Traveling with Food Allergies, Part One

I received the following email from a Real Food, Allergy Free reader:

…I wanted to ask you if you had any suggestions for allergy friendly foods to take on a road trip. We are going out of town later this month and staying in a hotel for a few days. My son is 20 months and has life threatening allergies to egg, milk, wheat, peanuts, and soy.

We can’t feed him anything from a restaurant (except applesauce) because of potential cross-contamination, so I’m planning on packing all his food. I’m still nursing so milk isn’t a problem for him. I will definitely be bringing the banana chocolate chip muffins along as those are his favorite and I thought the pouch tuna packets for protein. Any other ideas?

I thought it was an excellent and timely question with spring break coming in just a few weeks. I’ll share my thoughts, and I’d love for you all to jump in with your ideas in the comment section. Look for part two of this article which includes lists of foods that travel well and meals that can be prepared in a hotel room.  This should be fun!

Make and Freeze Microwavable Dinners

Prepare your meals ahead of time and heat them in the hotel microwave. Freezing the meals ahead of time ensures the temperature in the cooler stays cold on long trips.  This works well for small families on short trips, but it’s usually not practical for us.  There is just not enough room in the van for a cooler big enough to hold a weeks worth of food for 6 people.

Update: Please read through the comments below.  I have always assumed that covered food in a clean microwave would be fine, but Paula believes she had an anaphylactic reaction to airborne particles from using a microwave at work!

Bring your crockpot

I rarely travel without my crockpot. It probably sounds silly, but I’ve taken my little friend with me for years. It started off as a way to save money. Eating out is expensive!

Now that we are dealing with food allergies, bringing a crockpot is even more important. It means that I have a way to prepare an allergy-friendly dinner in a hotel room.

I have heard that crockpots may violate fire code, so you probably should not broadcast that you are using one in your room.  I’m all for following rules, but I have to feed my kid!



Make a Menu Plan and Grocery List

I make a menu plan before the trip. Then I make a little recipe binder that I can take with me, and finally, I make a grocery list. Making a grocery list before you leave is extremely important because you need to make sure you pack foods that you may not find at the local grocery store.

Plan to Stop at Grocery Stores

We used to make our pit stops at gas stations and fast food restaurants.  Now we try to find nice grocery stores to visit.  You can pick up fresh produce, lunch meat, hummus, sunbutter and many other allergy friendly snacks at grocery stores along the way to your destination.


This concludes part one of traveling with food allergies.  Read part 2 which includes lists of foods that travel well and recipes that you can easily cook in your hotel room.

Photo credit: mollypopsteelashanLizMarie_AK and ginnerobot

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10 Responses to “Traveling with Food Allergies, Part One”

  1. We’ve had to be pretty creative on the road as well, just a part of food allergies and dietary restrictions 🙂

    We totally bring along our George Foreman:) We are always right there next to it when we’ve used it and have never had a problem.

    Another is an electric frying pan. I have definitely made this in the hotel room before…

    ANd I was going to loudly SECOND the “make a grocery/food plan”. A vacation isn’t relaxing if you feel like you are always worry about or scavenging for food. So having a plan, cooking/freezing ahead, and making lists is soo nice… no extra brain-power needed. And it means that others can help when they see the plan.

    You said you had snacks. I would definitely plan for snacks, whether it’s something baked at home or cereal in little snack-sized baggies… and don’t forget bananas, apples, carrots, etc!!

    I”m looking forward to the rest of the series;)

    • Nancy says:

      Ahh yes, the George Forman! I forgot about that guy! I gave mine a way a while back, but I can see it would be great for traveling. Thanks for sharing!

  2. paula says:

    I have a long list of food allergies myself. Some of them are airborne (peanuts, nuts, shellfish). After a bad experience at work, I now NEVER use any microwave except my own at home. You don’t know what someone may have cooked before you or whether it is still lingering in the system. I make a lot of my own food. Maybe this family could make some granola type bars and put them in snack size indiv baggies. I take mine to work like that. I think I got my recipe from marathonmom. Or, if they can tolerate the Enjoy Life granola bars (sunbutter flavor is awesome), they travel well and are prewrapped. And take along a cooler with premade meals that can be eaten cold. Turn it into an adventure for your kids!

    • Nancy says:

      Paula, That is interesting! I’ve never thought about cross contamination in a microwave. I always thought it would be safe if the microwave is clean and the food is covered. Or are you suggesting the microwave caused you to react to airborne particles?

  3. paula says:

    My personal opinion is that the particles were in the ventilation system of the microwave. You know how if someone cooks something smelly in a microwave, the smell lingers for a long time? My food was covered with a paper towel. After one trip to the ER, I’m never taking the chance again on a strange microwave. Even if you cover the food, the lid could blow off and your food could be contaminated anyway. I’ve seen little packets for sale that are supposed to protect your food in a microwave or toaster oven. Not sure if they work or not. I have always been vigilant, washing everything down (microwaves, ovens, toaster ovens, counters, etc). This was something I had never thought of before. It completely changed how I cook things when I’m not at home (holidays at relatives, etc). Maybe someone who didn’t have airborne allergies wouldn’t have any trouble at all. The last time we moved, I had someone else cook several large bowls of water in the microwave (after we cleaned it out), just to make sure there were no residual allergens from the previous owners. I would have never thought to do that before I had an anaphylactic reaction from the micro at work.

  4. Joy says:

    We always do the grocery store stop, especially since much of our travelling is between the USA and Canada. We stop and get whatever we want to eat, often fresh fruits and veggies. We’ve also been known to “forget” we have certain foods with us when we are crossing the border, just to make life easier.

  5. Laura says:

    I have never thought to bring my Crock Pot with me when traveling-brilliant! Thanks for such useful and easy tips!

  6. Amy Wicker says:

    Hi. I enjoyed reading your article, and I look forward to the next one. I’m in the process of launching a one stop travel resource for those with food allergies. When you visit the site, you’ll be able to click your destination, and up will come the hotels with kitchens, health food stores, restaurants, medical facilities, and chefs. Once we’ve got a good start on the information that we need, we’ll be building a newer more robust site which will have articles, etc.

    If you have a chance to look at it, please let us know what you think. I would like to include a link to your articles.

  7. Yes! We always travel with our crock pot and plan for grocery shopping! Our family is very careful about staying gluten-free cross contamination, and we are also on the GAPS diet. Here is one of our posts on staying safe when traveling, with all of our essentials for the travel kit: