Traveling with Food Allergies and Restrictions

Ahh….Vacation, the blissful joy of escape and adventure awaits. Then you remember you still have to clothe, feed and clean your offspring. Planning for a trip can be a real challenge and requires a lot of work to make it run smoothly (I’m not saying this will prevent the epic airport meltdown or sunburns, but planning really can help take some stress away). Now throw food allergies into the mix and you throw your hands up and decide to stay home, just kidding. I have celiac disease so I cannot have any gluten or cross contamination for it, I also avoid dairy and soy when possible for health reasons. My children both have an intolerance to artificial colors and flavorings that causes them to get sick when they have them so we do our best to avoid them. We have been traveling with these restrictions for quite awhile now and have it pretty well figured out.Whether it’s food allergies, restrictions, intolerances or just a desire to maintain eating healthy while traveling, I have a few tips I’ve learned along the way.


  1. Up, Up and Away: If you are traveling by plane make sure to call your airline or complete your profile online, requesting an allergy-friendly meal. Most airlines offer vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options. If you have a severe allergy let the staff know, they won’t usually serve nut products on a flight if a passenger has an allergy. Many airports now have lots of healthy options (although pricey), so if you’re not being served a meal on your flight you can grab some allergy-friendly and/ or healthy snacks. Bonus, many airports have water bottle fill up stations so pack an empty bottle you can fill up!
    Gluten-free meal provided by our airline

    Water bottle filling station at MSP
  2. Online Research: Search for places to eat ahead of time, this can somewhat spoil spontaneity but will be worth it and you’ll spend less time searching for healthy and safe options. If you’re going to a theme park or large resort, do a little Googling, there are quite a few sites dedicated to allergy-friendly options at these locations. I found Erin Mckenna’s Bakery on Allergy Free Mouse which was a perfect find for our last trip to Orlando. 
    Dairy-free ice cream!
    A gluten-free and vegan bakery!  

    A simple search led us to a restaurant with lots of safe choices, Amazing salad and plantains cooked in coconut oil.
  3. Pack Snacks: Don’t be afraid to pack a ton of snacks. We don’t let the kids eat in the car too often, but if it’s a bit of a drive I have snack plates packed for them plus a purse full of bars for myself. You never know when those extra snacks you packed will come in handy. Purse bars have been a life saver for me at weddings and parties where there is nothing safe for me to eat. (i.e. picture me huddled in the ladies room stuffing Larabars in my face). I love tossing snacks in reusable snack bags which I can fill up again for the return trip. 
  4. Grocery Shop: When we travel we almost always stay in hotel room with a kitchen, often resorts and vacations clubs are no more expensive than a regular hotel room. In fact, the first time we stayed in a regular hotel room with our kids was in Chicago and my youngest was three. She began to cry when we got to the room asking where the kitchen was, she didn’t realize hotels don’t always have them. We make ourselves a meal plan and shopping list before our trip and then go to the store the first day. This allows us to get jugs of water and allergy safe and healthy foods. Also, grocery stores are great places to grab some healthy, affordable food to-go like smoothies and salads, saving some major vacation moola! 
    Salad & Chips from Whole Foods Market made a great allergy friendly meal! 

    An easy and safe breakfast using items from the grocery store, toasted my bread in the oven instead of the toaster which wasn’t safe for me to use!                                    
  5. Ask For Help: Don’t be afraid to double check with employees at restaurants and stores regarding food allergies. On a recent trip to a theme park we asked the restaurant about the ingredients and explained our situation. They were very kind and had the chef come out and confirm the salad I was ordering was safe for me. Ultimately I decided to skip the dressing to be safe but it was reassuring they took the extra time to confirm the ingredients in my order, taking me seriously.  
    Plain salad minus dressing with fresh fruit was a safe option!  
    Check with the staff about how they cook the food, they were happy to toast the GF bread separately in the oven instead of the shared toaster.


    What travel tips for food allergies and restrictions do you have, I would love to hear?

Tara is mom to two energetic daughters Bianca and Iyla. Passionate about inspiring others to cook healthy, delicious and allergy-friendly food, she owns Yummy Sprout, which provides healthy culinary adventures through classes and more. Check out Tara has been featured in the Wisconsin State Journal and on Channel 3 WISC-TV on topics including “making your own baby food”, “cooking with kids” and “packing healthy school lunches”. She adores living in Madison and all it has to offer family life. Her favorite ways to spend time include messing up her kitchen while recipe testing, running, yoga, writing, painting, traveling and reading books with her girls.


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