Travelling with food allergies can feel risky to some, but with some careful planning and research anything is achievable.
Organize Your Medication
- Double check the expiry dates on your Epipens. Plan to bring two or more Epipens with you and bring travel sized Benadryl and any other medications you require.
- Consider bringing extra medications with you in different bags, in case one luggage goes missing.
- Get a doctor's note confirming your allergies with details about your condition, such as your requirement to have access to emergency medications like epinephrine or inhalers, and that you need to bring your own food.
If Possible, Select an Allergy-Aware Airline
If travelling by air, select an airline with allergy-friendly policies that can help make travelling with food allergies safer and less stressful. Ideally an airline will allow you to board early to wipe down your seating area, make an announcement to all passengers alerting them that someone with a life threatening food allergy is on board, and will alter their snack selection or create a buffer zone if you have an airborne nut or animal fur allergy. Make sure to notify the airline of your allergy at least 2 weeks before you travel. Call back again to make sure it is noted in your file at least 48 hours before you travel.
Purchase Travel insurance
Purchasing travel insurance for food allergies requires some research. Every insurance company has different policies on pre-existing conditions, stabilization periods and disclosure requirements, and you need to make sure you select an insurance policy that will cover you in case of any emergencies. Get some recommendations from other families living with food allergies in your area, and then arm yourself with a list of questions for insurance companies or brokers.
Plan Your Meals While in Transit
Some airlines may offer meals to accommodate food allergies, but the best way to minimize risks while flying is to bring your own food. Pack items that don’t require heating or refrigeration such as sandwiches, granola bars, roasted chick peas and other high protein snacks. Take note of the liquid volume restrictions for air travel and keep in mind that soups and stews can be considered liquids, so you may have issues bringing a thermos of soup on a flight
Plan to Store and Prepare Food While on Vacation
Having the ability to store and prepare your own food is essential if you’re travelling with food allergies. Many hotels have rooms with refrigerators and microwaves, or make arrangements in advance to have access to a refrigerator and a microwave in the hotel. Don’t forget to pack some microwave safe containers with you. Consider booking with non-traditional accommodations like furnished apartments or vacation home rentals that have full kitchens, dining areas and washing facilities.
Learn Where the Medical Facilities are in the Area You Will be Visiting
Know the names and locations of the hospitals in the areas that you will be visiting. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the local emergency phone numbers, as not all countries use 911 as an emergency number.
Learn the Language
Learn the words and proper pronunciation for your allergens in the local language. It’ll also be helpful to have some key phrases memorized such as “I have food allergies” or “Does this contain xx?” You may want to create chef cards or allergy cards in the local language and bring them with you to help communicate your food allergy needs.
Research Allergy-Friendly Restaurants
It’s always fun to taste local food when visiting a new place. Eating at restaurants can be tricky with food allergies, but if you do a little research in advance, you might be able to find allergy-friendly restaurants or find a local dish that doesn’t contain any of your allergens. Reach out to allergy forums on social media or contact your hotel concierge for a local perspective, then contact the restaurant directly.
Find Allergy-Friendly Groceries
It's a good idea to select accommodations that are walking distance to a grocery store. In some regions you may only have access to meat and vegetable markets, while other areas might have familiar grocery chains and big box stores. When faced with foreign languages and potentially inconsistent labeling practices, your best bet will be to prepare wholefoods and avoid packaged goods.
Bring Snacks With You
Make sure to pack safe snacks and other staples like granola bars, rice cakes or nut butter alternatives that you can eat in case you are not able to get to a grocery store right away. Delayed or cancelled flights can change arrival times, and the last thing you want is to be stuck without any food to eat or be in a position where you’d have risk eating potentially unsafe food. If you’re planning to cook, it might also be helpful to bring travel sized portions of spices, sauces and oils that you normally use so that you don’t need to purchase the full size while on vacation.