Travelling especially over long distances with multiple stops can be stressful at the best of times. When you add that you or someone under your care has to travel with a food allergy you can end up with a major headache. So what can you when you travel with a food allergy? Are there ways that you can prepare for you and your loved ones? What can you do before and during your travels?
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a doctor or food allergist. This is my own personal experience and if you have a severe food allergy you should consult a healthcare professional when you travel with a food allergy. Often you will read stories about people who are travelling and themselves or someone under their care is travelling with a food allergy and either they do not inform the airline or they do not make the necessary precaution whilst travelling. As someone who likes to plan the thought of this happening really worries me. We have a responsibility to inform the airline, hotel, restaurant etc if we have an allergy.
I read in a Guardian article the following:
A ban on food allergens isn’t the solution, says Holly Shaw, a nurse adviser at the charity Allergy UK, as it “creates a complacent society where people assume they are safe. Flying with an allergy is all about individual risk assessment, taking responsibility for your own safety and communicating with airlines at all stages.”
The article also has a synopsis of some major airlines’ allergy policies. I recommend that you contact your airline to get the latest information.
Air travel with a food allergy
- If you are travelling by air make sure to inform the airline and also plan your in flight meals in advance. Even if you did not book directly through the airline you can still call them and let them know. Once you board you should also inform the stewardess and head purser about the allergy. Depending on the severity of your allergy also let the passengers sitting near you know. As a gesture of good will you can even bring snacks for your neighbouring passengers. For example if you have a severe nut allergy you can offer them nut free snacks.
- Bring plenty of snacks which are appropriate for your allergy. Depending on the length of the flight you may also need to pack a full meal.
- Bring wet wipes and hand sanitiser to clean any surfaces if needed (ask if you can preboard)
- If you require an epipen be sure to bring it with you. Make sure to have more than one with you or know where to get them at your destination. Check with your airline on any permissions which are needed if you do so. This applies to all other medications you may need.
- If needed bring a mask with you.
Road or train travel with a food allergy
This is similar to air travel with a food allergy but it can be beneficial to also see what kind of restaurant options are available on your trip. Make sure to pack plenty of snacks or food items which are appropriate and be sure to communicate your allergy when eating at a new place.
Eating out with a food allergy
- Call the restaurant in advance. Ask them questions about how they can accommodate your food allergy and if they are able to do so. Ask them to note your food allergy in the reservation.
- When ordering your food ask for a breakdown of ingredients and remind the person taking the order of your allergy. If you are uncertain ask to speak with the chef.
- Look for restaurant recommendations online and ask friends for recommendations.
Hotel Stays with a food allergy
- If you make the reservation directly with the hotel make sure to note the type and severity of your allergy. For example you can ask them if the mini bar contains nuts. If you did not reserve directly them make sure to call them and inform them of your allergy.
- If breakfast is included ask them what options there are for you. For example if they do not have gluten free options ask if you can bring your own bread or if they can provide it for the duration of your visit.
- At the check in remind the receptionist of your allergy. This is also a great time to ask if they have any recommendations for restaurants which are able to accommodate you.
At the end of the day it is our responsibility to take care of our health. Be patient and be prepared to answer any questions people may have. Remember that in some places people will not have a great understanding of food allergies. That is not their fault. Inform and educate people (without being preachy!) so that the next group of people who travel with a food allergy will have an easier time of it.
Please share in the comments your tips for travelling with a food allergy or you if you have any recommendations on where you had a good experience. Thanks for sharing!
Ps. if you want to go more in depth visit FARE