A road trip with me in the car is just your regular old road trip – plus a bag of gluten free bread and a bottle of antihistamines!
Iwas first diagnosed with food allergies it was like the heavens opened up with understanding about why I felt the way I felt. It was freeing but at the same time it felt like I was instantly boxed into a cage of restrictions. I went from being able to order a burger and fries at the bar around the corner from my apartment, to not being able to eat a single item on their menu.
Every year, it gets easier and easier for those of us with food allergies. I can tell you there is a huge difference between what was available at grocery stores and at restaurants four years ago versus today. So when I started to travel for the first time in my life last year, I can successfully say that I have survived several trips with zero reactions.
I’m not saying it’s easy to travel when you have food allergies, especially multiple or airborne ones. And I’m not saying it’s stress-free. It causes a lot of anxiety and planning for me to get through a trip. So here’s all of my tips and ground rules to get through a trip so no one ever notices I have dietary restrictions!
TIP #1: When I fly, I always pack a gluten-free sunflower butter and jelly. Without a doubt, airports are one of the toughest spots to find accommodating foods at. And I never want to spend $15+ on a tiny salad. I like SB&J’s because they’re not too messy, don’t need refrigeration and are pretty much free from any top 8 allergens. Now for the flight home when I don’t have a sandwich, I usually stop at Starbucks and grab their Certified Gluten Free Breakfast Sandwich (contains milk and egg).
Tip #2: I stick to salads, sushi and steaks. I know that one of the best parts about traveling is getting to experience all the food the world has to offer. But let’s be real, it’s just not safe. So my usual meals are salads with oil and vinegar, or if I’m feeling fancy, a plain steak or a tray of fresh tuna sushi.
Tip #3: When I’m road tripping, I plan ahead to stop at rest stops that have Panera. Rest stops are also the worst. They most likely have Taco Bell, McDonalds or a crappy pizza place. Panera is the easiest place because they’ll have fresh fruit, quinoa oatmeal or a Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken that I’ve found that I can safely eat.
Continental breakfasts aren’t usually my thing when I’m traveling because contamination is so easy with multiple serving utensils and multiple hands touching them. I haven’t had any problems finding a breakfast place near where I’m staying that serves some kind of gluten free breakfast. I loved Friedmans in NY and Anna’s House in MI, for example.
My best advice is just to plan ahead, as I’ve even called ahead a few days before to a restaurant to ask if they could check on some ingredients for me. Trust me when I say that restaurants would rather you ask than to have a severe reaction on their dining floor!
I’m not saying it’s stress-free. It causes me a lot of anxiety to travel with my food allergies. But with a little planning, I’ve taken more than one successful trip with zero bad reactions.
I haven’t yet had the experience of traveling outside of the US yet, but, I have to say that with my usual plan of salads/sushi/steak, I have no doubt that things will be just fine. Great Britain 2020, here I come!