“There’s just a little garlic in the sauce,” our waitress said, but even a tiny amount would have made the rest of Grandma’s trip an agony of stomach aches and fatigue. The server didn’t understand. With a little persistence, dinner was ordered and the kitchen prepared a special entree that was delicious and allergen free.
“Traveling with allergies takes a bit more diligence than staying home, but having allergies is no reason to keep from exploring the world.”
In the U.S. misinformed waitstaff are becoming more rare. The National Restaurant Association has an online course to educate and help restaurants instill confidence that they are an allergy aware establishment. It’s good for business too. Studies show that allergy eaters dine out and when they do, they bring friends. Whether diners have sensitivities, are diagnosed with allergies or simply have preferences, when they return it’s good for the bottom line.
You can also find an allergy-friendly restaurant with Allergy Eats, an online guide.
Listen to an interview with author, Kim Koeller, the award-winning author of Let’s Eat Out Around the World Gluten Free and Allergy Free: Eat Safely in Any Restaurant at Home or Abroad
Conversation with Elaine Masters on the Gathering Road Podcast:
Kim Koeller has been personally managing Celiac disease and multiple food allergies while traveling over 2 million miles and living on 4 continents. As the founder of Gluten Free Passport.com, Kim’s been helping businesses and individuals manage special diets wherever they may go.
Some countries are easier for allergy sufferers
In Asia going gluten free is simple with the national preference for rice with most meals. Mexico has many choices for allergy sufferers with corn tortillas and rice served often as well. In Brazil ‘green rice’ is a menu favorite and ubiquitous cheese puffs, Paio de Gueijo, are made with Tapioca flour, a delicious alternative to wheat flour breads and pastries. Italy has its pasta, but there are other alternatives – a delicious risotto, anyone? Vegetarians, depending on the level of their preferences, also have it easier with fish and protein rich grains, like quinoa,more available than ever.
Airlines are catching up – Internationally at least
With a little preparation, airlines are happy to accommodate most dietary restrictions, especially on international flights. They have codes for every allergy. Learning your code and using that when you make a reservation, can help. If however you have several allergies to juggle, it’s not so simple. There’s not, at the time of this writing a way for the airlines to combine codes.
The best idea is to travel carrying enough food to take you to your destination and through a delay. Know how many meals there’ll be on board and pack your own. On a long-haul flight bring a soft cooler with ice in a baggie, empty it to go through security and refill on board or in an airport lounge. Packing protein is most important, then add fruit, veggies, soup packets and oatmeal to mix with hot water.
Remember to leave any open food on the plane when you land or it will be confiscated. Like in New Zealand.
Eating out is an unavoidable part of business travel. If you know where you’ll be dining, call the restaurant in advance and let them know of your allergies. For banquets and more formal functions it’s especially important. Ask if they have an allergen free menu. Be careful at buffets as there may be cross-contact contamination. In that case, order from the regular menu or again call ahead to order.
Chemical and environmental allergies don’t have to keep you from fulfilling your travel bucket list
On a recent trip, a fellow traveler brought all her own lotions, soaps, shampoos and, of course medications, to avoid exposure to chemicals that she’s very allergic to. Packing her carry on with 3 ounce bottles helped her saunter through security lines. Urban areas were a bit of a challenge, but spending five days in a small, beach side, all-inclusive resort, made it easier to savor the reason she was traveling in the first place – to relax and enjoy herself.
I hope some of these ideas help traveling with allergies a bit easier. Share your tips! What have you discovered?