How to Travel Healthy with Food Allergies

Growing up, my family did quite a bit of traveling even as a family of six. We usually loaded the family van to the brim with food, toys, and luggage until there wasn’t an open space to be found.

We frequently drove the 20+ hour drive to Colorado to visit beloved grandparents or caravanned our way to the East Coast to spend time with family. It was always a fun adventure.

Now, that I have my own kids, I think my parents were pretty brave to take on a car ride with four kids with no electronics to keep us busy but I am so glad they did. Some of my favorite memories are created around visiting the Badlands, looking out the Washington Monument, or walking the streets of Rome with my parents.

I definitely want my kids to become good travelers and experience the world beyond their backyard. Surprisingly, Todd and I have been able to travel more in our marriage than I ever thought we would. Since my food allergies and Todd’s all surfaced right before and during our marriage, traveling has gotten pretty tricky.

Instead of just researching hotel deals and local attractions, I know have to think about the food options available. Again, were not just working around one or two food allergies we are working around SEVEN allergies combined. Egg, almonds, gluten, dairy, sesame seeds, cranberries, and peanuts. With all of these allergies and food sensitivities I really like to prepare our meals. It’s not a control issue, trust me, if I could eat out more, I would. I just don’t want sickness to ruin any of our vacation plans like it did on our honeymoon. A few days were spent chained to the bathroom of our all inclusive resort I instead of laying on the beaches of Mexico. 🙁

Here’s 4 Tips You’ll want to apply in order to travel HEALTHY with multiple food allergies:

  1. Be Prepared – As much as possible scope out your lodging accommodations ahead of time. The last thing you want to worry about is finding healthy or allergy-free foods while traveling. Crying children in the car or one a plane can add instant stress, so plan ahead. I have found that I can get by a lot with just a microwave and mini refrigerator if you can find a good local grocery store nearby. Some of our favorite meals to have while dinning in at a hotel, is oatmeal for breakfast, soup or chili for lunch or breakfast sausage for dinner.

For long road trips in the car, our cooler with ice packs gets filled with healthy snacks and water. Longer distances, I even pack protein powder that can later be added to water in sippy cups or water bottles if the car ride is too long to bring lunch meat. When we fly, I use heavy duty ziplock bags that are double bagged. One ziplock holds the food and then is double bagged with a ziplock carrying ice. This keeps my carry on light and allows me to ditch the ice and bag once the food is gone.

2. Be an Advocate – Whether you are traveling to visit family or friends or just exploring a new area, let your food preferences and/or allergies be known. On our recent trip back to MI, many friends prepared lunch or dinner for us. They all know we have food allergies but sometimes they forget what we are allergic to which is expected since we have so many. Many of our friends just let us know the menu ahead of time to double check that the food options are all okay. Another polite way to find out is too simply offer to bring an allergy-friendly dish.

For example, I might say, “Do what to bring anything? I can always bring gluten-free substitutes.” This question allows the menu to be discussed and alleviates pressure from family and friends who may feel uncomfortable buying foods they don’t typically buy. Most family and friends are more than willing to cater to your food needs but need a little guidance and assurance along the way.

Being an advocate is also really important when dinning out. I’ve learned over the years that asking, “Does this have gluten in it?” and asking, “I have a gluten allergy is this gluten-free?” got two different responses. The first response usually resulted in a – I don’t know and a I can try to find out for you. The second response 100% guarantees the waiter finding the answer and not coming back until he or she has an answer. WHY?

Because no one wants to be responsible for you getting sick or having a allergic reaction in their restaurant. Don’t just ask a question but let your waiter know that you have an allergy to ensure good follow through from them.

3. Order Outside of the Menu Options – The more health conscious I become the more I find myself ordering outside of the menu options. Many times because of my dairy intolerance, I will order a salad and ask for them to leave off the dressing. Instead, I ask them if they can add avocado and bring out balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I do the same thing when ordering a burger. I love fries but I don’t need them. Instead, I ask them if I can swap out the fries for steamed vegetables or a side salad. Sometimes, it throws the waiters off but usually the waiters are more than happy to accommodate your wishes.

4. Be Flexible – After you have planned, prepared, and advocated there are just going to be needed moments of flexibility. You are traveling and not everything is in your control especially when you have children. Your kids are going to get hungry when there’s no restaurant or grocery store in sight and you have to scrounge for something edible at the gas station. So, what do you do?

This is where your values about food come into play. What can’t your children eat versus what you prefer them not to eat will help dictate what you or someone else offers them. For example, after a play date at a friend’s house, where I had packed our own lunch for myself and kids, they were offered popsicles. The kids had been playing outside and it was a hot and humid 91 degrees out.

Do I want my kids eating food with artificial dyes and sugar in them? No, absolutely not. Is there anything in popsicles that my kids can’t eat? No, the popsicles are fine as far as food allergies go. I ended up saying, “Yes, and my kids mowed down happily on their cold sugary treat. Not ideal but it was also a friend that we will only see once a year. If it had been a neighbor or a friend we see often than I would have declined the treat and explained the reason behind my decision.

How to Travel Healthy with Food Allergies

Our Favorite Healthy Travel Snacks:

  1. Fruit – Especially apples since they are not very messy and travel well.
  2. Protein bars – Perfect for in between meals or for those times when eating gets delayed. Our favorite brands are Vega, Nu-Go Organic, & GFB protein bars
  3. Dehydrated Vegetables – Amazing taste and fills your chip carving.
  4. Baby carrots – Perfect to get some needed vitamins and nutrients on the go.
  5. Nuts – Raw cashews, almonds, etc are a great snack and they travel really well.
  6. Roasted Chickpeas – Our new favorite. The above is Saffron Road in Chipotle flavor. YUM!
  7. Gum – Ditch standard gum and try aspartame free gum like Pur or Spry.
  8. Gummy Bears – Perfect reward for good behavior and for preventing ear popping while flying. I love Yum Earth. Yum Earth has no artificial colors or flavors.
  9. Roasted Seaweed – Don’t knock it until you have tried it.
  10. Beef Jerky – Travels well and it’s a great protein for long travel time.
  11. Homemade Wraps – (Picture Below)

How to Travel Healthy with Food Allergies

Since we had a full day of traveling and we were going to be about 5 hours in the air with a short layover, I wanted to pack something with a lot of substance. I wasn’t sure if we would find an approved restaurant or have time to scout out food at the airport.

So, I was super excited when I saw the idea to make and pack a wrap from the You can see her little video hereIt was so good. We added our favorited lunch meat and I custom made the wraps according to what everyone in my family likes. I will definitely be doing this again.

How to Travel Healthy with Food Allergies
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How to Travel Healthy with Food Allergies
Prep Time:
5 minutes
Total Time:
5 minutes
Author: Allison Kuslikis
Yield: 1 Gluten-wrap
  • 1 gluten-free teff wrap
  • 2-3 slices of turkey (or meat of your choice)
  • handful of baby spinach
  • 1/4 of avocado sliced
  • 3-4 bell pepper slices
  • 1 carrot shredded
  • mustard to taste
  • mayo to taste
  1. Cut all of your ingredients into long narrow slices and set aside.
  2. Spread your gluten-free wrap with mayo and mustard and then begin layering your ingredients.
  3. Roll your wrap up in parchment paper and then rubber band the ends insuring the parchment paper will not come undone.
  4. Place wrap into a zip lock back and then double bag with a second ziplock bag with ice.

*Don't use foil or your food will get inspected by TSA.

Nutrition information
Serving Size: 1

I would love to hear from you. If you give this recipe a try, please let me know by giving the recipe a rating and leaving a comment.


4 thoughts on “How to Travel Healthy with Food Allergies”

  1. Allison, last time we traveled was several years ago, but are planing a futer trip to Mazatlan, but expect to fly this time, its a 9+ hour drive. Every thing is fresh here. We usually snack on cheres, apples, pears, nothing much, maybe sf,gf cookies. Last time we drove to Mazatlan, we didn’t snack at all. Had breakfast in our hotel room, stopped for a soup and fresh tortess for lunch 1/2 way, ate at my husbands moms hour for dinner. Always a grueling trip. Will fly this year. LYCH

  2. Thanks Allison, especially for sharing the effective way to request allergen-free options from your server. Ordering “outside the menu” is a great way to address food sensitivities, too.
    Establishing those “can’t” versus “shouldn’t” choices means the World doesn’t come to an end if I nosh on corn chips and bean dip at gatherings. One meal won’t matter that much.
    Advocating for oneself while traveling takes finesse, and you’ve covered this area well.
    Love your insights.

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