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The Challenge of Traveling with Food Intolerances

My oldest son and I just embarked on a trip to return him to college, which is 18 hours away from home. I admit this momma’s heart is a little sad that he is going to be so far away for another school year. During the trip, however, those thoughts were distracted by planning our travel around my food intolerances.

Gluten, corn, dairy, and soy are not my friends, along with a few other random things that just don’t work for me. Given the fact that this list could also be titled “The most common ingredients in American foods”, I have to be very careful with my grocery shopping as well as eating out. When I am at home, this isn’t a problem. I have my favorite grocery items and local restaurants where I know just what to order. It can be pretty relaxing!

On the other hand, eating on road trips can suddenly become a highly stressful event that is repeated 3 times a day. I am dependent on unfamiliar restaurants for most of my meals, where I’m just hoping the staff won’t get annoyed with my long list of questions.

Here are some tips for how I manage all my food issues while I travel.

  1. I bring lots of shelf stable snacks. I prefer higher protein options like all natural jerky and protein bars, but I have been known to pack homemade granola, trail mix, and gluten free crackers. I have also packed a cooler with superhero muffins and yogurt. Protein powder is an awesome way to meet your protein goal while travelling.

  2. I try to research the local restaurants well in advance. I can’t assume that a restaurant will have options available for me, so looking over menus before choosing a place saves a lot of frustration at meal time.

  3. Once I choose a restaurant, I ask the waiter lots of questions. If time allows, you can call the restaurant ahead of time to ask questions--but as a courtesy only during off peak hours! I am always super nice to the waiter so they will be willing to help me out as much as possible. I tip well, too!

  4. If I am staying at a hotel, I ask the front desk about the continental breakfast when I check in. In my experience, the scrambled eggs don’t have added ingredients, so they are usually a safe bet. Fresh fruit is also a good option.

  5. If my food stash starts to run low, I make a bee-line for the local supermarket. I stock up on foods I know I can eat so that I can have a snack if my restaurant meals don’t work out like I had hoped.

  6. I try to pay attention to my food when it arrives. On this trip, I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich in a lettuce wrap instead of a bun at a fast food drive through. Unfortunately, we drove away before I realized that I got the wrong order and couldn't eat my lunch. This could have been avoided if I had simply checked my food.

  7. I try not to stress too much. That’s easier said than done, but I try.

Travelling with food intolerances and allergies can definitely be challenging, but it can be done with a little planning! Now to sit back and enjoy the ride...


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