Airports can be a tricky place for those of us with life-threatening food allergies! I am one of the approximately 15 million Americans with food allergies.
As someone who is constantly on the move and spent years flying and traveling most weekends to new destinations, I can easily say I have spent my share of time in airports — and I can definitely tell you how difficult it can be at the airport with food allergies.
Having a plan and being prepared before heading out the door are essentials to surviving your time spent at the airport. As lines continue to grow at airline check-ins and airport security, the necessity to be there longer than in the past is also something new to consider.
So for those of us at the airport with food allergies, how can we make our time easier?
Tip 1: Plan Ahead
How long are you traveling for? Do you have multiple flights? These questions should be answered and taken into consideration when preparing for your trip. Since finding safe food can be such a challenge, it means it is essential to do your research ahead of time. Make sure you also have plenty of medication and store it in your carry-on luggage. In some airports, you can now find travel size medications, but rarely are there pharmacies that can supply you with extra Epi-pens!
Tip 2: Eat a Big Meal Before You Leave
Are you leaving for the airport at 4 a.m.? It doesn’t matter what time of day you’re leaving. Eating a warm and satisfying meal before you leave helps being at the airport with food allergies go much more smoothly. You can’t always predict airport delays and flight cancellations! If you only have snacks to munch on and nothing healthy and filling to start the journey, it could be a long, “hangry” day ahead! Eat accordingly.
Tip 3: Pack Food
What allergy-safe snacks do you enjoy? Make sure to pack plenty of them! Leaving it up to the airport and taking the time to try to scout out snack options is not a reliable plan of action. I would always rather over-pack safe snacks than not have enough. I know sometimes it’s difficult to avoid feeling weighed down with all the extras. It may end up worth your while though and save you the stress of finding something safe and satisfying. Travel often means flexibility, which is why being over-prepared is usually better!
Tip 4: Thirsty yet? The ONE necessary purchase
Once I get through security, I always buy a bottle of water. That is the one essential I can’t bring with me and always need. I’d rather have my own with a cap, than use the plastic cups on the airplane. Maybe it is just me, but I ALWAYS fall asleep right after they pass out drinks, which basically guarantees that I will spill my plastic cup of water all over myself and my seat-mates. Why risk it? No spilling and no allergy concerns when you bring your own. Bottles are just better in this case!
Tip 5: Finding an Allergen-Free Hang Out Spot
With many more airports trying to cater to healthier living, there have also been a greater number of peanut and tree nut stands popping up in airport terminals. These stands are filled with a large selection, from sugar coated, to plain, to spicy. Travelers are stopping at these stands on the way to their gate to buy bags of what some may consider a healthier option. To others like me, it could cause life-threatening reactions and raises anxiety levels.
I suggest trying to find a spot far away from these stands, food courts and restaurants to wait for your flight. Look for spaces near your gate that are clean from food. Use hand wipes to wash off the area, then relax and enjoy some down time before boarding!
This blog originally appeared on Vane's website.