sheets and towels, the decision was a , “no-brainer” for me. No point adding another “possible” trigger into the mix!

I opened the patio door for the night (usual practice for me) and slept great.I had a great stay despite being a little itchy from the sheets and towels, which I have gotten used to.

I highly recommend their beautiful in, with views on long lake. What an amazing sunrise this morning.  🙂


Allergies and Language Barriers

Have you encountered a situation when you are unable to communicate your allergies and their severity due to an obvious language barrier? Perhaps you have traveled to a different country where they spoke primarily french, portugese, spanish or another language you may not be very familiar with. How have you dealt with these situations. Have you trusted them when they said that your food would be safe? Have you trusted the hotel staff who seemed convinced no animal had ever been in the room? Do you try and learn some phrases before your trip if you know that your language may not be spoken where you are going?

One trick my parents and I came up with a few years ago was to have someone translate a few key phrases and words for us and write them all on separate pieces of paper for us. When we went to the Dominican Republic years ago, we at least 3 different notes in spanish that we could give to the chef for assistance. One would say: “hello, my name is Erika and I have SEVERE, life-threatening allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, …” another said “can you please help me find something safe to eat?” and the notes went on. I found it extremely helpful to have everything written down, because I didn’t have to worry about not saying something correctly, or mispronouncing it. I felt safe, knowing the chef had very specific messages. The chef on this particular trip was awesome. He did not speak a word of English, though he would nod or shake his head when pointing at items in the buffet, to express whether I could eat it or not.

I find it truly amazing how despite talking, gestures and written communication can be a very successful means of expressing thoughts.

Are there times you have found it impossible to communicate your allergies? Maybe when eating out, or renting a room at a hotel, when you are asking them about cleaning products they use and their pet regulations… How have you felt in those situations? What have you done? Do your friends or family try and assist?

My thought on this topic is to try and have a few phrases in the languages of the place you know you will be visiting. If you live in British Columbia or any other province or territory.. and will be visiting Quebec, don’t worry, there is English and French, though it does not hurt to go prepared, with a few notes and phrases!

Another positive hotel experience!

This weekend we were in Tofino, on Vancouver Island and stayed at the Tin Wis Hotel.

If you are looking for a nice place to stay, perhaps celebrate or spend a nice weekend as a couple, the staff here were amazing. When I initially called in to make a reservation, they took notes about not to use any scented cleaning products and assured me that our room would have been thoroughly cleaned, if in the past there had been a dog or other pet in it. Each room also had patio doors, which was great! Nowadays, many hotels have windows that do not even open, which can be a real nuisance for us allergy sufferers.

Dinner was also phenomenal. The kitchen staff and waitress were extremely understanding and modified the dish to cater to my allergies. They were not taking any chances. And their menu has several gluten free options! They are aware. They also have gluten free wraps available for breakfast.

Definitely worthy of another stay.

What places have you stayed at that you feel extremely comfortable returning to for your next stay? Do many come to mind?

Last minute packing…

Yes, we all do it. There’s always the thought that ” I don’t have to do it right away, I’ve got lots of time”. Well, at least my “last minute packing” consists only of packing clothes as all my medications, “Erika-friendly” snacks, and masks for the plane were ready to go yesterday! 🙂

Ahhhh a sigh of relief. Bag to check is packed, carry-on is packed and now I can sit back relax and smile as I feel I have become so much more efficient and organized with planning trips. Now, this trip is a little different as we will be going to visit family, so I am not having to deal with hotels and special requests for cleaners etc. On the flip side, the challenge remains that everyone has pets, except for my brother’s place who we were fortunate enough to acquire for the week along with another family’s home which is fairly safe as well…

I use “fairly” because both places we will be staying at, have had peanuts, nuts, soy and legumes in the kitchen which means it isn’t as safe as the comfort of our own kitchen here at home. However… this has never stopped me from embarking on new adventures in the past and does not scare me now. On numerous trips in the past, my friends, colleagues and family have all pitched in to help make the kitchen safer for me. And how might we do this?

STEP 1: When we arrive at a hotel kitchenette or at a house we’ve rented, or suite at a hotel, or even when we are staying at someone else’s house the first thing we do is clean every single surface! EVERYTHING. A good cleaner and a nice sink full of hot water with “new” clothes/sponges will do the trick.

STEP 2: Clean the dishes and cutlery that might be used for cooking meals or eating. If there are plastic spatulas or other spoons, I always set them aside and insure they do NOT get used throughout our stay.

STEP 3: Clean the door to the fridge, and at least the shelf in the fridge where I will be keeping my food. When I was away at cross-country training camps, this was ALWAYS crucial.

These are only a few of the bigger steps I take to create a safer kitchen environment when I am not in my own kitchen and don’t know what foods were eaten, or prepared. Other precautions can be taken, and I do take a few more.

Well, tonight has come and gone and I need to get some sleep before we fly East tomorrow. More to come as I share my experience travelling with WestJet, as they have always been amazing with my allergies.

**Remember, I am only a young adult with allergies sharing my experiences and what I do is NOT necessarily what you will do which is 100% ok. I am just sharing what I do to make myself safer in someone else’s kitchen.

Going on a trip…

Sometimes a trip or vacation comes up sporadically and on short notice, however most often the idea is “in the cooker” for weeks and months prior to. Today is “Day 1” for me in planning for a conference in August 2012. I was so excited to know that I could attend, and have already started brainstorming about what needs to happen to make sure I have an amazing, safe trip. Things to start planning and looking into for me are:

Flights –  Which airline will I travel? Do they have requirements for passengers with allergies? What policies do they have with respect to Peanuts and Tree nuts? Do they allow pets on board?

For example: Air Canada requires medical approval and notice at least 48 hrs in advance of the scheduled flight if they are to set up a <buffer zone> – Air Canada Medical Approval & Advance Notice

Accomodations – Will I be staying in a hotel or trying to find friends who I can stay with for the length of the conference? If I stay in a hotel, which one? I have to start calling around now to see which ones allow pets (quite a few do). I must find out which hotels have windows that CAN BE OPENED (as I have been stuck in some that do not open and had to switch hotels). Which of my friends would have a relatively safe place for me to stay? Do they have pets? Have they ever had pets in their apartment or house? Is it carpeted? Is it a much older place?

Food – What meals will be served? Is there a caterer I can be in communication with? Where are the local grocery stores and how feasible will it be for me to make my own lunches and bring them to the conference? …

And then I can start to get into the easier logistics & planning that shouldn’t be as tricky and require as much investigation, like transportation.

Never a dull moment. I know from experience that the best and safest trips I have ever taken are the ones when I left the house prepared. I felt like everything was already coordinated and that all the discussions with hotels and organizers and caterers were done. I had my “to do” checklist marked as complete and my confidence was 100%.  On these trips I always had a few non-perishables with me, some fruit bars, apple sauce, rice crackers and other things. Oh, and I almost forgot! … BABY FOOD  🙂 Check out my earlier post on Convenient food for Travel to understand the “baby food”.

What do you do when planning for a trip? Do you have a ready made checklist? What are your first action items?