Food & Environmental Allergies: Things to Consider When I Travel

Last updated: November 2022

Allergies can make traveling more challenging — and more interesting. I have food and environmental allergies, but I don't let that stop me from taking trips. I prepare in advance and stay flexible along the way. Below are the things I take into account when traveling with allergies.

Safe accommodations for travel

Accommodations take on a greater meaning for people with allergies. We need more than just somewhere to stay; we need a place where we can stay safe from allergens. Some of the things I look for in a bed-and-breakfast inn or hotel include:

  • Age of the building (newer buildings tend to have less issues with mold)
  • Cleanliness
  • Location (is there a grocery store nearby)
  • Non-smoking facilities
  • Refrigerator in the room
  • Variety of menu options

Pack a medication bag in advance

I have a special medicine bag that I take with me on trips. This is one bag I don't want to leave at home, given that I frequently travel in Texas, where seasonal allergies abound. I encounter double the allergens on my trips between Greater Houston and Central Texas.

Before I depart for travel, I take an oral antihistamine and use a steroid nasal spray. I use these allergy medicines during my trip and for a few days after returning home. So, I pack them in my medicine bag, along with my prescriptions and supplements. I also pack Benadryl® and a topical antihistamine cream in case of other allergic reactions.

Food allergy safety considerations

Since I have several food allergies and sensitivities, I always pack food for my trips. I put cold items in a small ice chest and dry items in an insulated bag. I often take with me:

  • Coconut milk
  • Dark chocolate
  • Fresh fruit
  • Gluten-free bread
  • Gluten-free chips or crackers
  • Gluten-free oatmeal packets
  • KIND® granola bars
  • Raw vegetables
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds
  • SunButter®
  • Water

While allergen-friendly food options exist in many places, I usually still have trouble finding enough for me to eat while traveling. So, I take things I can eat with me instead of spending time on trips searching for them. To make things easier, I buy individually wrapped items and portion foods into plastic bags or containers.

An open mind for travel

Keeping an open mind really helps me on trips. I can plan and prepare, but I cannot control everything. Unforeseen things happen.

I recently stayed in public lodging for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Through research, I found a great new hotel. And with the help of my travel checklist, I remembered to pack most of the items I needed.

I looked forward to eating breakfast the first morning at the hotel. I selected an apple, coffee, scrambled eggs, and turkey sausage from the breakfast buffet. The staff even provided hot water for my instant oatmeal.

Double check food labels

I was excited to find packets of "hot honey." How the honey could stay warm puzzled me, though. And I wondered why the honey looked darker, almost red, as I drizzled it over my only serving of gluten-free oatmeal.

I spit it out as soon as I took a bite of my hot honey-topped oatmeal. I grabbed the packet, removed my eyeglasses, and peered at the tiny letters. The ingredients included chilies and vinegar, which I am sensitive to.

Fortunately, I didn't develop significant symptoms. No dizziness or rash followed. My mouth and throat just burned for a while.

The following day, I found packets of "pure honey" on the breakfast buffet. I read the label to make sure the honey contained no added ingredients. Since I had forgotten my gluten-free bread in the freezer at home, I enjoyed the honey on top of toasty pretzels instead.

Build in time for rest

I had about a week of downtime before I had to travel again. My newfound hotel was full. So, I reserved a room in a slightly older hotel in a nearby town.

Alas, I did not get much rest in this hotel. More than just the loud noises kept my child and me from sleeping. Something lingered in the air. Within an hour, my son started sneezing. We both awoke to more sneezing, drainage, runny noses, and itchy, watery eyes.

We were glad to check out of that hotel early. I prayed and hoped we had not been exposed to a coronavirus. After a good night's rest in our own bed, the symptoms subsided, and we both felt better the next day.

Because traveling with allergies takes a little more effort and toll on my body, taking a day or 2 to rest afterward helps restore me. Before long, I am eager to take my next trip. I know how to prepare for the challenges and that another adventure awaits me.

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