Tag Archives: Easyjet

Γεια σαυ Αθήνα

It could appear that I’ve been keeping our final summer holiday destination close to my chest, but hopefully the title of this post will have given you some idea of where we headed to get a healthy dose of natural vitamin D and a much-needed complete break from it all. We decided to head somewhere that the children had never been and a country that Mike and I had last visited close to 17 years ago: Greece.

For those of you not yet fluent in the Greek alphabet and language, the above words say “Hello Athens” and that was how we chose to top and tail our trip to this beautiful Mediterranean country, with a few days spent soaking up the history in the capital city. Our early flight from Gatwick meant that we had reached our hotel by mid-morning and were soon ready to get started on our explorations. We stayed at the centrally located Athens Backpackers hostel, which was only a few minutes walk from both the Acropolis and the Plaka. The double set of bunk beds in the bedroom might not be every family’s idea of a great start to a holiday, but we wanted something that gave us easy access to all we were hoping to see in Athens and were delighted with our choice. With a spacious living area, small, but well equipped kitchen and the all-important air-conditioning, this family studio apartment was everything we could have wanted to start off our holiday.

Following in the tried and tested footsteps of previous holidays, our first destination was to buy tickets for the Athens City Sightseeing bus tour and having stopped to grab a quick lunch, with mediocre success meeting the allergy needs of G and M, we set off around this ancient city to pinpoint exactly where we wanted to visit over the next couple of days. One of the highlights of our city stay was, without a doubt, the Panathenaic Stadium, site of a simple racetrack for the original Panathenaic games and latterly home of the first modern Olympics in 1896. It somehow felt fitting to visit this Olympic stadium following so shortly after our trip to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London for the 2017 IAAF World Championships and M in particular was keen to soak up the history by listening to their comprehensive audio tour. One of the hidden gems there for me was the small museum that housed a number of posters, artefacts and torches from several Olympic Games over the last 120 years. G and I took our time walking around this single room housing numerous treasures and delighted in spotting the posters and torches from all 3 London Olympics Games: 1908, 1948 and 2012.

The children also enjoyed our stop at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square, where we watched the changing of the Hellenic parliament guard, who are known as the Evzones. This ceremony is impressive to watch, not only for the incredible historic costume, but also the slow, careful and measured movements that the soldiers make as they take up their official posts for the next 60 minutes.

Travelling to Greece in August had its advantages. Not only did we enjoy constant sunshine and temperatures that could sometimes be stifling in the city, but most Athenians have also gone on holiday and so the queues and crowds were not as big as they might otherwise have been. The one downside was that our holiday coincided with the Feast of the Assumption on August 15 and we were warned that many shops would be closed on the day. However, we planned our day carefully by having a good supply of food in our apartment for lunch and fulfilled M’s desire to visit a local playground, which we found quietly hidden in the beautiful National Gardens located just behind the Parliament buildings.

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Lost in Translation

As Mum to a child with additional health needs, you have to be prepared the minute you venture outside your front door. You don’t just carry with you the medicines, equipment and food items you need to get you through the next few hours relatively unscathed, but also the necessary mental strength to explain your child’s needs to everyone you encounter and ensure that your trip outside of the safe bubble at home goes as smoothly as it possibly can. There are, of course, times when an essential gets left on the kitchen counter and you have to think on your feet and find a solution that will work until you get back home, and, for us, there have been times when, despite the clear explanations given and the seeming comprehension of the waiting staff, mistakes have been made and the children have suffered the consequences of those misunderstandings.

global-travel-destinations

When you add travelling abroad to the mix, those unavoidable stresses become even more intense and, as an allergy Mum, I can tell you that worries about safe food are right at the top of the list. As you may remember, last year we decided to stay in the UK during that first holiday season with a tube in place and had the most amazing week in Cornwall, where we discovered hidden treasures of restaurants and sight-seeing spots that we are still talking about nearly 12 months on. However, we decided that this year we would venture back to a favourite haunt and visit the Algarve in Portugal, with a few extra days in Lisbon tacked on to the start of our trip. We know the resort of Alvor extremely well, but this will be the first time of visiting with such a restricted diet and I have to confess that nerves have been a little greater as we plan our 10-day stay away from home.

One thing I learned early on in our holiday planning with M was to talk to our airline about taking an extra case filled with whatever medicines or foods we will need whilst we’re away and have had superb experiences with both Easyjet to Portugal and Virgin Atlantic to Florida. These conversations paved the way for our long-haul flight to the USA and we found that both the airport lounge and the airline were able to provide safe meals for M when we gave them a little advance warning, but what happens once we’ve landed abroad, especially in a country where we don’t speak a word of the native language? dictionaryOur back-up plan is our self-catering apartment, which means that there is always somewhere to prepare a simple meal of M’s safe foods without too much trouble, but I do, perhaps selfishly, want a holiday from that daily grind of cooking and be able to enjoy a family meal as we used to do when the children were small. Our previous holidays to Portugal were challenging, but not impossible as M loves fish and seafood which are always readily available, but I worried that the current restrictions might be a demand too far.

Fortunately, there are answers to the anxiety about communicating food allergy requirements in a foreign language and whilst it took a little more effort than originally planned, I got our perfect solution in the end. I started by calling Allergy UK, who offer a fantastic service of providing translation cards which “…feature an allergy alert message, an emergency message and a message for use in restaurants to ensure that your food order is free from the particular allergen that causes your reaction…” and can be ordered in any one of 36 languages to cover 70 different allergens. However, I really wanted a bespoke message detailing M’s current safe foods and unfortunately Allergy UK was not able to tailor their cards accordingly, but they did point me in the direction of the amazing Yellow Cross, a company I had never even heard about until recently.

IMG_0824[1]Thanks to a detailed e-mail conversation with Yellow Cross Director, Jane Harrison, she agreed that it would make far more sense to detail what M can eat, rather than a lengthy list of his many allergens and suggested she spoke to their translator to cost out these personalised cards. We settled on appropriate wording, it was passed to their Portuguese translator and I was quoted a very reasonable £20 for a set of 4 eating out translation cards. I confirmed that we wanted the cards, made payment and in less than a week, the finished credit card-sized cards dropped through our letter box. The cards are printed on card and then carefully laminated to extend their life, and I couldn’t be happier with the finished product. They clearly state the wording I had discussed and agreed with Jane and their service was absolutely faultless. I found Yellow Cross willing to help us with our request and I’m certain that the inclusion of these cards in our travel survival pack will ensure that our Portuguese holiday goes with a swing.

With a little help from Easyjet

Courtesy of bankingtech.com

Courtesy of bankingtech.com

This summer we travelled once again to Portugal for a week of sun, sand and sangria.  On our 2 previous holidays, Mum and I filled our suitcases, not just with the necessary sun-cream, hats, swimwear and shorts, but also with a supply of M-friendly foods to get us through the week relatively unscathed.  I’ve previously always taken a more relaxed stance to M’s diet whilst away from home as it’s a great deal harder to ensure that his diet is as strictly adhered to as it is at home and we have coped with the resulting consequences, accepting it as our decision.

However, we decided that this year had to be different.  M’s struggles over the last few months with his health have been well-documented on my blog and the accompanying emotional frustrations and challenging behaviour meant that I felt we needed to endeavour to follow his diet as much as we humanly could.  This, of course, meant that we needed to take a lot more M-friendly foods with us – free-from spread, rice milk, cereal, bread, rice cakes and snacks to name but a few.

This increased amount of food, plus all the additional medicines M is now taking – he has increased to 7 medicines daily compared to last year’s 4 and the previous year’s 0 – meant that I needed to find an alternative means of carrying it all as otherwise I’d be leaving some essential clothes behind.

Fortunately, a tip from the “Special Diets” thread on the Dibb website suggested that it might be possible to carry all of M’s medical supplies including the food, as additional hand or hold luggage at no additional cost.  I immediately contacted our airline, Easyjet, to see what advice they could give me.

Frustratingly, it wasn’t as simple as phoning a helpline, but rather I had to go through the rather convoluted route of e-mailing their customer services and waiting for a reply.  However, the small amount of effort required was well worth it as I received the following confirmation from them:

Easyjet would like to advise you that if you need to travel with any kind of medication or medical equipment you can do so, if you provide us with a doctor’s letter at the check-in desk, confirming the name of the passenger who needs them, the amount and names of each medication, doctor’s signature and stamp. You will be allowed to travel with the medication in a separate extra piece of hand or hold luggage without any extra charge. Please remember that in the extra piece of luggage you will be allowed to put only the medical stuff and nothing else.

Please also advise our Special Assistance Department about your need, so they will add this additional information to your booking to make the airport staff aware of your needs.
You can contact them by calling on a free of charge from landline number: 0800 998 1130.

So, I did as I was told and contacted the Special Assistance department.  They put a note onto M’s flight details to advise that we would be travelling with an additional bag free of charge and reiterated that I needed a signed medical note detailing all the medicine and foods we needed to carry with us and how much was needed each day.  I then spoke to our GP, who agreed to list out everything we might possibly need during our holiday.  The letter was duly written, signed and paid for and we were all set for the flight.

Courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

Courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

The ease of being able to take a dedicated bag just for M’s medicines and foods was a real godsend and I was impressed at how easy it was to successfully check-in with not a hassle in sight.  There was no question about taking the additional piece of hold luggage through and even the return journey was simple, though I would recommend also having a copy of the actual prescription with you instead of just the medical letter if at all possible.  Travelling with small children is difficult at the best of times and when you add medical needs into the mix, it becomes even more of a challenge, but Easyjet lived up to its name and made our life just that little bit easier.