First of all, yay, you’re going on a plane to somewhere new. How exciting! You’ll be busy planning your travels, sorting all the necessary paperwork and packing a bag. If you're anything like me you’ll have written a packing list, jumped up and down with excitement and started a count down Calendar.
But hold your horses.... there are a couple of things you need to consider before stepping on that plane. You’ve booked your flights, you should then make your airline aware of your dietary requirements. If your booking option was like mine (lots of airlines are the same) you can only select one type of meal. e.g. you can choose gluten free OR Vegan So I chose the gluten intolerance option and then added an additional comment asking if it can be vegan too to clarify my meal choice.
This was NOT enough!
These were the choices I had... Child (2-11 years); DiabeticFruit Platter; Gluten Intolerance; Hindu; Infant (0-11 months); Kosher Meal; Muslim (Halal); Vegetarian (Asian Indian Style); Vegetarian (Lacto Ovo); Vegetarian (Oriental); Vegetarian (Strict Indian); Vegan
Top Tip 1...
Following your booking, make sure you contact your airline directly by phone and then by email with plenty of notice before your flight. I had to phone five times before my airline was able to update my passenger details correctly. When I was on the plane, having written confirmation from the airline helped our air stewards get the meal right or certainly prove what you’re asking for if something isn’t right. So ask them for a confirmation email too.
Before they can confirm, your airline may need to check that they can provide your meal and will offer to ring you back. Ask for a name, their direct number and a rough timescale to chase them if they haven’t replied. I didn’t and having to explain this over and over was quite funny / repetitive but also a waste of time too as I didn't get that call back.
Top Tip 2... Don’t give up trying.
I didn’t speak Chinese but we found a way to finally communicate. In the end, I suggested that they google what I meant. This seemed to help our language barrier. The plane doesn’t have cooking facilities so if it’s not on the plane you will be watching everyone else eat.
Top Tip 3... this is my favourite tip... A few days before your flight, fill your hand luggage with a variety of tasty snacks that will keep you sustained and happy if things don’t quite turn out quite as you expect.
Some snacks that I packed included on my last long haul flight included: Nuts and seeds Dried fruit like raisins, dates, apricots, etc Fruit (as long as you eat it all before arriving in the next country)* Bars like Naked bars, Eat Natural, etc Oatcakes Dark chocolate Home made cookies Home made granola (this was my saviour!)
Here's a couple of pictures of some of the meals I created with what I saw around me plus my homemade granola.
These literally saved my life on my long haul flight and having a variety of things kept me going.
Did you know that air stewards will usually come to speak to 'special' meals first. I learnt this on my first flight.... what I then did on my second flight is make them aware early on meaning they had more time to talk to me rather than trying to serve everyone else their food while it's still hot.
It turns out that vegan really isn’t a world wide thing yet. My meals had elements that I could eat and other parts that I really couldn’t. However, your meal may be spot on and phoning ahead was worth it and so you won’t need the following advice.
Check out my first meal...
Yogurt!!!! Be Good GF bread roll,
Potatoes, carrots, beans and a Chicken breast!!
Top Tip 4...
The worst thing to do if they haven't got your meal is panic or worse be rude.
Choose what you want from your tray. Then have to look around and notice what others are having. Are they serving rice or noodles maybe a fruit salad? If so could they make you some too or double your portion of something you like? Find out what else they could offer too. Don’t be afraid to ask the air stewards as they’re there to help. Don’t give up. In the end, the airline I flew with offered me food that was served in first class and were only too happy to make sure I wasn’t going to go hungry.
On the second leg of my long haul flight I had a better idea of what might come and was able to mentally prepare myself. There’s nothing like being 20 hours into your journey, feeling tired and then your food isn’t quite it. This post is the start of your mental preparation. Breathe. Smile. Don’t expect perfection.
If in doubt pack extra snacks. There’s no point putting your mind and body through any extra stress. Pack things you can eat and plenty of it. If there’s left overs they’ll be a great start to your travels.
*Please be mindful to check the country's government border control website as depending on your destination it may change what you can have. I did an internet search for items allowed / not allow in.
To help you on your travels and my further ones here’s a quick checklist to follow...
Ring your airline directly
Get written confirmation
Don’t give up
Make the cabin crew aware of your needs early on.
Be flexible and be creative
Mentally prepare yourself
Just in case pack extra snacks
Check the border control
I hope this helps anyone else who’s going on holiday or travelling around the world. Please feel free to share with anyone you know that this might help. It’s not just for people who are vegan or gluten free.