Does the thought of traveling give you anxiety? Me too! Especially since being diagnosed with multiple food allergies. Even after many years, I am still very anxious when I travel. Obviously, since COVID, traveling has not been as prevalent, but with Spring Break and Summer just around the corner, and things slowly returning to normal, I want to address this topic.
In this post, I will show you how to plan ahead, what to pack, and give you helpful tips for traveling with allergies. Some of these tips apply to long trips, but I use them for shorter trips like a day at the park too. Let the fun begin!
Best Plan-Ahead Tips
Planning ahead is KEY when traveling with multiple food allergies. For longer trips, the planning phase will take time, so start early. Give yourself a few weeks at a minimum. Here’s a list of things to do BEFORE you travel.
Make Necessary Medical Preparations
- Let your doctor know you will be traveling. If needed, schedule a visit or call the office. Ask your doctor for extra prescriptions for any medications, especially Epinephrine Injections (EpiPen).
- Get a travel letter from your doctor. My doctor writes a brief letter stating that I need to bring alternative snacks/food for travel and need to carry my EpiPen because of severe multiple food allergies. I bring this letter in my carry-on bag in case I get flagged by security at the airport.
Here’s a great resource to use from the International Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Alliance (IFAAA). https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/ifaa-travel-plan. Download this form and send it directly to your doctor to fill out.
- Locate medical facilities near your travel destination. This includes hospitals, medical or urgent care centers, and local pharmacies. This information will help in case of a severe allergic reaction.
- Contact your hotel. I always contact the hotel directly about a week before I arrive either by email or phone. Tell them the dates you are staying, about your allergies, and ask about any meal accommodations you may require (think continental breakfasts or hotel restaurants). I also ask them to make the kitchen staff and chefs aware of my allergies.
Flying With Food Allergies
- Contact the airline at least a week before your scheduled trip. Alert them of your food allergies (especially peanut allergies, or any other severe allergies). Remember the airline cannot guarantee a peanut-free/allergy-free plane, but they will refrain from serving peanuts, and ask that others do not consume peanuts/nuts during the flight.
- Research airport restaurants that accommodate food allergies. This will help you determine what food to pack in your carry-on and how much. Look up menus, and contact any restaurants if necessary.
- Download apps. These are so helpful when you’re at the airport and in a rush to find somewhere safe to eat. Here are my favorite food allergy apps (Find Me Gluten-Free, Allergy Eats).
Other Pre-Planning Tips
- Try to book lodging that includes a kitchen or kitchenette. This could be a hotel, condo, villa, or resort. A kitchen is helpful so you cook on your own with less worry about accommodations and finding restaurants.
- Find local grocery stores for your destination. This will be helpful if you plan to cook while traveling. Some places allow you to pre-order online and will deliver too.
- Research online groups local to your destination. These groups often give reviews and recommend restaurants and local places that accommodate food allergies. They may also offer tips for allergies while visiting
Packing Food For Your Trip
Now that all the pre-planning is finished, it’s time to begin packing. Whether you’re packing for a long trip or just a day at the park, these tips are helpful.
- If flying, pack your carry-on bags first. I do this because travel days are usually the most difficult. Think of long days in the airport, connecting flights, flight delays, shuttles, rental cars, etc. Pack more snacks/meals in your carry-on bag than you will need. I recommend packing pre-packaged snacks such as gluten-free crackers, rice cakes, protein bars, popcorn, or dried fruit. I also bring homemade snacks in sealed baggies like my Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies, Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffin Recipe, or Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Apple-Cinnamon Muffins.
Also, don’t forget to pack sanitizing wipes to wipe down areas on the plane or at the airport.
- Include everyone. If you have multiple children and only one has food allergies, I suggest packing snacks for each person. This will ensure your whole family can eat together and no one feels left out. Trust me, it’s no fun to watch others order and eat at a restaurant when you can’t.
- Pack non-perishable food. Pack a separate suitcase, or have space in your checked luggage for extra food. This will depend on the multiple food allergies you need to accommodate. I pack things like, gluten-free pasta, instant oatmeal packs, protein bars, tuna packets, non-dairy milk, applesauce, baggies full of dry cereal, etc.
- Don’t forget to pack all your medications in your carry-on bag. Never pack your EpiPen in your checked luggage or stow it in the overhead bin. Have it near you at all times, even if your allergies are mild. Also, remember to pack 2 EpiPen Injectors when traveling.
Travel Day Tips
- Arrive at the airport early, and allow extra time for security. This is especially important if traveling with liquids such as applesauce, or non-dairy milk that may be over 3 ounces.
- Ask to pre-board. When you arrive at the gate ask them to pre-board so you can wipe down your area of any food residue (peanuts etc.) This is when your travel letter will come in handy.
NOTE: Now I haven’t traveled since COVID started so this may not be an issue. At least ask to make sure.
- Alert the flight attendant you have an EpiPen. This is especially important if you are traveling alone and have multiple food allergies. Let the flight attendant know where the EpiPen will be during the flight. Make sure it is labeled and easily accessible. Flight attendants are trained to use them and planes have them in medical kits onboard as well.
Traveling Abroad With Food Allergies
- Do your homework. Research restaurants and menus before you go and make reservations if possible. Let the restaurant staff know about your food allergies.
- Know the language. I bring a notecard with all of my allergies listed in English and the language of the country I am visiting. I use google translate to help with this. Carry this notecard at all times.
I also carry a longer letter stating my food allergies, I have dietary restrictions, and I will need accommodations. I give this to the restaurant staff when I order. I also use google translate for this letter so it is written in the native language.
Here is my example letter to download and a blank one you can also download and fill out.
- Be aware of cultural differences. Just be aware that some foods are used more prevalent in certain countries. For example, my daughter and I both have tree-nut allergies. We traveled to Rome a few years ago. In Italy, nuts such as pistachios are used frequently in many dishes and desserts. We had to be very careful to ask about ingredients and carry our notecards/travel letters.
I hope you find this post helpful. I have used all of these tips over the years when traveling. They have made trips so much more relaxed and I hope they do the same for you. Enjoy!
Leave me a comment and let me know if you use any of these tips the next time you travel. I can’t wait to hear from you! Oh, and send me some pictures from your trip too.
Blessings, Laura xo