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Tips for traveling with food allergies

Dec 15, 2015 by Jamie Burke

One of our favorite things about traveling is trying new treats, but if you have allergies and dietary restrictions, it’s sometimes tricky to find food that’s right for you. Read on to discover the best destinations for gluten-free and vegetarian eaters, plus hear our advice on making the most of every meal while you’re traveling.

Tips for traveling with food allergies

Going gluten-free

One country you might not expect to be celiac-friendly? Italy! It’s a bit of a surprise to hear this is a wheat-free paradise, but Italy has long been committed to improving the lives of celiac sufferers. Italians with the disease even receive a stipend for purchasing food made with alternative flours.

While your visiting Italy, use the phrase senza glutine when you’re ordering; many shops and restaurants are happy to accommodate. Food is a way of life in Italy, and Italians make sure no one gets left out. The Italian Celiac Association, which helps raise awareness about the disease, keeps a list of over 4,000 restaurants on their website that are guaranteed to offer gluten-free options.

Ireland is another country where eating gluten-free is fairly easy, thanks to a long history of celiac awareness. Sticking closer to home? Healthy eating meccas like Portland and San Francisco are havens for foodies of all stripes.

In places like France and Germany, being gluten-free can be trickier, as much of the traditional specialties contain wheat, barley and other glutinous grains. Wherever you’re visiting, be careful when ordering at restaurants, as sauces, cooking oils and even vegetable dishes can often contain small amounts of gluten.

Check out this handy infographic from Goodness Direct, a U.K.-based market dedicated to healthy eating, for more tips on going gluten-free around the world.

Eating vegetarian & vegan

Visit Glasgow, Scotland—named the most vegan-friendly destination in the United Kingdom—and you’ll find a veritable veggie oasis. All throughout the U.K., there’s a wealth of restaurants serving up delicious meat-free fare. In Edinburgh, head to Henderson’s for a laid-back lunch and David Bann’s for a delicious dinner. If you’re in Dublin, try Blazing Salads, where you’ll find creative salads and sweets, then visit Cornucopia and enjoy live music alongside your meal. London is such a vegetarian-friendly city, there’s even a pub, Coach and Horses, where you can find vegan versions of English specialties like fish and chips or Sunday roast.

Vegetarians should have few troubles finding food to eat in India, too. Packaged goods are labeled as either “vegetarian” or “non-vegetarian,” and many restaurants have adopted similar distinctions. While the largely Hindu population abides by vegetarianism, eating meat is increasing in popularity and dairy products feature prominently in many Indian sauces and cooking methods—so vegans may need to be more mindful.

In Eastern Europe, Latin America and Russia, where meat and animal products are an integral part of the local cuisine, travelers might be in for a bit of a challenge. But, whether you’re in Sao Paulo or St. Petersburg, being vegan doesn’t mean you’ll go hungry. In larger cities, you’ll usually find at least a handful of choices when it comes to eating meatless—in more rural areas, a little research goes a long way.

Before your trip, search on sites like Happy Cow for a list of vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants. When you’re ordering, make sure to ask about cooking oils and sauces, and be clear about what you consider meat-free—in some cultures, fish, eggs and even white meat are considered “vegetarian” cuisine.

Tips for eating well anywhere

Shellfish, peanuts, dairy, soy—any food allergy brings a different challenge for travelers. Other tips for making sure your trip, and your meals, goes off without a hitch? First, let our Customer Relations team know about your dietary restrictions as soon as possible, so we can communicate that to your Tour Director. Order allergy translation cards if you’re visiting a non-English speaking country so you can easily communicate your needs. Bring snacks that you can eat on the plane or when you’re on the road, just in case there’s nothing readily available. (Don’t forget to let your airline know about any allergies, too.) Look up a restaurant’s menu before heading out to eat, and ask if they’ll be able to accommodate your needs while you’re making a reservation.

You might find it’ll cost you a few extra euros or yuan to make menu exceptions, but peace of mind is priceless. Most importantly, if your allergy is severe, make sure you pack your EpiPen and any additional medications in your carry-on luggage to ensure you’ll have them handy in the event of an emergency.

Have a favorite gluten-free restaurant in Paris? Know a great vegetarian joint in Berlin? Let us know on Facebook!

Dining tips
About the author | Jamie Burke
Always on the lookout for the next best meal ever, Jamie loves exploring the world—and all the great food in it. When she's not working to inspire new travelers, you'll find her biking around Boston, eating at her favorite sushi place, or hanging out at home with her family (and cat).