4 Tips for traveling with food allergies

Up until last year, I was the person who could eat anything.  That didn’t necessarily mean that I wanted to eat everything, but there wasn’t anything that I “couldn’t” eat.  That all changed when I found out that I have a form of Celiac disease — now I’m the person who can’t eat a lot of things.  When I’m at home, not being able to eat gluten isn’t a big deal, and i f people are really interested in my story, I’ll do another post about it sometime.

A few weeks ago, I went on vacation for the first time since being diagnosed.  It was quite an eye-opting experience!  When you have a food allergy or sensitivity, the abundance of food choices in airports, on the road, or in unfamiliar cities isn’t as exciting as it is alarming.  Sure, there are lots of choices, but is there going to be anything I can actually eat?  Here are some tricks I learned while traveling with a food allergy.

My examples revolve around eating gluten-free because that’s where my experience lies, but these tips work equally well for people with other allergies, too.

  1. Bring your own food.

Instead of grabbing something at the airport or planning on stopping for fast food, pack food that you know you can eat.  This can get a little bit tricky if you’re flying because you’ll need to make sure you either eat or don’t bring any food that the TSA won’t allow past security.  The main problem here tends to be liquids, so if you pack real food, then plan on buying a drink once you get past security, there shouldn’t be any problems.

  1. Do your research.

These days, most restaurants have their menus posted online, so it’s easy enough to figure out if you will be able to enjoy a meal there, or if there is no point in trying.  Some restaurants even include allergy information right on their menu, which makes deciding on a place for dinner much more convenient.  Depending on your allergy or how sensitive you are to a particular allergen, however, you might still need to call the restaurant and ask them if it will be a good place for you to eat.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions.

I’m still new to the world of food allergies, so sometimes I feel silly asking lots of questions about what I’m ordering.  If an order comes with corn bread, I’m inclined to ask if the corn bread is gluten-free and take the server at his word if he says that it is.  However, I have since learned that it is a good idea to be more thorough.  “Ok, the cornbread is gluten-free, so is there any flour in it?”  It seems like a stupid question, but sometimes they will come back and say, “Oh, yes, we use flour and cornmeal in the cornbread.”  Well, then, it’s not gluten-free, and now I know that.


  1. Prepare your own food.

If you’re staying in a hotel, try to get a room with a kitchenette, find a grocery store, and prepare your own breakfast, or pack your own lunches for the day.  If you’re staying with a friend, offer to cook a few meals — you’ll be doing something nice for your host and getting a meal that you’re 100% positive you can eat without worry.  Not to mention, if you prepare at least a few of your own meals, you’ll have more money to do other things.

Catherine Hall

About Catherine Hall

Catherine lives in Bangor, Maine with her family. She gained her appreciation for food and cooking from her grandmother and learned most of her technical knowledge from watching the Food Network. When not in the kitchen, Catherine can be found outdoors attempting to grow vegetables (not always successfully), practicing yoga, and taking Capoeira classes in downtown Bangor. Catherine can also be found walking around town with her Guiding Eyes guide dog, Caleb.