One of the inconveniences of being allergic to many things is the handicap of traveling safely. If you suffer from food allergies or you are traveling with someone who is allergic you would have to plan ahead!
I wish I could go somewhere without thinking and planning, unfortunately it is not going to happen, so here are the precautions that I take in order to be safe.
(As my allergies are severe and I’m allergic to many things I take extra precautions that you may not need to take, you may need to take additional/different precautions depending of your illness)
– Take into account if you are able to communicate your problem with the locals. If you can’t speak the language get a cheat sheet with the names of your allergens and some key words like: allergy, doctor, hospital and similar. If you are going to have Internet connection download a translation app. It was incredibly helpful for me when I was living in Hungary. Having a bracelet or necklace with your allergen written is a good idea. You should consider having a bracelet if you have other conditions like asthma, Alzheimer, diabetes or if you are taking medication like blood thinners.
– Book an accommodation with kitchen. Nowadays with sites like Airbnb it is not that hard too find a place with a kitchen where you can safely prepare your meals.
– Try to take food with you if you are unsure of what you are going to be able to eat at arrival. I always pack things that don’t go bad and I know I can eat and cook fast and easy, like pasta or tuna cans. Be sure you have enough food in case you won’t be able to cook. Sometimes it is also good to take the pot with you as the ones in these places are used by a lot of different people and tend to have some grim. Not everyone has the same cleaning standards.
– Take your medicine with you. If you are taking antihistamines or if you are an epipen carrier don’t forget to take them with you! Just in case, I always carry a note from my doctor so they don’t take it from me at the security check ups in the airport.
– Advise other travelers that will go with you of your problem. Nobody understands your condition as well as you do. I have faced a lot of incomprehension and a lot of people try to diminish the problem because they are unaware of the consequences! Many people think that you will be fine and insist endlessly for you to try something that you know it is not good or that you do not fully trust. If you doubt it is better to be on the safe side. Unfortunately that also happens in public places like bars and restaurants where a lot of people think that you are lying or are ignorant of your problem. Be sure to make clear that an allergy is not a joke and can lead to death. A simple look at the Anaphylaxis wiki page would show it to them.
– Try to enjoy as much as you can. You are different but no less than others and if you plan in advance and are careful you will be able to travel, a possibility that many of us stop contemplating once you are faced with a problem like food allergies. Many people told me that it would be risky and that I shouldn’t try to travel. In developed countries the food regulations and the better knowledge of the problem makes it easy for you to travel, take advantage of that! Avoid restaurants and prepacked food without a full ingredient list.
People are generally willing to help, so don’t doubt asking.
Let me know if you have any question as I will be more than happy to answer. On the other hand if you have some advice that you think it might be helpful feel free to share.