How to Travel Safely with Food Allergies
For years I was terrified of traveling because of my peanut allergy. Leaving home and being away from familiar foods and restaurants made me nervous. Newfoundland was my comfort zone and I hated leaving it. I did go on the occasional family vacation, which I felt safe doing because my parents or relatives were always close by.When I was 22 I traveled to an all inclusive resort in Mexico for my nursing graduation trip. I was nervous but I was also surrounded by 20 (and officially graduated) nurses. I still brought four EpiPens and a lot of my own food. The only thing I ate from the kitchen there was french fries. A few years later I took my first big adventure overseas. And I absolutely loved it! My biggest regret is wasting all those years being scared of traveling and allowing my food allergies to hold me back. There are illnesses and conditions out there that truly prevent people from traveling. Allergies shouldn't be one of them. This blog includes information and tips on how to travel safely with a food allergy.
This is a picture of my meal in an all inclusive resort in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. They couldn't guarantee that most of their food was peanut free, so they made me this fancy dish of .. fries! They were delicious though!
Planning a trip:
Do your research! Look up restaurants in the area that are allergy-friendly (we are currently in the process of creating an app called Allergise that helps you easily locate these restaurants. Keep an eye out for it's upcoming release!). If you're like me and your allergen is peanuts, I would recommend sticking to very basic restaurants such as Italian. I always felt safe with pizza or spaghetti. If you're staying at an all inclusive resort make sure they are able to accommodate your allergies. I also check out where the local hospitals or medical centres are and be sure to purchase medical insurance for peace of mind!
What to pack:
1. Allergy Medication- I always bring a minimum of two EpiPens (on my Europe trip I brought 4!). I also pack Benadryl as well. Remember to check the expiry date on your medications to make sure they aren't going to expire during your trip. I've never had any issues bringing medications through airport security. But I get a doctor's note anyways to say I need to take them on board, just in case. Make sure the prescription labels on medication cases are clear and readable.
2. Medical Identification - Don't forget your medical alert bracelet/necklace or something that identifies you have a food allergy.
3. Face mask- Because my allergies are airborne, I bring a mask with me on the flight. You can usually buy them at drug stores or get them in a doctors office. This may sound ridiculous, but I always feel relaxed napping with a face mask on knowing that if someone decides to snack on peanuts, I'll be ok!
4. Wet Wipes- When flying, be sure you're area is clean by wiping down the seat, arm rests and trays. This can prevent contact with food particles or residue.
5. Good ol' fanny pack- For those times you want to go on an adventure such as hiking, zip lining or maybe even sky diving!? Unfortunately you still need to carry your EpiPen! I got a SPIbelt for my Europe trip which was perfect! My EpiPen fit in nice and snug and you could hardly see the belt at all.
6. Chef Cards- Bring cards that have information about your allergies in different languages. This was you can show it to chefs and waiters at restaurants. You can order these at https://www.selectwisely.com
Traveling in the air:
A couple of days before your flight, call ahead to the airline you're flying with to inform them about your allergies. They will usually add a note in their system to notify the crew. But don't rely on this alone. Also remind them a the gate before boarding, and then again on board. Inform them where your EpiPen is. I find the flight attendants will usually ask you if you would like an announcement made to inform other passengers about your allergies. If they don't, I ask them because my allergies are airborne. Usually other passengers are compliant with it. I never eat the food provided on the flight. I always bring my own snacks that I know for certain are safe. Airlines I avoid- I have to say that most airlines I've travelled with have been excellent when it comes to my allergies. But I have ran into trouble. There are two airlines that I avoid: Air Canada and Qantas. I could go on an extremely long and detailed rant about my experience with these airlines. But that is not what this article is about! So I am just going say that I avoid flying with them at all costs. On a more positive note, airlines that I find accommodating and allergy-friendly are: WestJet, Ryanair, Tap Portugal, Easyjet, Vueling.
I hope that by reading this blog you now feel more comfortable traveling. Don't let your food allergies hold you back from experiencing the world! Go ahead and book your dream trip!
And of course, Safe Travels!