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Traveling with Dietary Restrictions

Trains, Planes, Cars and Boats
airplane plane air travel meal food tray airlineWhen possible, bring your own food with you onto the plane or train. Just be sure to follow all pertinent airport security rules for liquids and gels if you're flying -- and if you're traveling to another country, check its customs regulations to be sure your food is permitted to cross the border. (Many countries do not allow travelers to bring animal products or fresh fruits and vegetables from other nations.) Packing your own grub is even easier if you're traveling by car -- you can stow your goodies in a cooler for longer freshness.

Most airlines can accommodate a wide variety of special diets as long as they have advance notice. You must usually request a special meal at least 24 hours before your flight. The day of your trip, speak with the gate agent or a flight attendant to confirm that your special meal has made it onto your plane.

Cruise lines have grown increasingly accommodating of special diets and should be able to handle most common allergies and dietary restrictions. Vegetarians in particular will find at least one option in most onboard restaurants, while travelers with other diets should call ahead of time to make arrangements.

Peanuts on Planes
For fliers who are sensitive to peanuts, air travel can be a source of worry. Check your airline's Web site for its policy on snacks with nuts. Many airlines no longer serve peanuts on flights, while others will refrain from serving them if they know a passenger has a severe allergy. You can also ask your flight attendant to make an announcement on your behalf, requesting that other passengers not eat peanut products during the flight.

No airline can guarantee a peanut-free plane because it's impossible to control what passengers bring with them on a flight. However, you can take more control over your situation by explaining your allergy to passengers around you. You may even wish to bring your own alternative snack to share with your neighbors.

Pack sanitary wipes to rub down your tray table, arm rests and other surfaces before eating. And consider taking a morning flight -- most planes are at their cleanest then.

Share Your Tips for Traveling with Dietary Restrictions

Medical Considerations
Make sure you have adequate medical insurance in the case of an allergic reaction. If your health insurance policy at home doesn't cover you in a foreign country, purchase a travel insurance policy that will. (Just be sure to inquire about the terms and conditions affecting pre-existing conditions, such as allergies.)

Be prepared by researching hospitals, doctors or other medical providers where you're going, particularly if you have strong reactions to particular foods. (For help with this, see Health Care Abroad.)

Have your doctor write up an explanation of your condition, your medical history and how you should be treated in the case of an allergic reaction; carry this document, as well as your doctor's contact information, with you at all times. You may also want to consider wearing a medical ID bracelet.

pills medications medicineBring a full supply of antihistamines, epinephrine needles or any other medications for dealing with an allergic reaction. Pack enough to last for a few days beyond the scheduled end of your trip, just in case. If you're flying, always put these items in your carry-on luggage (so it doesn't get lost if your checked bag does) and be prepared to present them at the airport security checkpoint, particularly if any of them are in liquid, gel or needle form. (The TSA will allow medically necessary items through the checkpoint, but additional screening may be required.)

Resources
Celiac Disease and Gluten-Free
  • Bob & Ruth's Gluten-Free Dining & Travel Club: Trips for gluten-free travelers
  • CeliacHandbook.com: Resources and restaurants for gluten-free travelers
  • CeliacTravel.com: Restaurant cards and resources for travelers with celiac disease

    Food Allergies
  • FoodAllergies.About.com: Food allergy resources and tips
  • Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network: Resources for people with food allergies, including air travel tips and a sample doctor's letter for children with allergies

    Kosher
  • Eddie's Travel: Kosher cruises and tours
  • Kashrut.com: Resources for kosher travelers
  • Kosher Expeditions: Kosher tours
  • Kosherica: Kosher cruises and tours
  • Totally Jewish Travel: Kosher cruises, tours, restaurants and hotels

    Vegetarian/Vegan
  • Bicycle Beano: Vegetarian bicycling holidays in England and Wales
  • Green Earth Travel: Vegetarian travel agency
  • GreenPeople: Vegetarian societies in the U.S. and around the world
  • HappyCow: Vegetarian restaurants, health food stores, accommodations, retreats and more
  • International Vegetarian Union: Vegetarian restaurants, accommodations, travel agencies and more
  • SoyStache: Vegetarian/vegan societies around the world
  • VegDining.com: Vegetarian and vegan restaurants around the world
  • Vegetarian Resource Group: Vegetarian vacations and restaurants, links to vegetarian groups in the U.S. and Canada
  • Vegetarian Travel Guide: Health food stores, vegetarian restaurants and other vegetarian resources for U.S. cities
  • Vegetarian Vacations: Vegetarian holidays worldwide

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    --written by Sarah Schlichter
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