Tips for Traveling with Food Allergies

traveling with food allergies

Life threatening and even minor allergies are something that can potentially hold people back from traveling. When it comes to your health, you can’t mess around. People who suffer from food allergies have to consider the types of ingredients that are in the local cuisine and what to do if there is a bad reaction.

I don’t have a major food allergy, but I no longer eat dairy, which has changed the way I travel. I now bring snacks with me and try to avoid certain dishes. But if you travel with allergies, there are ways to keep yourself safe with some advance planning.

travel snacks
Caroline always packs some extra travel snacks.

Do Your Research

Find out about potential encounters with allergens at your destination before you leave. This can prevent potentially adverse reactions. If you’re allergic to peanuts, find out which dishes could potentially contain them or be cooked nearby, like pad thai in Thailand.

Shop at the local fresh food markets.
Shop at the local fresh food markets.

See if there are restaurants nearby that cater to special diets. Look up markets where you can buy ingredients you might want or stores that carry natural foods. Jodi of Legal Nomads has destination guides for gluten free travelers that suggest dishes and restaurants.

And if you are concerned about hotel breakfasts or finding things to eat, an alternative is to stay at an AirBnB or rental property with its own kitchen. You can cook your own meals, which also saves you money.

Know the Language

You must be able to tell people when you’re traveling about your allergy so as to avoid it, which is easier suggested than done. It’s not always possible to learn all the right words in the languages of the place you’re visiting, but simple phrases like “no dairy” or “peanuts make me sick” aren’t too difficult. Language apps and dictionaries can also be useful in these circumstances. Just don’t be afraid to speak up!

Select Wisely cards
Select Wisely cards for travel.

You can also order cards for your chosen allergy or sensitivity in the language of the places you’ll be visiting. Select Wisely makes cards in nearly every imaginable language to tell people about allergies, preferences and medical conditions. If you don’t see yours, you can even get them specially ordered. They cost $15 USD and are laminated and credit card sized, easy for on the go.

Bring Your Own Stuff

Anything you need from home, you should bring for yourself. Come prepared with food items like snacks or dehydrated meals that can be easily put together. A cooler and utensils are also great additions to your packing list to make meals on the go. I typically bring small containers of energy bars and peanut butter with a spork, as well as powdered drinks and food.

You should also bring a full medical kit with medications you might need in case of a reaction such as an epipen. Learn the alternate names of your medicine in case you need to refill while overseas. Antihistamines and hydrocortisone cream are always good to bring. And don’t forget to get travel insurance before you leave!

Do you travel with food allergies and have any tips to share? Do so below!

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Sarah says

    Stay somewhere with access to a kitchen-a hostel, aoartment, whatever. And if you find a place that works for your allergies or is willing to work with you to figure out a menu, go back there again and again! It helps to become a regular sonewhere, and you’re training the entire restaurant to value customers with food allergies.

  2. Zoe says

    Great post! Tip for anyone coming to the UK – these days most large supermarkets across the country have a ‘free from’ section with plenty of gluten and dairy free options. The law changed here, so now any cafe or restaurant must be able to either provide a menu listing allergens, or they must be able to tell you exactly what’s in the food they serve. In my experience most high street chains in major towns and cities are pretty good for allergy sufferers these days – if anyone is after specific recommendations please feel free to ask!

    I usually travel with a pack of vacuum packed bread – just enough to last me until I can find local options! I’ve even travelled into Australia with vacuum packed bread (although Australian customs are notoriously strict) by ‘declaring’ it at customs – when I explained the situation they were absolutely fine with me bringing it in. I wouldn’t try this with an artisan/home baked product but with a commercially available product, which has been vacuum packed it seems to be fine.

      • Zoe says

        I buy ‘long life’ gluten free bread in a vacuum packed bag for travelling (although I prefer fresh at home) – I just get it at my local supermarket. I think it’s a brand called DS or Dietary Specials, although the main supermarkets here make their own versions too. I think it’s the safest for travelling through customs because the packet has the ingredients listed and it is clearly labelled as gluten free and often these brands have symbols showing the product is approved by an official organisation (like Coeliac UK or similar). The packaging just looks sterile and ‘official’ which I somehow feel is more likely to get through customs than an unsealed packet or homemade product!

  3. Rhonda says

    I’m very curious what powdered drinks you take. I don’t do Kool Aid, but would like to have some powdered drinks to take for my kids when we are traveling.

  4. Maria says

    I find that often local food is more conducive for those with food sensitivities/allergies. Cassava instead of bread, rice or beans for breakfast. I often pack food bars and end up bringing them home as I have been able to buy or source local foods. Avocados, mangos, bananas are often my replacement meals when traveling and are good choices for the ‘boil it, peel it, or forget it’ concept. I also can pick up nuts or seeds in a shop along the way. A breakfast option for gluten free (but perhaps not for those with celiac) is cold muesli – raw oats, some nuts or seeds, dried fruit (or fresh) and a dairy alternative. I take a small plastic bowl with good sealing lid and can usually find the ingredients, or alternatives, anywhere.

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