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Dietary Tips: traveling with food allergies

People with food allergies and food sensitivities often spend a good amount of time researching dietary options in order to enjoy everyday meals and snacks. They know where to shop and how to prepare dishes so they can enjoy pretty much any type of cuisine without concerns. Traveling, however, especially internationally, can be a real challenge. Travelers may visit different hotels and restaurants potentially every day, and when encountering foreign customs, languages, and chefs—dealing with allergies abroad can be a real challenge. But with some basic practices, and a little preparation, your on-the-road food and beverage experiences can be safe, satisfying, and delicious.

Our best advice: plan ahead. Before your trip, research where you will be dining in the locations you intend to visit. If traveling to a foreign country, learn about customary foods and dish preparations to determine any ingredients or items of concern, as well as substitutes that may be available. Between recent healthier-eating trends and an abundance of travelers with food allergies venturing out across the world, chefs in every country have become more understanding and accommodating to those with special dietary needs. Most ingredients that may cause allergies have common substitutions and the majority of restaurants are capable of preventing even trace amounts of problem ingredients in their dishes. Chefs are also able to prepare alternative plant-based dishes for vegetarians and vegans.

Call your airline as soon as you book your flight to let them know your need for special meals and snacks. All major airlines are experts at dealing with travelers' special dietary requests, whether from allergies, sensitivities, religious restrictions, or dietary preferences. With plenty of notice, an appropriate meal should be ready for you on your flight.

Alert your hotel(s) to notify them as well. They can help you plan any meals to be eaten on their premises, and also alert you to nearby establishments that can prepare alternative meal options. One of the best ways to have a carefree trip (of course) is to choose an escorted group tour. Tour operators are well-versed on how to deal with, and accommodate, any number of dietary requests, and will also monitor food options during the travel program. This will leave you free to eat and drink without concern.

Before departure, download and print off "chef cards" for the countries you will visit in the language spoken. These informational cards provide a written description of your food allergies or sensitivities and what rules should be followed to prevent contamination of your dishes. Present them at restaurants or establishments to help in case you do not speak the language, or where your dietary restrictions may not be a common occurrence.

Finally, make sure you pack medicines or emergency supplies in your carry-on luggage, so you will have them with you if needed. Some medicines (like epi-pens) should not be subjected to the freezing or overheated conditions of the luggage compartment, so keeping them in the climate-controlled cabin is important. And proper containers with clear labels for all medicines will ensure customs agents understand what you are transporting.

Dining out and trying new cuisines are some of the best parts of any travel experience. With a little planning, you'll be sure not to miss out on the flavorful part of your adventure!