10 Tips for Traveling With Food Allergies

For those suffering from peanut, gluten, soy, lactose and other food allergies, finding food for your family when traveling can range from annoying to frightening. Here are 10 ways to mitigate risks and enjoy the journey.

By: Steve Larese

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Peanuts at 30,000 Feet

Peanut allergies are among the most severe, yet peanuts are synonymous with in-flight snacks. Many airlines no longer serve peanuts–check the airline website for policies–though other passengers may bring peanut snacks aboard. Airlines such as Southwest will not serve peanuts if contacted a few days before the flight. Speak to a gate agent before your family's flight and ask to pre-board in order to wipe down the seat and area where your family will be seating to remove any peanut dust and particles. Flight attendents can also make announcements before takeoff asking passengers to please not open peanut-containing snacks during the flight. 

Give Yourself Extra Time for Security

If you travel with more than 3 ounces of liquids, such as almond milk, peanut butter or apple sauce, it's helpful to have a doctor's note to present to TSA agents, if necessary. Give yourself extra time in security for additional screening of items, but you shouldn't have any trouble getting an exception.

Epinephrine Injections

The TSA considers epinephrine injectors a medical necessity, and allows them to be carried aboard flights. Epinephrine injectors should be bagged with other carry-on liquids for inspection. At least two injectors should be available (consider one injection lasts for about 20 minutes), and if you're traveling alone, notify your flight attendent where your injectors are should you go into anaphylaxis. Make sure they are clearly labled and accessible. Airplanes carry at least one epinephrine injector in the onboard medical kit as well, and flight attendents are trained in their use.

Gluten Testers are Coming Soon

Devices such as Nima Portable Gluten Tester will enter the market this year, allowing travelers to test food for gluten and other ingredients. Nima uses one-use capsules that are $5 each, and hopefully prices will come down as more products come on line.

Pack More Snacks Than You Think You'll Need

It sounds obvious, but many people get caught off-guard by flight delays, lack of restaurants that accomodate special diets and other hiccups while traveling. Pack more diverse, safe snacks then you think you'll need, or even full meals such as those from GoPicnic. For kids, pack extra special treats as something to look forward to during the travel day. 

Helpful Apps

Apps such as Find Me Gluten Free, Happy Cow and Allergy Eats are invaluable for finding restaurants that accomodate food allergies. Familiarize yourself with the apps before you travel and contact restaurants in airports and destinations that seem safe beforehand.

Plan Ahead for Peace of Mind

Familiarize yourself with medical facilities near your destination that can treat an allergic reaction, if necessary, and have your doctor transfer any prescriptions that you may need filled when traveling ahead of time. Consider how you would replace EpiPens used during a flight, for example.

Translate Your Needs

If you're not fluent in the language of your destination, create a translated card beforehand you can present at restaurants that lists ingredients you need to avoid, along with a brief explaination. Be aware that foods with which you're familiar with at home may use different ingredients abroad, such as types of flour or nuts.

Don't Leave Anyone Out

It can be hard on young travelers with food allergies to sit by and watch family members enjoy eating purchased airport food. Safe money and bring meals for everyone who's traveling, and enjoy eating all together later at vetted restaurants.

Reach Out to Local Groups

Many destination cities have organizations that share information about local restaurants that accomodate dietary needs, such as the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group and the Gluten Free Bay Area Meetup Group. Incorporate finding exciting diet-sensative restaurants into your travel plans, and reach out to people with similar dietary concerns for advice and recommendations. Locals are more than happy to share their knowledge with visitors, and you may even make new friends.

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