Recently, one of my sweetest co-workers approached me out of the blue. She had stumbled upon this blog and enjoyed reading it so much that she was compelled to tell me. I was truly touched. She does not have allergies, but she really seemed to understand my struggles based on my posts. I never imagined this blog would have that effect on anyone, least of all someone without allergies, but it did. Now that things are kind of settling down in life it has spurred me to ‘pick up my pen’ and start writing again. Thanks Michelle for the encouragement. I’d like to think that you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the future.
One of the reasons I’ve been absent from the blog is because I’ve been away from home so much. Traveling, for a person with so many allergies, can be exhausting and full of anxiety. Where will I eat? What will I eat? Will I have to eat the same thing every day? How much is my food there? If you have the same questions rolling around in your head as you prepare for a trip, I understand. Let me assure you that it is possible to travel AND eat well with allergies. A little preparation goes a long way.
Last fall took me across country for the better part of two months and a half months. Three separate trips occurred over that time period. Before the trips I was plagued with sleepless nights filled with food prep, list-making and general worrying. The latter was unfounded. All the advance work paid off. And for my most recent trip, I actually worried the least since finding out about my allergies.
Here are some of my general tips for traveling with food allergies:
Search the Internet for restaurants. This is a no-brainer. Most of us don’t want to cook on a vacation, so scour the internet for allergy-friendly restaurants at your destination. Is there a cuisine that normally works well for your allergies? Search the highest-rated restaurants in the city you will be visiting. Your food should be good AND allergy-friendly. Most restaurants have a website with a menu that you can check. If they don’t, you can often find a Facebook page. There’s usually contact information too and if I ever have questions or concerns about a menu item, I will email them. Some places won’t write you back, but the best ones who are interested in your business, will. If you do your homework, you can eat at the most amazing establishments and have the best meals of your life.
Search the Internet for grocery stores near your hotel or rental. Sometimes you can’t afford to eat out at every meal. Other times, it’s not worth going out for breakfast when all you want is an apple or a bowl of oatmeal. Or, you’re mostly a grazer. You can also tire of eating the same things over and over at different restaurants. Whatever the reason is, find out where the grocery stores are near you. Google maps is great for that. Search too ‘natural foods’ and larger chains. Whether you're picking up deli foods, produce or a safe snack, grocery stores are important when traveling.
Find out what’s not allowed. Most airport security checkpoints limit the amount of liquids and gels you can bring in your carry-on (ice packs often included). You can usually bring your own food, though! Which is great, because most airports have limited dining options and that newsstand will have a deplorable selection of allergy-friendly food. Within country you have more freedom, you can bring an apple and a sandwich with you. But when traveling out-of-country, there are more restrictions. I know travelling from Canada to the US means that often a lot of fresh produce is out of the question. Meats and seeds too. And it’s different with other countries. It’s easier to know before you go.
Bring some tools with you. Some trips require a little more than others. Reusable grocery bags are handy. Cutting boards and knives are great if you plan to buy produce and need to prep it a little before consuming it. Sometimes a small appliance is appropriate (more on that a little later). What you bring can be worth the weight and space in your luggage. Again though, especially if you’re flying, check and be sure what can go into your checked luggage and what can go in your carry-on.
I guess what I wanted to say to the nervous, allergy-suffering traveler is: don’t worry so much. Worrying adds nothing to your lifespan. Preparedness helps quash your fears and helps you enjoy your trip. So prepare, don’t worry and enjoy your trip.
Stay tuned for the next posts, where I’ll discuss some of my traveling survival strategies from my trips in the recent year.