7 Tips For Travelling With Food Intolerances
You know that feeling, you wake up early, it's still dark and the only thing left to pack is your toiletry bag and that extra pair of shoes, just in case.
You check your watch: 4am.
The mix of excitement, anxiousness and sleepiness sends your gut into a strange, slightly queasy 'shut down' mode. But if you don't eat, or at least have coffee, you won't even make it to boarding time.
You quickly grab a bite as you race out the door. One last sweeping check of the house to make sure it's secure and a quick body pat down as you talk to yourself, triple checking you have the 'essentials'.
You check your watch: 4:45 am.
Once you're outside, the fresh air hits your face and you suddenly feel more awake. The taxi is waiting and as the driver helps you load your bag into the car, your senses are already on high alert. It's as if everything from now is not just part of an ordinary day, but a new experience.
You chat about where you're going, the traffic, the things you want to do. The same chat this early morning cab driver would likely do on a daily basis. But you don't mind, and he seems happy to live vicariously through your plans too.
You check your watch: 5:25am.
The sun is peeking out now and there's a surreal calmness and warmth as you remove your bag from the car, say your goodbye to the cab driver, and turn around to see the expanse of the airport. You take a deep breath and can't help but smile.
Your adventure awaits.
You check in, looking around at all the faces you'll be sharing a flight with. There are families, couples, businessmen, sports groups and a handful of grey nomads. As you patiently wait in line for security you wonder what their travel story is. Were they just visiting here? Are they going home? Maybe they're going on a dream holiday, one they've waited their whole lives for, or maybe they're off to spend time with loved ones, or they just said their goodbyes?
You check your watch: 5:45am.
The shops aren't open yet, though there's plenty of people around. You walk through the food court, young sleepy people and chirpy older couples sip coffee and eat some sort of sweet baked good. Do they see it as a holiday treat? Or is that their regular breakfast of choice?
It makes you think about what food you'll eat on the plane. At your destination. You get a rush of excitement. You can almost taste what you're going to eat already, you can imagine the smells of the food and before you know it, you've daydreamed for 10 minutes as you wait at your gate.
You check your watch: 6:15.
It's boarding time. You take one last look around, smiling at the strangers going by as you turn to the gate and take your steps to the plane.
You get cosy, greet your seat neighbours and go straight for the 'menu'. That's when it hits you. There's nothing you can eat, and you've forgot to order a 'special' meal.
You look at your watch: 13 hours to go with hardly anything to eat! And no idea where to go to get food once you land!
…….That was me once upon a time…..Blissfully excited about the adventure ahead, yet totally ill prepared for travel with a sensitive stomach.
If you can't eat certain things due to food intolerances like me, yet food is one of your absolute pleasures, it can be a real buzz kill for a holiday!
So I've listed my top 7 tips to ensure your holiday meal times run as smooth as possible! After all, a food intolerance shouldn't stop you from exploring the world!
- Call the airline in advance. Most airlines cater to gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan quite well. Before you secure your ticket, make sure you check with the airline that they can cater for your needs. Some meals may not be possible to ensure 100% accuracy such as 'no traces of peanuts'. If you're having trouble getting in touch with them directly, contact your local Flight Centre or equivalent as they can find out for you too.
- Pack snacks and homemade foods (preferably that don't have strong smells - be kind to your seat neighbours!), and leave the liquids at home on international flights. Commercial, packaged foods will most likely get through customs (each country is different) but you can eat fresh fruit and vegetables on the plane too. Just be sure to finish them off before you land! I love taking carrots and other veggies, a homemade dip, flaxseed crackers, avocado, homemade bliss balls or savoury muffins, and fruit.
- Book accommodation with a restaurant that caters to your needs. Simply check their online menu, email or call them. That way at least you know if all else fails, you can eat there! If that isn't an option, locate the nearest grocery store before you go so at least you can get some snacks and supplies. If the hotel you're staying at has a kitchenette or fully equipped kitchen, even better!
- Learn key phrases. If you're going to a country that speaks another language, learn the lingo for key phrases you may need to ask, as well as the main responses you may get! They will likely be 100% more helpful if you show you tried to ask in their native tongue.
- Take an App. If you're new to limiting certain foods, take a checklist with you or download an app that tells you what you can and can't have. Monash University have a great app if you need to follow the Low Fodmap diet!
- Don't forget any medications you may need. There are plenty of really helpful natural, digestive support items available:
- 'De-Gas' is great to help reduce bloating and, well excess gas build up.
- Ginger chews or uncrystallized ginger are great for a queasy nauseous stomach.
- Iberogast is a herbal (liquid) tonic that soothes and calms an irritable bowel.
- Magnesium citrate or Senna tablets can assist if you're feeling a little clogged up, but so can plenty of water, leafy greens and some high fibre carbohydrates. Don't take these unless you've got a safe, clean bathroom near by. A little goes a long way!
- This is probably my favourite pre-holiday activity, research the cuisine! Find out what are the common dishes you'll find and what is in there. I love reading about what potential deliciousness I'll be able to enjoy and it will save a lot of time and torture if you're already familiar with some key foods, especially when you've left it too late and 'hanger' kicks in!
Travelling with food intolerances can be just as fun if you do a little preparation beforehand. In 10 years of my own struggles with food intolerances, there's been a couple of frustrating times, but nothing that has stopped me from having some of the most amazing experiences. So don't be afraid, just be prepared and go for it!
Who knows, maybe your next journey will be your best trip yet!