Here’s How to Not Let Dietary Restrictions Ruin Your Trip!

Here’s How to Not Let Dietary Restrictions Ruin Your Trip!

June 29, 2020 | By Nafeesah Allen

Food is a big part of travel. If our tongues and tummies aren’t pleased, it could ruin an otherwise awesome excursion. Whether by choice, religion, or medical necessity, those of us with dietary restrictions have to pay very close attention to ensure that one missed meal doesn’t leave us hangry for hours. Whether you are vegan, pescatarian, gluten-free, or just plain picky, it is important to plan ahead to avoid food mishaps. Focus on small fixes during these four major parts of any trip:

On the way there: To make sure that a missed or mainstream meal doesn’t ruin your trip before you even get there, if you’re flying, contact the airline at least 72 hours in advance to request a special meal. On international flights, carriers offer dozens of options. From low salt to lacto-ovo-vegetarian, there is something for everyone. 

If you forget to make the call or if you’re traveling by land, your best bet is to pack a few meals. Ideally, bring things that don’t need refrigeration or reheating – bread, cheese, vegetables, meal replacement bars, dried fruit, and nuts. Frozen ice packs in a discrete cooler bag are great tools to keep deli meats, dairy products, and perishables cold whether you’re in-cabin or hitting the road.

In your accommodations: Do yourself a favor and book a place that has a kitchen, so you can cook at your own convenience. If you’re heading to a hotel, check-in is the time to let the concierge know about your food restrictions and/or allergies. Have them inform the kitchen staff and order your meals as far in advance as possible. You would hate to wake up looking for a substitution to your English breakfast only to find that they already prepped the meal last night OR your requested meat-free ingredient isn’t in stock. 

Pop by the kitchen and talk with the chef and the staff. Let them know your food no-nos. They will usually suggest a la carte options that are a good fit or an easy fix. If you already know your itinerary and can foresee breakfasts in bed or nights curled up with a book, pre-schedule your room service and late-night snacks. The kitchen staff will appreciate the consideration. You can also ask the hotel staff about grocery stores in walking distance where you can pick up a few extra snacks.

In the streets: Find a grocery store, fruit stand, or farmers market. Restock your snacks to avoid raiding the mini-bar. Grab goodies (and water) that you can easily stash in your day bag. If you’re headed out for a guided tour, let the guide know what you can and can’t eat as soon as you book, and remind them at the beginning of the excursion. If you’re doing your own touring, sites like Yelp! and TripAdvisor are great resources to map out food-friendly options along your route. We definitely won’t judge if you build your plans around great restaurants that meet your needs!  Your hotel concierge or host are also great resources for finding great eating options in the area. 

For something extra tailored, find cooking classes and food tours that will let you discover local dishes that you can enjoy. If your restrictions are based on religion, see if your faith community lives in a particular neighborhood that you can visit throughout your stay. Last, if you don’t speak the language, have a translation app or allergy cards ready. Better yet, learn key phrases, like “no meat” or “no dairy,” so you can communicate with street vendors or restaurant staff.

On the way home: You might be riding high from your great adventure and forget that you have to do the same meal prep for departure as you did with arrival. Call the airlines and confirm that your meal request was made for roundtrip (not just one way). Pack snacks and meal replacement options, but be mindful of food import restrictions. The U.S. has general guidelines to consider regarding what you can bring in, so eat up before you get to customs.

If your snacks make it through, don’t keep them all to yourself. Food makes great souvenirs for friends and family.

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