Summer is nearly here and if you are like me, your wanderlust is in full effect. Vacations are around the corner, road trips will be aplenty and you are probably already stressing about how you will safely eat. Whether you are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, vegan, paleo, etc., traveling with dietary restrictions can be one of the toughest things! So much is out of your control and you are at the mercy of what is around you. As someone who has traveled a great deal over the past few years, I can tell you that it does get easier as you learn how to plan ahead and come prepared for whatever lies ahead. I find traveling by car, when I have the choice, to make for much easier/safer travel with much more options for me. Trains are pretty easy, as they allow you to bring your own food. But air travel is definitely the most complicated. However, no matter what the transportation means are, if you can take the necessary steps to make your travel easier, you will actually be able to enjoy the journey without any major catastrophes or stress. Here are some tips for traveling with a restricted diet!
• Before traveling on an airline, if you have severe airborne or cross contamination food allergies, take the time to read the airlines’ allergy policies. Many airlines post these right on their websites.
• Flying does allow you to bring your own food on the flight, however there are limits to exactly how much you can bring on board due to space and security restrictions. This can make very long flights difficult. Many airlines offer vegetarian and kosher options, but gluten-free can be quite tough. I find it best to just bring enough food myself to never rely on the airlines.
• If you have a peanut or tree nut allergy, try to choose an airline that doesn’t serve complimentary nuts. Most airlines will not give you a guaranteed peanut- or tree-nut-free flight.
• Cruises can be challenging as well, as most do not allow you to bring your own food on board the ship. This is a situation where you will want to notify the cruise line of your special dietary needs so they can best accommodate you. See my tips on dining out with a restricted diet for ideas that can help in this situation.
• When you are traveling via car, the possibilities of what you can pack and bring yourself are really only limited by the space you have in your vehicle and if you have access to a cooler and ice.
• Travel by car means you can plan ahead and make or buy various salads, sandwiches, baked goods, snacks, etc. — that you know are safe for your restrictions. Bring as much shelf-stable food with you as possible, since this limits the chances of food spoiling if you don’t have access to ice.
• You can also plan ahead and find restaurants and stores along your route that cater to your specific diet. Sometimes if you don’t mind the planning ahead, it can make for some really fun exploring in new cities. Trying new restaurants in a city I have never been to is one of my favorite things to do when traveling. Again, reference my list of tips on dining out to plan ahead.
• The same as above applies for when you arrive at your final location. Do your homework, preselect restaurants and stores that will accommodate you ahead of time, so you know you will be accommodated. Don’t just show up and hope for the best.
• Along the trip and at your final destination, seek out local farmers markets where you can purchase fresh, local, organic produce for both the remainder of the trip and when you arrive at your destination.
• If you have access to a kitchen and pantry along the way and at your final destination, make as many meals as you can for yourself so you know you are safe and won’t ruin the remainder of your trip by getting sick.
• If you are staying with friends or family, it can be both stressful on you and your hosts. You may be concerned about them not fully understanding your restrictions and how serious they are. I know from experience it could take the entire duration of your vacation to explain it. Consider printing up a quick list for them that specifically spells out all of the things you can and cannot eat, or maybe even emailing it ahead so they can be prepared. See my full post on how to be a gracious guest and host for even more tips.
• If space is limited during your travel, consider shipping ahead to your final destination (whether shipped from your home pantry or via online web stores) diet-safe foods, such as crackers, cookies, pasta, grains, frozen goods, etc.
• When camping or traveling to a music festival, plan ahead and make as much food as you can that doesn’t need to be cold or in a cooler that can just get tossed into a backpack. Granola bars, snack mixes, dried fruit, homemade crackers, etc.
Do you have any trips coming up this summer? What are your tips for traveling with a restricted diet?
Check out some of our healthy recipes on the BLDG 25 Blog.