Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, careful preparation will make your trip safe and enjoyable. Flying can be especially complicated, but you can take steps to make your flight easier. As always, communication is key.
Plan ahead. When making special requests, give as much lead time as you can to trip organizers and airline, hotel and restaurant staff. Bring a kit with all your medications, including antihistamine, extra auto-injectors, and copies of your Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan. Let your doctor know you’re traveling, and ask if he’ll be available to fax or call in a prescription for additional auto-injectors, should you need them.
In addition to the tips in this section, be sure to review our tips for Managing Food Allergies While Dining Out.
- Before booking your flight, read the airline’s allergy policy. Many airlines post their policy on their website. Find it by using the search function using the term “allergies” or “peanuts.”
- Check the airline’s snack offerings. For individuals with peanut/tree nut allergy, try to choose an airline that does not serve complimentary peanut/tree nut snacks with the beverage service. (Some airlines will serve a non-peanut/tree nut snack, such as pretzels, upon advance request.) This will greatly decrease the risk of exposure to peanuts/tree nuts during the flight. Keep in mind that no airline will ever give you a guaranteed peanut- or tree-nut-free flight.
- When booking your flight, notify the reservation agent of your food allergy, and ask if your information can be forwarded to other personnel such as the gate agent, catering/food service, and flight crew. Reconfirm your food allergy at every opportunity with the ticket agent, and again with the flight attendants.
- Understand policies for carrying medication on board the aircraft. For security purposes, keep your epinephrine/adrenaline in its original packaging and have your emergency plan with your medication. It is also recommended that you have your epinephrine prescription, and a travel plan or letter from your doctor confirming your food allergy and indicating you need to carry your medication and food/drinks with you. Consider wearing medical alert identification indicating your allergies.
- Inspect your seating area. Ask the gate agent if you may pre-board the plane in order to inspect/clean your seating area. Wipe down the seat to help prevent contact reactions or inadvertent skin contact with food particles or spills. Eating food off a contaminated surface area could lead to accidental ingestion of allergens through cross-contact. Since some airlines are cleaned at the end of each day, consider choosing early morning flights, where the chance of seats containing crumbs or food residue is minimized.
- Never eat airline food; pack your own food. However, you may want to check with the airline to see if there are any restrictions as to which types of food you are allowed to bring on board or to your destination.
- According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA, www.tsa.gov), passengers are allowed to bring their epinephrine on board the aircraft. However, you will need to show the printed label that identifies the medication (e.g., Auvi-Q™, EpiPen®, Adrenaclick®, Benadryl®). It is recommended that you also show the prescription label from the pharmacy and a note from your doctor that confirms your food allergy (Download a sample letter). TSA security currently permits over-the-counter liquid medications, but volumes larger than 3.4 ounces must be declared to a TSA officer. A declaration can be made verbally, in writing, or by a person’s companion, caregiver, interpreter, or family member. TSA may also allow gels or frozen liquids needed to cool medically related items. However, bear in mind that there is always a subjective element to airline security; much is left to the individual screener’s discretion. If you have questions, call TSA at (866)289-9673 or email TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.
- Always keep your epinephrine/adrenaline with you; do not store in the overhead bin. Let others you’re traveling with know about your allergies so they know what to do in case of an emergency on the flight and where your auto-injector is.
- Consider informing passengers sitting in your area about your food allergy. Keep in mind, however, that the airline will probably not make an announcement to the other passengers, and that passengers can eat food they have brought onto the aircraft.
- Be courteous and polite with the flight crew. They are there to help you and we need to help educate them about food allergies without making unrealistic or unnecessary demands.
- Never take a risk with food, especially when in the air and away from access to medical help.
- If you are dissatisfied with the airline, you may send a written complaint to the Airline Consumer Protection Division (ACPD).
* Some airline tips provided by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Alliance.
- A growing number of family resorts are making the effort to be allergy-friendly. Ask for recommendations from your travel agent, family and friends.
- Before booking your stay, call ahead and speak to a hotel manager or director and explain the accommodations you require. Try to speak to the same resort manager every time, but make sure that others on the management team are aware of the situation.
- Don’t assume that just because one eatery at the location has “safe” food that they all do. Ask about ingredients and preparations at every restaurant, café and snack shop—every time.
- Even if you’ve stayed at a resort before and had a safe experience, many things may have changed since your last visit. Take precautions as if this were your first visit.
- Does the resort have a doctor or nurse on site? Are they there full-time? Be sure to note where their office is at the resort and its phone number in case you need to contact them.
- Find out if there are local doctors in the area that specialize in allergy. Will they be able to write you a prescription for additional auto-injectors or medications if you need them? Where is the closest hospital?
- Ask your doctor to write prescriptions that you can carry with you. Learn the generic and brand names in the countries you’ll be visiting.
- Bring several copies of your Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan. Carry chef cards in English and the language of the countries where you will be. Make sure these documents are with you at all times.
- Ask for recommendations for restaurants, hotels, activities, etc. Does your allergist have other patients who have had good experiences at certain places?
- Start planning early. Language barriers can be tough to deal with, but chances are there is someone who speaks English working at the hotel. With many Internet translation services available, email can be an effective way to correspond.
- Bring non-perishable food that is safe for you to eat. Dried pasta and allergen-free snack bars are good options. Don’t assume that the same products manufactured in other countries will contain the same ingredients.
- For more tips and a personal account of traveling overseas with multiple food allergies, check out this blog post on our teen blog titled, "Plan Ticket, Passport, EpiPen, Check! A Class Trip to Spain."