Traveling can be tricky when you have a food sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy. Even more so when you have multiple. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
It does take some extra pre-planning and prep time and can sometimes be a bit stressful. But it is something you’ll have to do, want to do, and by all means should do. Staying at home, becoming a recluse, or even worse- becoming “boring”- just isn’t an option!
Here are some of my tips to make traveling just a bit easier:
-Buy snacks online that you can’t get in your local stores. But try them first! Better to find out the hard way if it doesn’t agree with you while you are still at home than while traveling. I find dry (non-refrigerated), packed snacks a life saver on vacations as they won’t go bad and usually aren’t that heavy.
-Try to find a place to stay with a kitchen (here in the UK this option is called self-catering) vs a B&B or hotel. Or call ahead to see if you can get a fridge in your room or store some food in the B&B/hotel’s kitchen. Don’t be shy- most places are eager to please.
-Choose some recipes to bring with you that have easy to find ingredients (and are quick and easy to make). Meat with a spice rub, steamed veggies and rice for example. Plan appropriately- if you’ll be out exploring during the days, you’ll want to pack recipes for cold, to-go lunches like noodle salads or gf wraps. If you’ll be staying with friends or family, you may want to offer to cook for everyone as a thank you to your hosts- pack a recipe that’s a great family pleaser (first find out if anyone is a vegetarian, really hates fish, or has other allergies!). Bringing more recipes than are needed- in case you can’t find an ingredient, or realize you don’t have the right equipment.
Prep, prep, prep:
-Make spice mixes and dry mixes (like for pancakes or muffins) before hand. I put them in labeled zip top plastic baggies.
-If possible pack some hard to find ingredients that you know you’ll need. Keep in mind your destination. For example- if you’re going to North Wales, Asian stores may be hard to find so consider packing rice noodles or coconut milk, but if you’re staying in a city with a China Town like Boston (USA) you’ll likely be able to buy rice noodles and coconut milk there.
-Bake/make whatever is possible before hand. Extra muffins, cookies, breads, etc. Anything that requires specialty ingredients or pans and keeps well without refrigeration.
Do your research:
-What is the local cuisine like? Look up authentic recipes- can you eat any without major adaptations? This will give you an indication of how likely it is you’ll be able to eat out at restaurants.
-Look up local grocery stores, organic stores, health food stores and print out (or bring an electronic copy of) maps, addresses, opening times.
-If you’re going somewhere you’ve never been, try online forums to answer any questions. For example if you looked up “health food stores” in Britain and found “Holland and Barrett”, but want to know if they sell GF foods (answer: some snacks). You may also find out other helpful info- for example a store that is not on google maps, or stores on google maps that have since closed. Or perhaps times and dates of local farmers markets, or near by towns that may have allergy-friendly food shops.
-If you have a life threatening reaction, you’ll want to look up local hospitals, doctors, and numbers before you travel. For example in a life-threatening emergency in the US you dial 911, in the UK it’s 999.
-You aren’t allowed ice packs through security on a plane, so pack your cooler bag/lunch box with ice cubes in a bag, and an extra bag. Throw away the bag of ice cubes right before going through security and then ask a restaurant for some ice once you’ve gone through (use your extra bag for the ice cubes).
I should mention here that my brother has had good luck packing a cooler bag with ice packs and lots of food in his checked in suitcase. I don’t suggest this method with long haul flights, with things that will spoil the very second that the ice packs have melted, and always have some sort of back up plan incase security confiscates it.
-Make sure you have extra snacks (and back-up food plans) on board with you. Last year I was stuck at an airport without food and my bag had already gone on to my destination (with all my extra snacks). It looked like I was going to have to stay overnight without dinner or breakfast until a really nice gate agent booked me on the last flight out that night. Once I got to my destination, it was really quick hugs all around then dug into my suitcase- I was never so happy to have a muffin! If at all possible, try booking direct flights.
-Flying long distance always makes me sick. I don’t know if it’s the time difference, lack of sleep, change in eating habits, new water, or what. I have recently read that in order to change your sleep clock, you should not eat for the 8 hours prior to when you want to be awake. Supposedly your body will view the first meal (breaking-fast) as breakfast. I plan on trying something similar my next flight- start eating like you are already in the new time zone while traveling. Should make deciding when to try to sleep easier too. What tricks work for you?