by Vanessa Ullman
photography courtesy of Traveling Hungryboy
Peanuts. Fish. Eggs. To some people, these are just three different foods, but to others, they can cause havoc if consumed.
According to FARE, or Food Allergy Research & Education, around 15 million Americans have a least one food allergy, one-third of whom are children under 18.
For people without such conditions, they never have to think about traveling to another city with a food allergy, let alone a different country. However, as more and more people are diagnosed, it is important to show how vacationing with a food allergy can be equally as enjoyable even with food allergies.
In recent years, several airlines, such as Southwest Airlines, have stopped serving peanuts on their flights completely due to the increased incidence of those with a nut allergy. This gesture, although it seems small, is highly significant in ending potential barriers some people might have when it comes to airplane travel. It destigmatizes food allergies, and helps show how even one simple change can make a difference in the long run.
Furthermore, airlines that serve meals on long-haul flights often offer several special meal options, catering to those with food allergies or other restrictions. Before their flight, passengers can choose from a variety of accommodated meal types, such as meals for gluten-intolerant or lactose-intolerant passengers.
Epipens are also carried on airplanes, further enforcing the legitimacy of not only food allergies, but human health in general. If travelers forget to bring their Epipen, there is now one on every aircraft in case of an unexpected emergency.
Aside from the logistics of transportation, making sure one’s food is safe to eat while on vacation is equally as important. Though some could speculate that a food allergy might rule out certain destinations, that is not, and never should be, the case.
“People with food allergies deserve to go on fantastic trips just as much as everyone else,” said Shawna Huffman Owen, who assists families with food allergies with travel. “I believe having a food allergy is not a reason for paralysis.”
Owen’s main tips for those with food allergies? Stay in a place where one can make your own food, and pack food with you. The growth of options in where to stay, thanks to sites such as Airbnb and VRBO, has only helped in this regard. Her blog post includes her top picks for hotels for those with food allergies, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Additionally, she recommends working with a travel advisor and doing thorough research about the destination. This can make the process go a lot more smoothly. Learning the types of ingredients and oils that are common in the chosen destination will help you day-to-day. Also, knowing the translations for specific allergens and how to ask for help in case of an emergency can be life-saving.
Whether it be Los Angeles or Tokyo, Sydney or Atlanta, food allergies should not be a deterrent that prohibits one from going on vacation. So, to those with or without a food allergy, happy travels.