Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Tue April 07 2015

Tips for Traveling with a Food Allergy

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | April 07, 2015

Tips for Traveling with a Food Allergy

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Traveling with a food allergy is not only challenging, but potentially dangerous, or even deadly. Whether you are super-allergic or not, knowing how to prepare for your journey is half the battle. Here are some tips for braving the world with an allergy, so that you can do a little less worrying and have a little more fun.


Before you go anywhere, before you even book your plane ticket, go to the airline's website and find out the possibility of in-flight allergies. Check out their snack options on the plane as well. When you book the ticket, do it over the phone with a live agent. If you have a deathly allergic reaction to peanuts, make sure you tell that agent that even if you don’t eat them, the 150 other people plane shouldn’t either. Believe it or not, most planes are good about accommodating allergies like this. If you are worried about the food, or if there are no options that meet your dietary restrictions, make something ahead of time that you can bring with you. When you get onboard, make sure you clean everything; wet wipes work well. The tray table, armrests, and seat cushions/headrests may have trace amounts of allergy-inducing debris left on them from the previous flights. You best bet is trying to fly as early as possible so that there are less people who have been in your seat.


When you are booking your room, make sure that you once again talk to an agent and give them a heads-up as much ahead of time as possible. If you have a simple gluten allergy, this isn’t that big of a deal, but I have met people that swell up like a tick at the mere odor of peanuts. Although I trust most housekeepers to do their job, don’t be afraid to break out those wet wipes again and give everything you touch a good wipe down. (Especially the remote — it has been proven to be the germiest thing in the room.) Make sure to wash all of the glasses in the room you are going to use in hot water as well. You may want to book a room with a small kitchenette or at least a microwave and fridge in case you can’t find restaurant options that suit your tastes. A quick trip to the grocery for a few staples can get you through if need be.


The great news here is that more and more restaurants are offering gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan options on their menus. Call ahead and find out their menu options, allergy policies, etc. When you arrive, make sure that everyone you talk to is aware of your allergy, and if you can speak with the chef directly, do it. There are chef cards in multiple languages here that you can print and give to your chef so that he knows exactly how deadly your allergy is and what foods he or she needs to avoid using. You may hate to hear this, but order simple. The more complex you make something, the more may get lost in translation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because you do need them to know exactly what is going on with you.


You can never be polite enough. It may seem unfair that you, the customer, is the one who has to be overly polite but you will get a ton further with the staff if you are super smiley and happy as opposed to paranoid and untrusting.  Whenever you are traveling somewhere outside of your home area, make sure to bring your medications and/or epinephrine injectors, plan out transportation needs and know where the nearest hospital is. A little planning goes a long way. There are great web resources for you like Allergic Living and On Call International.

Don’t let your allergies keep you from traveling and seeing the world. There are plenty of adventures waiting for you that don’t have to involve a trip to the emergency room. Where are your favorite allergy-free places? Do you have any other hints?  Drop me a line below in the comments.


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