Traveling On The Ketogenic Diet

We love to travel, so when we started on the ketogenic diet four years ago, I worried that the diet would close off the world to us. We could still go to Colorado and Florida because we had friends and family there with kitchens. There were also stores where we could buy ingredients for his meals and pharmacies if we ran out of medication. But what about the places where we would be on our own?

Our first big trip was almost two weeks in Hawaii. I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to find specific ingredients we would need to make food. I also didn’t know if we could find a room with a kitchen, so we prepared as much food as we could to take it with us. It was our first time traveling with a cooler, so I read through the TSA rules to see where they stood on traveling with ice. I researched coolers to find one that would fit enough food but wouldn’t be too big to carry on the airplane. The week before, we made enough food so that we had meals available for the entire trip. The cooler was heavy, but it allowed us to enjoy our trip without worrying about staying in ketosis.

This year, we went to Panama. At least in Hawaii, there was an ABC Store on every corner. In the remote places we were going to in Panama, that would not be the case. It was also not likely that the closest store would have the specific ingredients we needed. There would also not be a pharmacy to stroll into if we needed a prescription. Again, I hit the internet to read about bringing medication and food internationally. There were no specific restrictions about bringing my son’s food into the country, so we again prepared enough meals to cover the trip plus a few extra days. Even though we were staying in homes with kitchens, making the food ahead of time removed many variables. We also upgraded our cooler to a backpack to make it easier to carry on those long travel days.

Now, traveling on the ketogenic diet feels routine. We prepare the food ahead of time. We know the routine to pack and get through security. And we no longer worry about the world being closed off to us. If we can make keto work in the mountains of Panama, we can pretty much make it work anyway.

If you’re looking to travel on keto, here are a few tips:

  1. Find complete meals you can prepare ahead of time. Ideally, it’s also food that can be frozen, like ice cream, pizza, and pancakes (syrup went in checked baggage). Some restaurants will heat food for you, some won’t. Keep that in mind when you plan the meals.
  2. Make sure everything is frozen. Freeze all of the food for the journey and use the blue ice packs to keep everything cool. Make sure the ice packs are frozen, though, because TSA won’t allow them through if they aren’t.
  3. Keep a letter from your doctor handy. If a situation arises where you may need to explain the diet, a letter from your doctor can come in handy.
  4. Don’t forget utensils. Not every segment of your journey will have access to forks and spoons, so bring some with you. Plastic, disposable utensils are best because washing silverware while traveling is not always possible.
  5. Get to the airport early, just in case. We generally get pulled out of line by TSA when they scan the cooler, so having the extra time creates a more stress-free experience.

My final piece of advice is don’t be afraid to travel. It is a big, amazing world out there with so much to see. The ketogenic diet doesn’t need to prevent you from experiencing it.

If you have any questions about traveling on the ketogenic diet, feel free to leave a comment or send me a note.

Around The World

I’ve always loved to travel. I lived in Germany when I was in the Army and I traveled to Japan and China in my single days. My wife and I honeymooned in Fiji and Australia. Almost as soon as we stepped foot back on American soil, I began looking for jobs in Sydney and Melbourne.

When my son was younger, he took French classes and we planned to start with Montreal before exploring France and then, ultimately, starting a second career working in kitchens across Europe as a chef.

Our move from Colorado to Philadelphia was part of that adventure. We left the relative safety of the whitewashed suburbs and moved to a diverse, gritty city and everything that brings with it. But as soon as we landed, my son started having seizures.

In a way, I’m grateful for the timing because we are within ten minutes of one of the top children’s hospitals in the country. The people in that building saved my son’s life and continue to care for him. But now I feel tethered to that place. If we go too far away for too long, his seizures snap us back, sometimes violently, into their care.

The daily seizures, the weekly doctor and therapy appointments, and the monthly medication refills make it impractical to look too far outside of our little bubble in the city. There isn’t a way to accommodate my son’s needs while chasing the dream of a life unbounded.

But I’m not resentful. As much as that might have been the life I wanted, this is the life I have. I wouldn’t trade that life for the moments I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned in this one.

The dream of living in another part of the world seems so far away. But the reality is that we are exactly where we need to be.

Wherever We Go, There They Are

Whenever we go to a new place, in the back of my mind I want that place to change my life. It seems like a tall order, which may be why it hasn’t happened yet. I want to go to a place and be so inspired that I start writing that book that I’ve been thinking about. I want to leave a place a better person, having a better relationship with the people in my life. But mostly, I want to go to a place where my son doesn’t have any seizures.

My son didn’t show any signs of having epilepsy until we moved to Philadelphia. I was only partially joking with the doctors when I asked them if it could be Philly causing his seizures. The first time we went back to Colorado, I was ready to move back if he was seizure-free during the trip. But he wasn’t. I had the same thought when we visited Florida. Maybe Colorado was at too high of an elevation and he needed an ocean breeze. But he had seizures in Florida, too. And in New York. And in California. Wherever we went, there they were.

Even so, when I stepped off the plane in Hawaii, I had that same thought. That maybe this was going to be the place where my son would be seizure-free. If it was going to be any place, Hawaii wouldn’t be terrible. Before we even picked up our bags, I convinced myself we could make it work. I could find a job, even if it meant working remotely. I was sure the children’s hospitals would be fine, and we could make regular trips back to the mainland for care. But we wouldn’t need to, because he wouldn’t be having seizures. It was the perfect plan. Until it wasn’t.

In our first early morning in paradise, the sound worse than every other sound filled the hotel room. His seizures had found us. Across the continent, across the ocean, to an island in the middle of the Pacific. In a place we’ve never been before, hidden from the world. Wherever we go, there they are.

In a way, I was grateful that the seizure came quickly because it lifted the pressure that I had put on our vacation. The longer I carry that pressure, the less present I am and the more I miss of our life. But instead of worrying about that seizure around the corner, it had already come.

It was freeing.

It allowed me to focus on having an amazing vacation with my family in spite of our stowaway. It allowed me to be present and to be grateful for the moments that we have. I saw the beauty of the island. I saw the smile on my son’s face. It reminded me that it’s not a destination that is going to change my life. It’s that feeling that I get when I see his smile that makes my life better every day.

epilepsy dad wherever we go