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Tips for Traveling With Food Allergies

My daughter is allergic to nuts, and so far we’ve been able to manage them well.  She avoids all products with obvious nuts and of course, we always talk to the local staff asking specifically about allergens. When we travel, especially when we go out of the country, we always have some concerns.

When traveling, we are often eating foods that weren’t as familiar to us, and different countries handle allergies in very different ways. If you are visiting non-English speaking countries where you don’t speak the language, it can be even more challenging. Traveling with food allergies? Here are some tips that can help.

These food allergy travel tips are informational only and are not meant to serve as medical advice. Talk to your allergist for specific concerns when traveling. Always remember to follow your doctor’s advice and bring all original packaging for your medications in your carry-on bag

Tips for Traveling With Food Allergies

Do some food research before you go on vacation

Before you leave on vacation, do a little research into the popular foods of the country you are visiting, and check to see what the typical ingredients are. This is important for any type of food allergy – from celiac disease to a life-threatening allergy.

In the Cayman Islands, we got a little rum cake delivered to our hotel room daily, and through some earlier research, I discovered that cake included nuts (something I wouldn’t have expected based upon the taste and texture of the cake).

This advance research can also help set expectations with your kids. When we recently went on a family vacation to Paris, we knew that authentic French macarons would be one of the treats that we’d want to try.

Unfortunately, they typically have nuts in the recipe, which means my daughter wouldn’t be able to try one of those beautiful little desserts. While my daughter was disappointed, it was good to have that conversation before we left on our vacation.

Another example is the Doubletree hotel chain. We love their iconic, complimentary chocolate chip cookies. But the cookies contain walnuts, which is something that is good to know in advance. Luckily, they also offer nut-free snacks upon request.

Macarons in Paris

Pack your food allergy medications

You may not have access to the same medications and medical care you are used to in the United States, so pack extra medications that you may need, like Epi-Pens and Benadryl. Also make sure that you check the expiration dates on everything, and be sure to pack them in your carry-on bag – not your checked bags for air travel.

If for some reason if there isn’t any overhead space and you have to check your carry-on bag, be sure it’s in your underseat personal item. I also strongly recommend talking to your child’s doctor or allergist before going so they can give you any additional medical advice for your trip and any updated prescriptions that you may need. 

Bring along allergy translation cards

To help with the language barrier, bring along allergy cards to help with communication.  You’ll find shops online that sell allergy cards for just about every allergy and language, or you can make and laminate your own. 

Just make sure that you bring multiple copies – in case one gets lost during your travels. When we traveled to Greece, I was very concerned about the language barrier because the language is so different from English. There, the cards were very helpful. You just hand them to your server before ordering.

If you are going on a group tour, like Adventures by Disney, you will have a guide who may be able to help translate concerns. That is one of the many reasons we like going on group trips to foreign countries. 

Pack allergy-safe foods

Make sure you also bring some safe foods, like granola bars or crackers, just in case you can’t find safe food on the go. I especially like having those when we are flying, because we don’t always have access to safe foods.

Trust yourself and your instincts

On our recent trip to Quebec City, I gave our server the allergy cards and she explained that they didn’t have any nuts in the restaurant. But when we got the kids’ dessert menu, the crepe was described as being covered in “choco-hazel”.

Assuming that was hazelnut Nutella, we had our daughter order strawberry instead. When my son got the choco-hazel, sure enough, it was hazelnut. It’s best to be conservative to avoid an allergic reaction.

Notify locations of your food allergy in advance

If you are traveling on a cruise or to an all-inclusive resort, you may have the opportunity to let the destination know about any allergies in advance. Flying overseas? If your airline offers a meal on the plane, you may be able to request an allergen-free option.

Definitely do some research before you travel to see if it’s an option to notify your destination and airline. Even when I request an allergy-free meal on a plane, I still bring along plenty of allergy-safe foods.

Communicate

The best tip is to absolutely communicate your allergies at every restaurant. If necessary, you can ask to see an ingredients list or speak to a chef for specific details. Don’t assume you know what the ingredients are.

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