While everyone around you is planning a vacation or a road trip, and you feel a little awkward and insecure about this because you have a food allergy and you are convinced you won’t be safe while traveling.
Yes, it is a bit scary, because you don’t have control over it, but it isn’t something that you can’t handle. Is really the food allergy an excuse not to travel? Of course not. Go and travel around the world, but first, make some research and preparations.
Traveling with allergies: your complete guide
Choose your travel location carefully
Before you buy your airline ticket or book your hotel, make a quick research about the destination. If you are allergic to coconuts, well then it makes things a lot more complicated if you want to go to Indonesia. For your first trip abroad, let’s choose the safest destination for you, where people don’t often cook with the food you’re allergic to, or are very aware of how to cook safely meals without that ingredient.
Moreover, some kind of trips is safer than others. For example, going on a cruise where you’ll always eat at the same restaurant, being served by the same waiter, makes things a lot easier since cruises staff members are well trained to keep their guests with food allergies safe. The larger dining room galley is set up better to create allergy-free meals and avoid cross-contamination.
Anyway, it will be a smart step if you talk to your doctor before you choose your destination.
Take the medicines with you
Take everything with you, and don’t make plans to buy everything there when you arrive, because medicines are not quite the same around the world, and that may cause you troubles. If you think you might have boarding troubles, ask your doctor to write you an authorized letter about the medicine you take on board.
Search for the local emergency
Find out where the hospital is and how far it is from your hotel. It is a good idea to write down the name and address of the closest hospital translated into your destination’s language for a taxi driver to take you quickly if needed.
Also, always keep with you the emergency numbers to get your medical help immediately in case you need it.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for special arrangements
Your food allergy is something that you shouldn’t be ashamed of. It’s okay to ask for your food to be prepared in a different way than on the menu. It’s okay to ask the flight attendant about the ingredients of the food on the plane, and if there is any emergency help available while flying. In fact, you should call your airline company before your flight and get all the information you need so you won’t have a stressful flight.
Bring hand sanitizer and hand wipes with you
Hygiene is very important while traveling. Often we don’t have the opportunity to wash our hands, although we know it’s very important and can decrease infectious agents on the hands. But unfortunately, sometimes it’s impossible to wash our hands so often, so we must carry hand wipes and hand sanitizer because airplanes, trains, and buses are like a magnet for allergens.
Inform others about your allergy issue
If you like to eat out in restaurants, take with you a personalized “chef card” which contains details about your allergy and it will be useful for kitchen staff to prepare your meal properly. FARE provides an interactive PDF of chef card templates in English and a number of foreign languages to use while traveling.
Please don’t solely rely on your chef card. It is advisable to speak to your waiter about this.
Of course, you don’t have to write it on your forehead, but it’s a good idea if your friends who travel with you, or the person sitting next to you know about your food allergy so they will be prepared to help you.
Apps you must have on your phone
One app that can help you a lot is Allergy FT (Food Translator). First, you must open an account, and a profile which includes the food you must keep away from. The app offers you 86 different food allergy translations, and is multilingual. Also, you can have access even if you are offline, so it’s good because often we don’t have access to the internet while traveling.
Life is short and the world is wide! Don’t follow the advice that if you stay at home you will be safer than while traveling. You CAN travel safely with a food allergy, given the steps above.
Always take the food allergy emergency plan with you and keep your medications handy. Traveling with food allergy itself is stressful enough, so don’t try to stress the hell out of you more than that. In time you will gain confidence that you can travel without putting your health at risk.
Photos credit: Monika Grabkowska