Dealing with food allergies can be hard//limiting enough when you're at home in your own city...so what in the world do you do when you're away from home? Good question. I've gotten the traveling with allergies thing down to a science by now and am so excited to finally share a definitive list of tips and tricks with you because there is nothing worse than getting sick while you're away from home. Not only is it 10x more uncomfortable, but it's also a total vacation killer. That being said, nothing is full proof and every once in a while there will be the server who doesn't understand cross contamination or a very messy prep station in a kitchen. You just have to roll with the punches and know that it's okay to tell them you don't feel comfortable eating the food. I've sent back // left plates sitting untouched for that reason alone. Just know, if you have a real food allergy, you're not "being picky" and those around you who care for your well being will understand that.
6 tips for food allergy friendly travel:
- Book a hotel room with a fridge or kitchenette - or better yet an airbnb with a full kitchen! This will also save some cash, as you can buy groceries, cook meals like breakfast and lunch at home, and then splurge on fancy dinners (we all know that's more fun anyway).
- Locate the nearest health food store (or a grocery store with a decent product department). Drop your bags off at your place, survey how much space you have, take the alcohol out of the mini fridge, and go stock up on goods! When I'm in the U.S. this typically means beat it to the nearest Whole Foods.
- Make sure you have a portable protein (like sardines), a carby snack to keep you going (like rice cakes), fat sources (nuts or nut butter packs), and some sort of treat because finding an allergy friendly dessert can be tough and no one should be deprived of that!
- Do your research before heading out to a restaurant (I usually yelp or tripadvisor "organic," "farm to table," or "dairy-free" to find the most suitable options) and call ahead or have back up options near by. Calling ahead, especially if you have a severe allergy is the best idea. It gives the chef a heads up and alerts the waitstaff before you've even arrived.
- Tell the waitstaff about your allergy before ordering (even if you already called ahead), they may have a special menu or they may need to speak to the chef before letting you know what dishes could be options for you. Don't be afraid to tell them what you want or create a meal of sides or base a dish off a protein you see on the menu. Nine times out of ten, the chef is more than happy to accommodate.
- Keep reminding everyone about the allergy(ies) and never stop asking questions. People are busy and some people don't know what food is derived from what ingredient, it's okay to school them a bit -- it's your health! I personally let them know before I order, remind them after the table has ordered before they go in the back, and then triple check that my food doesn't contain allergens when it's served to me. The last check-in is typically the toughest because often times a different person serves the dish than the one who took the order. I wait until everyone I've spoke to // who has touched my plate confirms it's good to go. Sometimes that means eating it lukewarm or sending it back (and sometimes even meeting the chef!). Kitchens get busy and people are used to doing things on autopilot. Use your judgement, if a sauce looks weird to you ASK! *also, if you have a severe gluten or peanut intolerance or allergy, I highly recommend using a Nima sensor to test before eating -- I wish so badly they had one for dairy (though it's coming in the near future WAHOO!).
Safe travels my allergic friends! XO