Do You Have Food Allergies? Here’s How to Travel Safely.


Do You Have Food Allergies? Here’s How to Travel Safely.

For the 33 million Americans managing any of the most common nine food allergies — including milk, eggs, nuts, wheat, soy, sesame and different types of fish — traveling safely can be challenging, but it’s becoming easier.

In the air, where carriers say they can’t guarantee fully nut-free flights, the recently enacted Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act will, over the next two years, add epinephrine injectors on planes and provide additional medical training for crew members.

On the ground, hotels and restaurants are also customizing meals, providing menus with allergen symbols, enhancing staff education and instituting better processes for food handling.

But still, it’s critical to speak up for yourself. As a person who is gluten-intolerant and a parent of a child with a serious peanut allergy, I’ve learned simple and effective ways to eat safely and reduce the risk of a reaction while away from home.

Consider packing allergy-friendly snacks for your trips. Some of the reliable brands without peanuts, tree nuts, gluten and dairy are MadeGood, Goodie Girl, Enjoy Life and Simple Mills. These portable products include snack chips and granola bars. For travel within the United States you can also store fresh fruit in resealable bags with reusable mini-ice packs, which are permitted in carry-on luggage, but the ice packs must be placed with other liquids when you’re passing through security.

If you travel with an epinephrine injector, insert a tracker like an Apple AirTag or Tile in its case and place it in your carry-on. Then, set an alert to notify you if you forget it at home or misplace it during your travels, so you will never be without it. The Transportation Security Administration limits passengers to two injectors, which should be kept in the original box with a visible prescription label.

The Food and Drug Administration also suggests packing cleansing wipes. Unlike hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes can remove up to 99 percent of allergens, including peanut residue, from surfaces. This can help protect you from cross-contamination. Be sure to wash your hands afterward to avoid direct contact.

The Americans With Disabilities Act helps to protect those with food allergies by giving them the right to ask for necessary changes in hotel policies or conditions that place them at a disadvantage. However, hotels and rental properties can’t always guarantee allergy-conscious accommodations. When booking, prioritize establishments rated highly by other travelers with dietary sensitivities in online tools like the Spokin app and blog. The service allows you to search allergy-specific reviews of hotels and restaurants. Walt Disney Resorts, Hilton, Marriott, Fairmont, Kimpton and the Four Seasons are a few highly rated global hotel chains. Additionally, all Kimpton Hotels around the world offer a Forgot It? We’ve Got It program, in which they stock nonallergenic toiletries and snacks.

Most hotel booking apps allow you to limit your search to rooms with a kitchen, should you prefer to have the control that comes with preparing your own meals. If you can’t book a room with a kitchen, you may be able to ask the front desk for a microwave and a mini-fridge to store and reheat your own meals. When you book, personalize your profile with details of your dietary sensitivity and confirm with managers upon arrival. Be sure to ask them to also make their staff aware.

Airbnb and Vrbo properties typically come with a full kitchen, but remember to wash cookware and service items with hot soapy water before use to reduce the risk of contamination.

The Air Carrier Access Act, like the A.D.A., protects airline passengers with dietary sensitivities by permitting early boarding for travelers to clean the seats and other surfaces. Although many airlines do not currently serve peanuts, a common allergen, there is no guarantee that onboard snacks do not contain traces of peanuts, which could set off a reaction. Some flights have designated areas called buffer zones, where peanut products are not served or eaten by passengers. Contact the airline before booking to learn about the specifics of your flight.

At the airport, Spokin can help locate nearby suitable meal options in 80 countries. You can filter by your specific dietary restriction and view thousands of user reviews for each establishment. The FindMeGlutenFree app searches worldwide airports for celiac-friendly options.

It seems simple, but filtering a Google Maps search with the keywords “specialty markets” can reveal a world of allergy-friendly options as well as helpful reviews. Organic markets or health stores are often good alternatives for people with food intolerances.

If you’re planning to eat out, platforms like OpenTable allow you to make direct requests for accommodations in 80 countries. The AllergyEats app lets you search for restaurants with dietary restrictions by state, but it is available only in the United States.

For international destinations, consider carrying a downloadable chef card from the nonprofit group Food Allergy Research & Education to convey, in any of the 10 languages besides English offered on its website, what foods a restaurant must avoid serving you. The iTranslate app can translate from a photograph of a menu or a sign to help you convey your needs to the restaurant staff.

For U.S. getaways, when possible, choose off-peak hours to dine — typically between 2 and 4 p.m., versus during the lunch or dinner rush. At those times, the chef is more likely to be able to speak with you about special meal requests. Also, without orders piling up, the kitchen staff can lower the risk of cross-contamination by taking more time to prepare your meal carefully.

Lisa McCarty is a writer and a women’s health advocate. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

For more travel advice, visit our collection of Travel 101 tips and hacks.

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