How Does a Person Traveling with Diet Restrictions Enjoy Their Trip or Vacation – Our Experiences & Findings!
This post was a special request by one of our fans and followers. And having children who had food allergies, and personal friends with diet restrictions we felt it would be a great to dive deeper into this area. So we have created a resource to answer the question: How does a person traveling with diet restrictions enjoy their trip without getting hangry?
(Disclaimer – We recommend you do your research and seek medical advice before you take a trip. What we share is not Expert Advice, rather our experiences, findings and research on this subject.)
Now that we got that out of the way, to our understanding, dietary requirements could relate to:
- Food Allergies.
- Religious Needs E.g. Halal, Kosher etc.
- Celiac and gluten.
- Vegetarian and Vegan needs – (Lifestyle or choice).
- Other Medical Diet restrictions.
If you or your child fall under any of the above categories, or are traveling with dietary restrictions, you might be like our friend, let’s call her Liz. It means dining out and planning your trips/vacations can be a challenge. You must start to plan them with military precision to avoid an unplanned Fasting season while away from home!
Having 2 children with Peanut allergies, it was always a job checking every ingredient in the meals they had. It wasn’t fun asking the hotel staff either, because they usually get defensive about stuff like that! Roll forward 10 years later and things have changed a lot. And somehow our children seemed to have outgrown their nut allergies. Hallelujah! 🙂
Today all we have to do is check our travel app for local eateries and what they serve. This app is very intuitive about your needs as you literally tell it what you want. It also has what we call DT Local… It tells you all local Eateries and what they serve within 5 miles of your location. So eating out has become more a joy than a chore even when we are away! Yay!
If you have Food allergies and diet restrictions, you cant be going anywhere without this App. Seriously it has changed the way many people globally, including ourselves have a better quality of service and meals anywhere in the world.
This also reminds us of our first trip to Assisi and Rome, we had a couple of pilgrims who had a very specific diet. One of the ladies, let’s call her Liz, was part of our specific table and she always had separate dishes served to her. When we asked why? She said she had some dietary restrictions as a Celiac. We had no clue what that meant at the time!
Sometimes at breakfast she would get what were definitely rice cakes and a pot of black tea…To be honest it didn’t look very appetizing. She didn’t seem to mind though!
For her main meals, she was served some really creative dishes. Usually looking like what the rest of us had, but made from vegetables, and gluten free ingredients. She always said they tasted great…We didn’t ask to taste lol!
When recently one of our readers asked us to cover this topic in our post on Travel Meals…We definitely remembered our fellow pilgrim and what she told us of her lifestyle as a result of being a celiac!
She informed us happily that she had found a happy balance and it has never stopped her traveling!
[RECOMMENDED: HOW TO EAT CHEAP WHILE TRAVELING]
More recently, a friend with dietary restrictions travelled to Scotland on a much looked forward to vacation. She has an intolerance to diary, gluten and wheat products. Yet, she definitely doesn’t limit what she eats because she learnt what works for her and what doesn’t thus enjoys a quality life. She had a not so great experience (almost starved) on her Scottish visit. Despite taking every step she could. Sadly it happens a lot to people with diet restrictions!
She informed us that; before any trip below is what she does and you too should:
- Do not assume the hotel will cater to your dietary restrictions or needs, so do ask before you book. If already booked, inform them of your needs immediately so you have a chance to change if they cannot meet them!
- Sends an email to the Hotel she is going to stay at, a list of what foods or ingredients she is intolerant to. She usually addressed the Catering Manager.
- She also sends them suggestions of what she can eat, usually easily found in any super market.
- It’s essential to call the hotel and even airline at least a week or 24 hours before your trip and confirm that they received your special request. And that they can serve your needs.
- Pack some dry rations in your luggage just in case the hotel haven’t got your diet foods in place on the day of your arrival. (It happened to Pam once. She had to survive on Her tinned shakes for at least 12 hours.)
So how does one ensure they have at least 2 balanced meals despite having diet restrictions, when traveling?
Must Dos when Traveling with Diet Restrictions:
#1. Do Your Research.
With some advance research, you should be able to find out which establishments cater to your dietary needs and which to avoid.
You will want to find out the meals/dishes that are available or availed to someone with your special diet and then make sure to map out how far they are for your convenience. Or better still book accommodation close to such establishments seeing as food is an essential part of life. Don’t forget to check out our post on the 10 Things to Avoid when booking a hotel.
When you do your research, make sure to find out the ingredients used in their foods and check if they fit your diet. Then it’s just a matter of making sure they have the ingredients to prepare your meals for the duration of your visit! Even when you get to the establishment or restaurant/eatery Confirm your needs before you settle in.
It’s also a good idea to find out what are the staple or local foods in specific destinations. That way you will know if it will be easy for you to find foods suited to your dietary restrictions or requirements! A little research will go a long way in making your trip a pleasant and fun one!
Part of your research should be on medical facilities like hospitals, doctors etc. in your destination. More so if your condition includes strong reactions to certain foods or you aren’t sure what triggers them!
#2 Clarify what’s in each dish.
The assumption is you are already at your destination and have ordered or are about to order a meal. It’s a must if you have dietary restrictions that you ask to know what’s in each dish before you even order or taste it. This is more so if you have nut allergies.
You must also let the airline know, hotel and even those traveling with you. Most Hotels and Airlines cannot control what other guests bring but they will do their best for you.
Be sure to have a pack of wipes to wipe your tables, armrests and other surfaces before you use them or eat your food.
Some flight experts recommend that you consider taking an early morning flight. Apparently most planes are cleanest on their first morning flights.
#3. Before and during your Traveling with Diet Restrictions, Communicate.
In addition to what our friend advised on taking own food. It’s important that you follow all destination and airport security rules on transportation of foods, gels and liquids if you’re flying. Most airlines do accommodate a wide variety of dietary requirements, as long as you give them advance notice.
So don’t forget to request your special meal at least 24 hours before your flight.
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Be sure to check destination customs regulations regarding foods permitted into the country. For instance, in UK you are not allowed diary/cheese products, fresh fruit, insect and animal products e.g. (Nsenene a type of grasshopper that is loved by East Africans.) Some dried sea foods, etc.
Good news for Road trippers, you can pack own food including a cooler bag full for fresh foods!
Have you ever considered joining an online community of people with the same or similar conditions? You will find numerous recommendations for you on destinations, establishments, what to do in case you are stuck etc.
For Kosher foods check on kashrut.com for some ideas.
If you are Vegan or vegetarian you might like to check our HappyCow for the nearest establishments and options near you.
Indeed, the online space has opened the world to global communication, even with food!
#4 Find the right accommodation
To be honest this can be a hard one. See, over the years we learnt that we prefer all inclusive, or half board accommodation. And Going away on a vacation or holiday means not cooking and having our food served to us. Yet if you are traveling with dietary needs, you may not have a choice.
So, the best way to have what you need while on the road or away from home is to book self-catered accommodation. In other words, you might have to cook for yourself so your hotel should have kitchenette facilities. Then you can go buy whatever you like and need for your meals and stock up your fridge. Be sure to have your medical card and if necessary ask for translations if food isn’t labelled in a language you understand!
Fortunately for members of our global travel community, we have access to a Travel App that has Google translate as part of its tools, making traveling with dietary restrictions or language barriers that much less of a hassle!
Airbnb could be a good choice for you! Grab $25 worth of free credit with this link for your First Airbnb booking! Look into vacation rentals as well.
Also over the years we have noticed that the smaller bed and breakfast establishments are usually more accommodating of your self-catering and special needs. In some cases, they may grant you access to their kitchen so you can prepare own meals!
[RECOMMENDED: Your Travel First Aid Kit]
#5. Don’t forget your Meds
You may consider wearing a medical ID bracelet, could save your life!
Also, don’t forget your travel first aid kit, and definitely take out adequate medical insurance in case of an allergic reaction. Or consider Natural alternatives for your condition. And be sure to inquire about the terms and conditions on pre-existing conditions, including your specific condition.
Be sure to include your prescriptions and medications and, emergency antihistamines or anti-allergy medicines. Pack enough to last for at least a week beyond the scheduled end of your trip. If flying, always have these in your carry-on luggage so you arrive with it at your destination. Be sure to have explaining documents for security checks. The TSA will allow essential medical items, be ready for extra screening sometimes.
Never leave home without your doctor’s contact details and a Note with an explanation of your condition, medical history and emergency treatment in the case of a reaction, or an accident.
[RECOMMENDED: How to Eat Cheap While Traveling]
Final thoughts on Traveling with Dietary Restrictions
You don’t have to go hungry or get hangry on your travels. Neither do you have to cook all your meals unless you wish to. It may be a little bit of a challenge in some destinations to find your right dietary requirements.
For instance, in South America, meat is a major part of their staple diet. That doesn’t mean a vegan/vegetarian should avoid that amazing part of the globe.
A little bit of research and effective communication will go a long way to creating for you more fun, freedom and fulfilment. So you can #SeeDoBeMore. 😃
Earl Jones, we hope we shed some light on your request to share some nuggets on traveling with diet restrictions. And that you will find your travels much more exciting with the right cuisine and diet needs met!
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See, Do, and Be more!
Julie Syl & Pauli Kalungi
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