The Ultimate Food Allergy Travel Guide
As summer approaches, so do summer trips and vacations. Traveling with food allergies is definitely possible. It just takes a little extra preparation.
This article gives an overview of what to keep in mind while traveling. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team has also created a PDF checklist you can refer to.1,2
Communication is great preparation
A great approach to traveling safely is to communicate clearly at every opportunity. When you book a trip, reach out to those involved at every step, for example, your:1
- Travel agent
Let these people know about your or your family member's food allergy. This will help them prepare. Together, you can create a plan to stay safe. If someone other than you or your family is planning this trip, make sure to clearly explain what you or your loved one needs.1,3
Considerations for airline travel
Airplanes can be stressful as you are traveling close to many people. It is still possible for most people living with food allergies to travel by airplane. Call your airline to discuss your concerns and ask about policies. They may be able to modify what food is passed out on the plane or may give you the option to board early.1
It is also important to ask about their policies regarding carrying your allergy drugs on board. The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) allows you to bring epinephrine on a flight. Any auto-injector or drug you carry should have a prescription label on it. Auto-injectors are generally safe to send through security x-ray machines. You may also want to bring a note from your doctor that explains your allergy and the need for drugs to manage it.4
Here are some other tips:1
- Bring wipes to clean your hands, seats, and tray tables. Your airline may allow you to board early to do so.
- Do not eat airplane snacks unless there is a clear ingredient list. You may want to buy snacks before boarding or bring your own.
- Avoid using items that may have been used by others, such as blankets or pillows.
- Avoid seatback pockets. They are a great place to store food but may not be cleaned, resulting in hidden crumbs. Keep hand wipes or sanitizer around if you accidentally touch them.
- Always carry at least 2 auto-injectable epinephrine devices. Tuck them in a bag under your seat to keep them close rather than in the overhead bin.
- Alert your flight attendant if you feel any signs of a reaction.
Unfortunately, airlines cannot guarantee a completely allergy-free experience. While that may be okay for certain allergies, it may be a risk for airborne food allergies.1
Eating at restaurants and dining out
If there are restaurants or theme park vendors that you are excited to try, call ahead. Discuss their menu options and their ability to prevent cross-contamination. You may even be able to find local support groups for people with food allergies in the area. They may be able to share allergy-friendly recommendations with you.1
It also may help to carry a "chef card." These cards explain your allergy so that the kitchen can prepare a safe meal. Remember: though these cards are helpful tools, you should still discuss your allergy with your waitstaff.3
International travel requires extra safety and preparation. Staying safe with a food allergy is more difficult when there are:1
- Language barriers
- Unfamiliar ingredients
- Different food labeling laws
Research is very important. Try to familiarize yourself with the culture, food, and language. You may also want to get a translation card that explains your allergy in the local language.1
Preparing for emergencies
Emergencies happen, and it is important to be prepared. This will help give you the confidence and peace of mind to enjoy your trip. Here are some actions that may help:1
- Always carry at least 2 auto-injectable epinephrine devices. Bring along a box that contains a prescription label.
- Carry extra doses of your prescriptions in their original bottles with prescription labels.
- Keep your medicines near you. In checked luggage, they can be damaged or exposed to heat, cold, or moisture.
- If you are traveling abroad, learn local emergency numbers. If you do not have international calling set up for your trip, plan how you will call these numbers if necessary.
Travel can be very stressful when you have allergies. But have faith in yourself! You already know how to manage your allergy well at home. Those strategies can help you while on vacation.
It may help to think of your worries as tools to help you prepare for your trip. It also may help to turn to loved ones or support groups to talk through your anxiety.3
Have you ever had to change holiday plans due to you or your loved ones allergies?