Traveling Safely with Food Allergies

By Christina Elston

If you’ve got a child with food allergies, you’ve got one more thing to keep an eye on when traveling with your family. Linda Coss, author of How To Manage Your Child’s Life-Threatening Food Allergies: Practical Tips For Everyday Life (Plumtree Press, 2004) offers this advice for planning ahead and being aware while on vacation:

• Traveling by air? Bring a signed letter from your physician authorizing you to bring epinephrine auto-injectors on board the plane. Try to book the first flight of the day, to increase the chances that the plane will be freshly cleaned.

• Renting a car? Bring your own child safety seat. A "rental" seat may be covered in allergenic food residue.

• Staying somewhere overnight? Bring your own toiletries. The products provided may contain allergenic ingredients.

• Hungry? Research the food options at your destination before you leave home. And always travel with a variety of safe, ready-to-eat snacks and enough food for the food-allergic individual to eat one or two meals, in case there’s a change in plans.

• Going out to eat? Don’t assume that the local outlet of a national or regional restaurant chain will use the same ingredients or preparation methods as the restaurant in your hometown. Call ahead and speak to the manager or chef about your special needs.

• Cooking your own food? Familiar-looking products at the supermarket may not be identical to those available at home. They might be licensed to a different manufacturer, made with different ingredients, or processed in a different facility.

• Staying with friends or family? Make sure they understand how your food-allergic family member’s special needs will affect the household during your visit.

Coss is also the author of two other food allergy cookbooks, What's to Eat? (Plumtree Press, 2000) and What Else is to Eat? (Plumtree Press, 2008), both of which provide recipes for cooking without dairy, egg, peanut or tree nut ingredients. All three books are available at, at, and at various retailers nationwide.