Traveling with Food Allergies: Plan, Prepare, Succeed!

A guest post by Teen Advisory Group member Clare Kirchner.

The idea of traveling to a new place can be daunting. With the added questions that come with having food allergies on your plate, traveling can seem impossible. I get it! However, as someone who happens to have severe food allergies to milk, eggs and nuts, I have found success in traveling all across the U.S. with food allergies. With the right preparation for the trip and enough allergy-safe snacks brought from home, it is possible to experience the world while being safe. 

The secret to this traveling success lies in the trip preparation. I am going to share my family’s fool-proof food planning ritual for every trip that we embark upon.  

The first thing that my family does when we are looking at traveling somewhere is to search out the area. Using an app like Spokin or AllergyEats, we research tons of food allergy-friendly restaurants and locations to eat. Googling the location that we are traveling to is also very useful – restaurants that accommodate food allergies will come up as options. Once we find a restaurant, we always call ahead to ask how they accommodate food allergies. I have found many restaurants that are pretty knowledgeable about food allergies and want to help you dine safely.

Another trick that my family has is to map out the grocery stores that are nearest to where we are staying. This way, we can stock up on food that is safe for me to eat, for meals in the hotel or in case the restaurant where we dine does not accommodate food allergies. It is important to have a “Plan B” meal for every restaurant that you dine at – just in case they are not understanding of food allergies, or if there is a language barrier. Something that my family has found to be a priceless travel companion is a mini rice cooker. It doesn’t break the bank, fits in a suitcase, and can heat up or cook almost any kind of food on the go!

Finally, I will share with you some tips to stay safe while traveling with food allergies:

  1. If traveling by airplane, call ahead to tell the airline that you have an allergy (especially to peanuts). Many airlines will make an announcement at the beginning of the flight. At the airport, ask to pre-board the plane and wipe down the seating area with baby wipes in order to get rid of any unsafe crumbs from past flights.
     
  2. If traveling to a country with a different language, make translated chef cards to tell the server and kitchen staff about your food allergies. You can find chef cards in a range of language options on FARE’s website, or you can type a message about your allergies into a translator app and print it out on a card to bring to restaurants. You may want to show your chef’s card to someone who is bilingual first, to make certain your translated message makes sense.
     
  3. Cooking out of a small hotel room without a kitchen can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be impossible! Bring a knife, a cutting board, a mini bottle of dish soap and a sponge to prepare food and clean up right in the hotel room.

Putting preparation into travel plans makes the trip go smoothly, especially when it comes to food. Food allergies are an obstacle, but they should never get in the way of experiencing a new place or culture. I wish you the best on your journeys to come! Don’t let allergies hold you back from a wonderful adventure!