The embarrassment that accompanies food allergies isn’t talked about enough. I always feel bad when I walk into an event and have to ask what’s in one of the dishes.
Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil – but it doesn’t stop me from living my life and going where I want to go. Travelling with food allergies might be difficult, but it isn’t impossible.
This post is specially designed for you to help you in planning an allergy-safe itinerary for your upcoming travel.
I have several food allergies that might ruin my trip if I ignore them. Many of my friends plan around their life-threatening allergies, choosing their accommodations carefully. They can’t even be around the smell of certain foods. You may think these stipulations make travel difficult, and they do.
My allergies don’t keep me down. Even though I implement creative ways to get around my allergies, I find it to be a more rewarding experience than eating in every restaurant.
My brain gets a workout from figuring out creative ways to enjoy every dish I can. Allergies don’t have to be the end of your travels – in fact, they could open up new avenues.
What to recognize when you have food allergies
Unfortunately, special requests create a bump in the road for adventures. Travelling with food allergies can be tricky if you haven’t been to your destination before. Fortunately, travellers have the option to plan and know what to expect, yielding a much smoother process. Once I was set on vacationing despite my allergies, there were a few things I had to acknowledge before making concrete plans.
1. Many places won’t be allergy-friendly
I can’t enter just any restaurant and expect them to accommodate my allergies – that would mean the establishment must accommodate everything, which isn’t always possible.
I recognized it was my responsibility to manage my allergies on my own. Even then, I couldn’t expect the restaurant to always abide by what I needed. I had several backup choices in case they couldn’t accommodate me.
Food allergies affect about 20 million people, but not every restaurant can handle all of them. I need to take my allergies into my own hands and be responsible for my health.
2. You’ll have to use your brain
When I’m on vacation, I only want to relax. However, having food allergies requires a little extra thinking.
I block out a chunk of time before leaving to look up menus and nutritional information. This way, I can plan the allergy-friendly restaurants I want to visit with my loved ones during our stay. It takes some thought, but opting for the creative route isn’t bad.
3. Food isn’t everything
I’m a foodie. I love eating my way through all the unique dishes I can, but thanks to my allergies, there are some things I’ll never be able to experience – and that’s OK. I’ll listen to other people’s reviews of it.
Meanwhile, I’ll be chowing down on another dish that calls to me. I can look forward to other activities during my stay that will be even more thrilling than an entree I’m missing out on.
Food might be a significant draw for you like it is for me. However, there are plenty of things to do and sights to see at your destination. That’s what I like to remind myself: Though the restaurants are nice, I always have more of the country to experience beyond its popular dishes.
5 ways to Enjoy Your Culinary Adventure
Travelling with food allergies can be challenging, but it’s never required me to change my entire vacation or cancel a trip. I confidently believe that anyone can have the unforgettable culinary experience that is eating their way through Europe, no matter what their allergies are. Here are a few easy ways to make the most of any vacation.
1. Bring your own snacks
It’s vital to do research ahead of time to know what will be available in local stores and what kind of snacks I can expect to munch on. Bringing my own food is an easy way to ensure I’m safe from allergens.
Sometimes I can’t eat much, so I must choose my snacks wisely. Sunflower seeds are a good option for me, as just 1 ounce contains over 5 grams of protein – and they can help satisfy me until my next meal.
2. Prepare your initial and backup plans
When you have allergies like mine, you can’t just go somewhere without a plan and expect everything to be fine. I always try to get an idea of my surroundings, especially if this is the first time I’ve been there. One of the first things I try to find out is how far the local hospital is – not just for allergic reactions but also for any life-threatening situations.
I also prepared myself with a bit of the local language. It makes it easier for restaurant staff to understand my needs if I can explain it in their first language. For me, asking if I can order a dish without a certain ingredient is as essential as finding out where a bathroom is. It’s just something I must learn when expecting to have a good time abroad.
3. Ask for recommendations
If I go somewhere my loved ones have visited before, you’d better believe I’m asking for recommendations. There’s no one I trust more than my friends and family to give me a review of a restaurant, especially when it comes to my allergies. Otherwise, I do plenty of online research – including looking at the menus ahead of time to determine what I want.
Once I look up everything I can online, I consider the size of my group. I should never expect to be accommodated when in a large group with multiple preferences, even though it should be a main point of discussion for everyone’s safety on the trip. Luckily, none of my allergies are life-threatening – but the people you’re with should always understand your allergies and how they affect you.
4. Understand how to read labels
When I first went shopping in another country, I assumed the food labels would look like the ones I was familiar with at home. However, that isn’t always true! Once I picked up on the mechanics of certain countries, it became much easier for me to navigate the food I could eat.
For example, the U.K. colour-codes things using the hues of traffic lights. A product high in a certain category will be filled with red. A dose that aligns more closely with daily goals will be marked in green. That way, if you need to adhere to a specific dietary guideline, like those with diabetes, you can easily determine how certain foods will affect you.
5. Make your own food
When visiting a country that isn’t allergy-friendly, I like to look at my options for accommodations. The average hotel may not have the full-sized kitchen I need to make food for myself. I booked a place with a full kitchen to cook my own food during my stay.
You don’t have to avoid traditional dishes when relying on your kitchen. After a vacation, I went home and tried to recreate meals. It doesn’t taste quite the same – but that’s OK because I’m still learning, and it’s a fun process.
Making your own food on vacation is a great way to bond with the people you went with. I love cooking on vacation.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s much nicer to sit at a restaurant and experience cooking done the right way. Sometimes, restaurants don’t take substitutions or special requests, so I cannot advocate for my allergies.
Often, it’s better for me to make the dish at our rental or hotel. Plus, any special ingredients I need are available in a nearby store or market.
Preparing an Allergy-Safe Travel Kit
Prior to your departure, it is essential to assemble an allergy-safe travel kit. This kit will contain essential medical supplies, snacks, and tools to communicate your allergy needs to others.
In terms of medical supplies, ensure that you have an updated allergy action plan. Consult your allergist beforehand to discuss any specific precautions you should take during your travels.
Additionally, pack ample prescribed medications such as antihistamines or epinephrine auto-injectors, ensuring you have enough to last the duration of your trip.
Considering food options is crucial, as dining out can pose a risk for individuals with allergies. Pack enough allergy-safe snacks for the journey to avoid potential exposure to allergens.
Researching allergy-friendly restaurants or grocery stores at your destination is also advisable. This way, you can enjoy local delicacies while minimizing the risk of an allergic reaction.
Communicating your allergy needs to those around you is of utmost importance. Print allergy cards that explain your allergies in the local language, aiding communication in restaurants or shops.
Notify airlines or transportation providers beforehand about your allergies, ensuring they are aware of your needs and can make any necessary accommodations.
Don’t let allergies keep you down : Planning an Allergy-Safe Itinerary
Travelling with food allergies is not impossible, no matter how severe they are. Sometimes, the hardest thing is feeling like an inconvenience around others – but your loved ones care about you and want to ensure your time on vacation is as healthy and happy as theirs. I feel much better when I prepare ahead of time.
If I can’t avoid a particular restaurant, I’ll have something planned that I can eat. Then, I can snack or create something else in my room. Food is a significant part of travel but not the only thing. No matter what, I make sure to get outside and enjoy the beautiful sights Europe has to offer.