Booking vacation is so exciting. The thought of a new city, unseen sights and all of the possibilities that await. From the time you book, until the day you depart, the excitement begins.
Once planning begins, the reality sets in for all of us who suffer from food allergies or intolerance. What to eat the entire time you’re away? Three meals, each and every day. Just thinking about the food planning process can be exhausting.
Normally, I choose to rent a condo with a full kitchen. I always confirm a grocery store and preferably, a Whole Foods Market in walking distance. Whole Foods can be a lifesaver for anyone dealing with food sensitivities while on vacation. If you’re simply too tired to prepare a meal in your condo’s kitchen (or don’t have access to one), you can purchase fully cooked, prepared meals with all the ingredients listed! This is amazing and has saved me numerous times! (I find Whole Foods very expensive so I usually reserve my Whole Foods experiences to vacations or mini-shops where I pick up a few things)
I also pack tons of snacks. I find you can never be too prepared. Nothing is worse than reaching your destination and finding that there is nowhere to eat. I have been there one too many times.
Now I come prepared!
I usually make my own trail mix with protein packed nuts, dried fruit and dairy/gluten-free chocolate. I also stock up on gluten-free grain instant porridge and high protein nut granola bars from my local health food store. On road trips, I rely heavily on boiled eggs, homemade hummus, nut butters, nuts, seeds and cut up veggies. I find it such a relief when I get to the airport or truck stop now. I sit back and relax because I’m prepared!
When I arrive at my destination, I find that avoiding chain restaurants is key. In my experience, chain establishments can usually offer little help when it comes to accommodation in-tolerances. If the restaurant does offer an allergen guide, you may have some luck. I prefer to avoid chains and choose restaurants where the chef creates the meal and therefore, has little problem adjusting for food sensitivities. The problem is that most of the time the meal is priced much higher. For simplicity (and cost savings!) I normally limit eating out on my vacations and prepare most of the meals my family eats in the kitchen condo. When we do go out though, I plan, plan and do more planning. I search nearby restaurants online, review the menu and then call to confirm some meals can be adjusted for my intolerance. Preparing ahead of time has made my life much easier.
Another fun tip that I have learned over the years of traveling is to seek out the farmers markets, local food buildings or health food stores. I have found that most large cities have numerous farmer markets and health food stores throughout the city. After I’m stocked up, I go outside and explore the area. I have found many unique districts that I probably would have otherwise missed. It’s great to get out and explore the back roads and more “local” life the city has to offer.
Over time, I’ve learned that accepting your intolerance or allergies is key. I no longer try to eat something that I’m not sure of because I don’t want to miss out. I sit back while my family or friends are indulging in milky lattes or chocolate fudge brownies and relax with a cup of calming green tea. Feeling healthy and content is my choice now and traveling has become a little easier.
Travelling with allergies or sensitivities is completely doable. The process will never be as smooth as going on vacation, walking outside the hotel and picking whatever restaurant looks good. Once I moved on from feeling frustrated at my intolerance, combined with a little advanced planning, the process became much smoother for me. I believe, the smoothest that one can expect for a traveler who can’t eat dairy, wheat or soy!
My summarized tips for travelling with food sensitivities or allergies:
- Consider renting a condo with a full or partial kitchen and preparing the majority of your meals (I know cooking is much more work but feeling great throughout the trip, for me, is worth the extra hassle)
- Confirm a full supermarket and preferably, a Whole Foods Market is in walking distance to your condo/hotel
- Pack snacks. Get creative. If you’re going on a road trip and have a fridge and microwave in your room, pack frozen prepared meals in your cooler, use them as ice packs to keep other food cool. When you get to your destination, a hot healthy meal is a microwave warm up away!
- If you have internet access, search local restaurants online, review the menu and call ahead of time. Be sure they can accommodate your intolerance before making the trip there
- Check out the local farmers markets, food buildings or health food stores.
- Accept your food allergies or intolerance and don’t allow them to cause you frustration-especially while on vacation!
Traveling is amazing. Exploring new parts of the world or going back to your favourite destinations; all trips are great. Enjoy the above tips. I hope they help make your next trip as stress free as can be.