Self catering with allergies in Lanzarote

Just back from a week of winter sun in Lanzarote. December is a lovely time to visit as it’s warm and sunny but not dreadfully so. This was our second visit, last year the weather was very pleasant but windy and you needed a sweatshirt, this year it was glorious! Of course I’d packed for pleasant so I ended up rocking my husband’s swim shorts by the pool #stylish.

We flew with Jet2 which is my airline of choice for flying with a nut allergy. Lots of airlines have reasonable allergy policies but Jet2 have been consistently good. If you inform them prior to your flight that you have a severe nut allergy they don’t load nuts onto the plane which means they can’t make an announcement regarding not serving nuts then forget and still serve them (I’m looking at you EasyJet). It’s over 4 hours flight from Edinburgh to Lanzarote so I packed breakfast (muffins) to eat after check in (9.15am flight), lunch (filled rolls, crisps & fruit) to eat on the plane and plenty snacks as my kids eat about nine times what you would think they might need when travelling. I didn’t look into buying food on board as my son has multiple allergies and I think crisps are about all he can have from the in flight menu. I take lollipops for the kids for take off and landing.

We stayed in Puerto del Carmen which is only a short transfer from Arrecife airport. You could get a taxi to your accommodation but we hired a car so we could do a proper supermarket shop rather rely on the smaller resort supermarkets. You could probably manage shopping in town but it’s pricier and there is less choice.

There is a large Mercadona and a Hiperdino supermarket in Playa Honda near the airport.  I like Mercadona, I’ve shopped there in the Costa del sol as well and they’ve lovely fresh produce and a reasonable selection of dairy free milk. They also sell the nicest gluten free pasta I’ve eaten, I was convinced I’d bought wheat pasta by mistake it was so good.

They don’t have a free from section as such, just bits and pieces in with the regular products.

I bought gorgeous dairy free choc ices there last year but my son wasn’t that taken with them.

They have a selection of dairy free fruit yoghurts but they are all soya based so if you are milk and soya free your choices would be very limited (almost non existent). They also sell chocolate desserts and rather excitingly had chocolate mousse this visit (I’m easy excited by free from food).

A lot of the dairy free milks in Mercadona do not contain added calcium so check the label!

The Hiperdino has a fabulous free from section! I could have done all my shopping there apart from soya chocolate desserts as they only had a very small selection of soya fruit yoghurts. To my delight they had Gullon sharkie biscuits which my son loves and are free from gluten, milk, egg and nuts! (Contain soya lecithin). I stocked up on boxes to take home!

The free from aisle is just as you walk in the store.

They also have a large frozen section

There are a few options for dairy free spread.

I haven’t seen any dairy free cheese, I took some in a cool bag in my suitcase along with egg free mayo, chorizo sausage and pepperoni as the only cold meat I’ve been able to find that doesn’t contain milk is plain ham. I also packed some safe bread & rolls to freeze on arrival (handy to keep a packet for making a packed lunch for the journey home!), home baked biscuits and safe chocolate.

We did a big shop day one in the Hiperdino then I sent my husband back to the Mercadona day two for chocolate desserts. Our hire car was not very big so we dropped our suitcases at our villa and had a snack before going to the supermarket. There was a small spar near our villa which was handy for buying water and fresh bread for the wheat eaters among us.

We didn’t eat out. My son is allergic to milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, treenuts, peas and lentils and it’s less stressful if we just feed ourselves. My husband cooked to give me a break. We keep it simple, baked potatoes, pasta, grilled meat. I packed some spice packets to liven meals up a bit. I took my own chopping board, grater, a frying pan and two cooking utensils. I also took lots of plastic clips for closing packets, you cannot take too many.

Restaurants are required to provide you with allergen information if you request it and this was clearly stated on menus outside them.

The Highlander too near where we were staying offered a full gluten free cooked breakfast (I discovered at the end of our holiday 🤦🏻‍♀️).

Allergy action is a super resource for translations if you do wish to eat out.

We used their Portuguese translations to eat out one night last summer in Albufeira. I wrote out my son’s allergies and a list of questions and handed it to the waiter and my son had a super steak, chips & sliced cucumber which he really enjoyed. I however was so uptight I didn’t enjoy my meal at all and then cried and hugged the waiter when it all went well so my family aren’t best keen to eat out with me in public again.

We stayed in a villa with our own pool, I prefer a villa as you get a kitchen and full size fridge freezer as well as a dishwasher and a washing machine. I booked through Villa plus, we’ve used them several times.

Travelling home can be a challenge to cater for with a later flight. I don’t fancy an evening flight! We had to be out of the villa at 10am and the flight home was at 2.45pm. I made a double packed lunch and used a cool bag and ice packs which kept our food cool enough. No one complained about rolls & crisps for lunch at the airport then rolls & crisps for tea on the plane! I had plenty biscuits & sweets to keep us going as well.

I’d definitely go back, just perhaps not at New Year, they like a firework at New Year in Lanzarote which is probably fabulous if you are out celebrating but feels a bit like Armageddon in the back garden if you fell asleep at 9.30pm after a day of sunshine and a couple of glasses of fizz.

Self catering in Nerja Costa del Sol 

We weren’t very lucky with the weather on our Uk summer holiday this year so booked a week in Spain for the October half term in an attempt to find some sunshine before winter descends. This was only our third trip abroad as a family, my son has multiple food allergies, asthma & eczema and the the thought of travelling at all can be overwhelming so travelling abroad was a huge step for us. We had a successful trip to the Algarve last Summer and a week in the Costa Del Sol in October last year so we felt confident we could manage it.

When you are deciding what to pack and how many bags to pay for on your flight bear in mind how heavy emollients and safe toiletries/sunscreens are! We managed with two 22kg bags in the hold but it was a challenge! 

In preparation I baked up a storm (muffins, brownies, biscuits and wraps) I try and carry safe food for the length of the journey plus one extra meal and spare snacks. I also pack safe bread/rolls, cereal  and chocolate. If you have space a small cool bag in your suitcase with dairy free cheese is not a bad plan! Handy to have the cool bag on holiday for picnics. Be aware children always eat way more than you anticipate when travelling! Remember you’ll need safe options for the journey home also. 

My husband programmed all relevant destinations into the sat nav. For us that was the villa we were staying in, local supermarkets and the nearest hospitals in Malaga and Nerja. We had our allergen Spanish translations from our last trip. I’m now fluent in allergens in English, Portuguese and Spanish! When we shop I look for allergens on the packaging then when we get back to the villa (and wifi!) I google every single ingredient before we eat anything! 

Last year we flew to Malaga with Ryanair but the flight from Edinburgh gets in late in the evening on a Saturday when supermarkets are closed, they are also closed on Sundays and as there was a local festival on the main local supermarkets were also closed on the Monday!! Not good for any allergy mum’s sanity!! There is however a 24hr garage on the outskirts of Nerja where you can buy basic provisions for travellers without special dietary requirements if you do arrive late. 

There are also small touristy shops open in Nerja on Sundays which you can hopefully see marked on this map left for us by our holiday rep. 

Last year Ryan air were excellent with regards to our son’s nut allergy. They made a very clear announcement on board asking passengers not to eat any products containing nuts that they had brought with them and they did not sell any nuts or anything containing nuts during the flight. 

This year we flew from Newcastle with EasyJet. I was very impressed with the service pre flight, we had informed them of our son’s nut allergy, you can do this on their website before travelling,and there was a clear note on their system documenting it. I spoke to the stewardess  in charge when we boarded and she reassured me she would make an announcement and that they would not serve nuts. Interestingly they seem to offer two options. Not serving nuts in your immediate vicinity and not serving nuts. We went for not serving nuts. Unfortunately despite all this the cabin staff ‘forgot’ and sold snack boxes containing cashew nuts. The woman next to my husband bought one (same row as my boy, other side of aisle) and he overheard the stewardess realising she shouldn’t have sold it and the steward answering that he had also been selling them. When I went to the front of the plane and brought it to the senior stewardess attention she rushed back and asked the woman next to my husband not to eat them then looked looked me straight in the eye and said it was ok, she had heard the announcement and just eaten the seeds. Clearly not aware my husband had watched her eating them!! Now in this situation we were fine, my son did not come to any harm but it is not ok to say you’ll do everything in your power for a safe flight for a passenger then ‘forget’. Appalling. I’m pleased to report our flight back was managed much better. Different crew who could tell me exactly were my son was sitting and ensured it was a nut free flight. They did ask if he had epipen before they decided to go completely nut free. These are the snacks available on board that contain nuts…

That was our only stress thank goodness. We arrived in Malaga at lunchtime, picked up our hire car and drove to the Eroski supermarket in the El Ingenio shopping centre in Velez Malaga which was about half an hour’s drive from the airport and halfway to our Villa. We did a big shop, if you plan to buy lots of groceries while also carrying all of your luggage hire a big car!! We knew the kids wouldn’t be keen to go back out once we reached the villa and the pool and luckily we fit everything in. 

If you are dairy and soya free your options are limited. You can buy rice, almond, oat  and coconut milk and dairy free spread but yoghurts and desserts were all soya based or lactose free.  The only cheese option I spotted was lactose free but still contained milk. Lactose free seems much more common and widely available than dairy free. Take care even with soya yoghurts as the natural own brand yoghurts I bought in Eroski (for me) had a may contain traces of nuts and milk on the label. 

It’s quite a challenge to find cooked meat that does not contain milk or soya. I recommend buying a couple of packets if you spot a safe option! These are some that we found. 

Eroski stocked some gluten free baked goods including Schar baguettes but no safe biscuit options for us. They had Gullon Maria biscuits which are free from gluten, milk, egg, nuts and soya but alas contain pea which my son is allergic to. 

We bought enough for 3 nights simple meals. We keep it basic on holiday, meals like  grilled meat, salads and baked potatoes and packed lunches of rolls, crisps & fruit. We bought Lays salted and salt & vinegar crisps which were ok for us. 

Our villa was up the hill from Nerja on the outskirts of Frigiliana and it was gorgeous! We booked through Villa plus as we have used them before and have been very impressed with the service and quality of accomadation. It had a lovely modern well equipped kitchen and a large fridge and freezer which was ideal for our needs. I travel with my own chopping board and we wash everything before we use it and avoid any kitchen equipment I don’t like the look off! Our villa was a Very villa plus so came with a starter pack, we knew this but shopped anyway as we have very specific dietary requirements! 

Starter pack

Lovely kitchen

Our second shop later in the week was at the Mercadona in Nerja. This is a fairly small supermarket compared to the big U.K. Ones but we were able to buy what we needed and they sell basic gluten free products. These are not in a dedicated section but spread out throughout the store. 

Again quite an emphasis on soya but there were other dairy free milks available. We bought this dairy free spread which was available in both supermarkets. 

They had one loaf of gluten free bread. No good for my son as it contained egg. 

We were staying at the quieter end of the Costa del Sol. The busy more tourist orientated end is a whole different story! We visited the Sea life centre in Benalmadena (about an hour’s drive from Nerja) on our one rainy day and despite not needing groceries I asked nicely to pop into a supermarket for a nosey. Oh my goodness. The Carrefour supermarket in Torreminolinos is amazing!! My husband just laughed at my excitement! Says something that checking out a supermarket is something I’d do for fun on holiday. Anyway, check out the highlights! 

Such a thrill finding Moo free chocolate bars! I didn’t see any other dairy free chocolate on holiday. I also bought these biscuits which my son loved!

We didn’t eat out on holiday, I’m still working up the courage to do that and the language barrier scares me. I need to work on my Spanish! We did buy ice lollies out and about. 

We had a lovely break and the sunshine and scenery was gorgeous!  Nerja is at the quiet end of the coast and October is low season but my kids are content with a pool to play in and books and their electronics. Burriana beach is a lovely spot but the sand is very gritty/stony for tender footed (fussy!) children. Did I mention the scenery?