By Dorothy and Sean Corry, Mill Creek, WA
We traveled with our daughter with PKU, Beth, age 11, and son David, age 8, during June 1998. The trip lasted two weeks. We spent three days in Dublin and then spent the last eleven days touring the country by car, staying in Bed & Breakfasts (abundant in Ireland) and an occasional hotel.
We decided to take all of Bethís formula, her gram scale, and nearly all of her low protein food with us as carry-on luggage. This turned out to be a good thing, because our checked luggage was lost when we changed planes in London. We recovered it in a day, but this would have been a very nervous time had we put Bethís formula or low protein food in those bags.
Before we left, we made two loaves of bread. We added 2 teaspoons of white vinegar to each, hoping that the vinegar would act as a preservative and in the possibly damp weather, retard mold. The bread lasted nicely throughout the two weeks.
For the plane rides to and from Seattle we ordered a fruit plate and we supplemented this with snacks like small-boxed cereal, goldfish crackers, etc., which we also had in our carry-on bags.
Along with our important papers we had a letter from our clinic describing PKU and the diet. It also explained that we were traveling with required formula, food, baking mix and gram scale. We had no problems going through Customs in Dublin.
Because of the nature of our trip (touring, staying at Bed & Breakfasts, in and out of the car) we wanted to be self-sufficient. We took along a small plastic bowl and a lightweight whisk for making formula. Beth drank out of an insulated Coleman brand thermos. When she wasn't drinking her milk she stored it in a soft-sided cooler, kept cool with three small blocks of Blue Ice. At the B&Bs our hosts were happy to put the Blue Ice in their freezers so that they could be re-used the following mornings.
Staying at Bed and Breakfasts worked out very well for us. Although a "traditional Irish breakfast" is full of meat, cheese and eggs, there was usually fruit, fruit salad, and sometimes, lower protein cereals for Beth. Our hosts were always happy to toast a couple of slices of Beth's bread so that Beth could sample the jams and marmalades on the breakfast table. Rice Krispies are sold in Ireland and we bought a box, in case Beth wanted that for a breakfast meal. She ate her cereal dry.
Lunch was generally picnic style. We usually had sandwiches and bought jelly, Miracle Whip and tomatoes at local markets for sandwich fixings. We also picked up whatever fresh fruit was appealing. Pringles potato chips were available, as well as local brands. Campbellís Soups were in stores and there were some other brands that had vegetarian ingredients.
We ate dinner in restaurants nearly every night. As we were sightseeing we looked for appropriate places, and our B&B hosts would usually have copies of the local restaurant's menus. Fortunately, the "Let's Go!" guidebook lists vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants, and we found a couple of vegetarian restaurants on our own. Beth often ordered green salads, potato salads, cooked fresh vegetables, French fries, or rice.
For snacks we all had fruit, potato chips, and Beth had the low protein cookies we brought along. We found some frozen fruit bars that were nice treats. We did, however, find that aspartame is in many products as a sugar substitute, even if the product wasn't meant to be "diet food." Soda pop isnít always marked as "diet" either. Beth especially enjoyed reading the ingredient lists in 3 or 4 languages, which is common in Europe.
Before our two-week trip we discussed what it would be like to do this kind of vacation. Beth is a flexible person, and although at times she was probably pretty tired of salads and "chips" (i.e. French fries), she would travel abroad again without hesitation.
On the plane ride back to Seattle, we had to complete the customs form, which asked if we had any food with us. Although we were not bringing back any food purchased in Ireland, we did have leftover formula and other low protein foods with us. We were unsure how to fill out that portion of the form. The Seattle customs official told us that we should write "US in origin" on the form, which he kindly did for us. We passed through customs with no problem.