Traveling with food allergies is not easy! Whether you’re avoiding certain foods because of an allergy or completely adapting your diet to follow a Paleo, Whole 30, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or Keto diet, you can still travel! Here are our tips!
My husband and I both have food allergies. I am gluten-free and dairy-free, and he is allergic to mushrooms and shellfish.
Everything becomes more challenging when you are traveling with food allergies! Eating out becomes more challenging, buying groceries becomes more challenging, and cooking becomes more challenging.
Is It Worth Even Trying Traveling with Food Allergies?
Over the years, I’ve met so many people with food restrictions, either food allergies or intolerances, who shake their heads and say “It’s just too difficult to travel”. And I will be the first to say it’s not easy!
But I have learned the key to making a vacation enjoyable when you have food allergies or food intolerances is planning ahead. If you can take some time before the trip to research the area and research recipes, I promise you will be better off!
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My Tips for Traveling with Food Allergies
My motto when planning to cook while traveling with food allergies is always…
- reduce your grocery list
- save unused ingredients
- creatively reuse those ingredients by putting them in several recipes
1. Have a General Schedule for Your Trip
How many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners will you need to plan for?
You’ll also want to decide how many meals you want to eat IN versus OUT. Personally, I almost always say breakfast will be eaten in. We pack a cooler with items for my breakfasts. Other meals vary based on our accommodations (Do we have a kitchen to cook in?, Are there restaurants in the area that can accommodate my allergies?, etc).
2. Research Restaurant Options To Make Traveling With Food Allergies Easier
You’ll want to consider the following…
- Dietary Needs: Can they really accommodate your dietary needs? For example, those traveling gluten-free, do they have a dedicated fryer to prevent cross-contamination? You may need to call or email ahead of time.
- Location: Research where they’re located. Is it worth the drive or walk?
- Expense: Check out the menu. Is it worth the price?
You may need to search a few blogs like this one to learn what restaurants fit your diet and which restaurants others consider the best.
Our Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free City Restaurant List
Here are just a few of the posts I’ve written on gluten-free and dairy-free restaurants…
- Indianapolis, IN Restaurants
- Indianapolis, IN Bakeries
- Columbus, OH Restaurants
- Washington DC Restaurants
- Savannah, GA Restaurants
- Jacksonville, FL Restaurants
3. Plan Your Meals
Brainstorm/ Research Recipes that Use Similar Ingredients
Now, no one wants to feel like they’re eating the same thing every meal! Make sure you pick recipes that are not so similar it’s painful.
But if you are traveling with food allergies you DO want to reduce the number of ingredients you buy at the grocery store and reuse those ingredients as much as possible.
If you’re hoping to have bacon for breakfast one morning and don’t think you’ll finish all of it, plan a dish for a later meal such as Brussels sprouts with bacon jam.
If you want to have guacamole one night, consider using up the leftover avocados at breakfast another day. Reusing ingredients is the key to staying within your budget while cooking on the road.
Brainstorm/ Research Recipes That Don’t Require Much Prep Work or Uncommon Appliances
While rental homes are often stocked with the basics, they don’t always have all of the appliances or cookware you may need. Or you might not feel comfortable using their supplies, especially if cross-contamination is a challenge for you.
However, if you ARE okay with using their kitchen supplies, you may not want to pick a recipe that requires a food processor without knowing if the rental has them. Focus your search on recipes that require fewer or no appliances.
Sometimes, however, you can make do with what you have. Many times I’ve used a fork instead of a whisk or some arm strength instead of a mixer. Part of cooking while traveling means you may have to improvise regularly.
4. Make a Decision on Lodging
Here’s our lodging tips for those traveling with food allergies
- Choose a hotel with a fridge and microwave. Not all have these commodities, but they will make your life so much easier!
- Usually having a kitchen is the way to go. But if you want to stay at a hotel and don’t want to spend the time cooking, have a good meal plan in place.
5. Put Together Your Traveling with Allergies Meal Plan
I use an organized meal planning grid (below) with the meals we will be eating IN going down the left-hand side and a subcategory within that of the dishes I’ve chosen also going down the left-hand side. Then other categories such as ingredients to buy, ingredients to bring, and other needs, such as supplies to bring (read below for information on supplies to bring), dishes to make ahead of time, etc, going across the top of the spreadsheet.
Want to receive our FREE Travel Daily Meal Planner? Click here, and we’ll send you a copy!!
Because I like to reuse ingredients for several meals, my list of things to buy may repeat some of the same items. (I argue it SHOULD repeat some of the same items!)
Common Items to Bring When Traveling With Food Allergies
I am a girl on a budget who hates to waste! For me, I find my conscience is often not so distraught when I pack what I can instead of buying ingredients or utensils and throwing them out later.
- Spices: Who wants to re-buy spices for every recipe? I don’t!… especially when they are so lightweight and take up almost no room in storage when traveling. The best part is, if you’ve planned your meals appropriately and are reusing several ingredients and flavors, you shouldn’t have too many spices or flavorings to pack.
- Cooking Oil: If you don’t want to buy a large container of cooking oil at each new destination, we love packets of coconut oil!
- Utensils: If you’re planning to eat even one meal at your hotel, you’re going to need it all!… silverware, paper towels, a paring knife, etc. Note: Because we eat so many fruits and veggies, I like to bring a small knife that I can whip out whenever needed. I like the ones with a cover over them like this one so no one gets hurt while reaching in the bag of supplies.
- Hard-to-Find Ingredients: Part of having food allergies and intolerances means that we sometimes cook with some less common ingredients. If you are going to want something like arrowroot powder or Whole 30 compliant ketchup, you might be better off packing it.
- Food Storage Containers: I’ve found food storage containers to be extremely helpful when we’re traveling. This is especially true if we will be cooking food in one location and then traveling to another location with leftovers.
- Cooler or Lunch Box and Ice Packs: If you’re planning to travel with food, make sure you have a way to keep it cold. But if we’re flying to a destination where we will then be traveling with food in a rental car, I like to pack a lunch box and an ice pack or two in my suitcase. Then, I can use them when I arrive.
Traveling with Food Allergies IS Possible!
You can do this! Planning a vacation and traveling with food allergies is not easy, but it is possible. Those that plan ahead (do their research and bring the needed supplies) are better able to enjoy their trip and not get overwhelmed on vacation.