Jan Gambino Jan Gambino's Blog

Travel Stories: Westward Ho!

Driving cross country with a picky eater with severe Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease seemed like a good idea at the time. At three years of age, Rebecca was a typical comfort eater, common in children with reflux. She didn’t eat the typical breakfast, lunch and dinner, preferring 6-7 small meals every 2-3 hours. Rebecca was also a carbohydrate junkie, eating mashed potatoes, bread, macaroni and cheese or crackers at every meal. She preferred to have the same foods over and over, day in and day out. In addition, she was extremely wary of new, unfamiliar foods. The mashed potatoes had to be just like the ones at home. As if it wasn’t challenging enough to travel with a world class picky eater, I had the added challenge of keeping 3 young children entertained without losing my mind.

Traveling with a child with reflux can cause a great deal of stress to the caretaker. It can be a challenge to have the right food when needed. There is a great deal of concern about shopping in an unfamiliar town or going to a new restaurant. I didn’t find it too challenging to manage her medication schedule on the road but mealtime was a lot harder.

My solution was to eat from the cooler in the back seat for breakfast, lunch and snacks. I could usually find the basic brands and kinds of food at any food store such as crackers, cereal, pretzels and bagels. Our whole family could eat out of the cooler and it allowed us to eat as needed without needing to wait to be served at a restaurant. We found that the main highways had beautiful, shady picnic areas for a relaxing break from driving. A few times, we drove off the highway and into a town in search of a town park or school playground.

We ended up having dinner at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant just about every night. Not only did each restaurant have the same menu, the interior had the same layout. Whether we were in central Illinois or eastern Kansas, we were in a familiar setting each night. Only the waitress changed! If we had to travel a few extra miles to a Cracker Barrel, I would pull out the snack bag and give Rebecca a snack before the hunger pain was replaced by reflux pain. If Rebecca didn’t eat when she needed to, her stomach would churn with acid. She also eats too fast when she is extra hungry, ingesting air and creating painful gas and bloating after a meal. No fun at all, especially when trapped in a minivan on the high prairie.

Whether you are at a Cracker Barrel or another restaurant, I have found that you can always ask for crackers or bread before the entrée is served. Sometime it is possible to get a cold entrée or side dish served right away if her tummy just cannot wait.

My motto is be prepared-don’t hesitate to bring a small baggie of food or a sippy cup in case the service is slow, there is a wait for a table or the entrée doesn’t meet the expectations of her discerning palate (i.e. It doesn’t taste right so I’m not going to eat it, end of subject…).

We did have a wonderful trip and saw the purple mountain majesty and the amber waves of grain. We also saw the world’s largest ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas but that story will have to wait for another time!

Happy trails to you!


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