Do you or someone in your family have food allergies? It’s scary enough having an anaphylactic food allergy while at home, but it can feel like a whole new game when you’re traveling internationally with food allergies.
In my family, everyone carries epinephrine auto-injectors for food allergies. We run a wide spectrum of allergies - my husband has had a peanut allergy his whole life, while I didn’t develop any anaphylactic food allergies until the last year – add two kids into the mix and a normal outing for us includes between six and eight EpiPens.
I love helping people with food allergies travel because I understand it – as someone with food allergies myself, and as a mom of kids with food allergies. Here are a few of my frequently asked questions and a few tips on traveling with food allergies and EpiPens.
Pick the right destination
Some destinations are a better “fit” for traveling with certain food allergies than others. Only you can decide what your comfort level is and how it can be met while you’re on vacation – maybe you need an English speaking location, or a restaurant at the resort so you can always order the same thing. You can research local cuisine and common ingredients before you travel, and don’t pick a destination that bases its cuisine on something you’re allergic to. It’s best to think about these needs early in the planning process, and pick a destination accordingly. A great travel agent can help you find exactly what you need and make sure all of your requests get submitted ahead of time!
Carry your medications (and then some!)
This sounds obvious, but please don’t forget to pack your medications. This includes epinephrine that you carry for anaphylactic food allergies, plus extra for backup, as well as a small emergency kit with diphenhydramine, an antihistamine, your medical info, emergency contact information, a copy of your prescriptions, your doctors information, and any other relevant information.
Carry an “allergy travel card” in your destination language
If you’re traveling to a non-English speaking destination, this is absolutely necessary. We type up and print the information on a small piece of paper, about the size of a credit card to carry with you. You want the card to clearly state what you’re allergic to, that your food should not contain any of that allergen, and explain that your allergy is life-threatening. You should always carry more than one copy, we’ve had restaurants take the cards with them to help explain to the chef what allergies we have – and you always want them to be able to keep the card if it helps remind them when they’re preparing your food. FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) has some for free on this website or you can download a custom one for under $10 on a few different websites.
Always purchase travel insurance
I know this is sometimes a tough subject, but with food allergies, travel insurance is a no-brainer. You need good medical coverage while you’re traveling – and your credit card and your normal health insurance probably won’t cut it. Travel insurance can help you in a few different ways, but if you need to use an auto-injector for an anaphylactic reaction, you want to have travel insurance on your side. Some coverage includes assistance refilling your prescriptions if you need to get new auto-injectors while you’re traveling, translation assistance in an emergency, covers costs of emergency medical care, and can help you get home if you need to. All travel insurance is different, so please read the policies carefully, ask questions, and purchase the right policy for your needs.
Keeping the airplane safe
First, it’s important to know that you can always carry your epinephrine with you on the airplane – it won’t do you any good at all in your checked bags and you are allowed to carry it on. Peanuts are one of the most commonly served snack on an airplane, but on some airlines you can ask for accommodations such as an announcement after boarding, creating a safe zone around you, and serving a different snack on the plane. You can also request early boarding to wipe down the seat area. Each airline has different rules and different snacks that they serve, so if this is important to you, check with the airline before you buy your tickets – most airlines have their peanut policies and accommodations listed on their website.
Advocate for yourself
It’s your job to advocate for yourself and your food allergies while you’re traveling. Always be kind and work with, not against, the people that you need assistance from. If you get any resistance about your food allergies, stay calm, do your best to explain your allergy and make smart decisions about what you need.
Don’t let your food allergies hold you back from exploring the world! Have fun and make amazing memories!
As a mom of children with food allergies, and someone with food allergies herself, Kim Everett of Keepsake Travel Designs is ready to help you explore the world with food allergies. Contact us today to start designing your vacation!