Lifestyle West Blog

Traveling and Food Allergies: Survival Tips

October 23, 2012

Food Allergies and Food Intolerances (Source: Adams999/Flickr)

If you have food allergies or food intolerances, use these tips to keep the fun in vacation dining!

(Photo source: Adams666/Flickr)

Planning and preparation go hand in hand when it comes to having a successful trip—whether traveling for business or vacation. For people with food allergies, travel includes a whole other set of considerations. Often, your life may depend on it.

According to the health-education company GlutenFree Passport, studies show that about 78 million Americans have food allergies or food intolerances. Strategies to prevent allergic reaction are critical for many of them.

Whether your allergy is life-threatening or not, it goes without saying that you want to avoid a reaction. Here are some suggestions to help you have an allergy-free travel experience.

Question food servers

Just because something isn’t listed on the menu, doesn’t mean it isn’t in the food. You may have gotten used to the menu selections at the local restaurants you frequent around your home, but the same items can be made with different ingredients elsewhere. Ask your food server about the ingredients and if he or she seems unsure, have them check with the kitchen about it.

Educate yourself

Kim Koeller, co-author of Let's Eat Out with Celiac/Coeliac & Food Allergies!, says that according to the federal government, eight foods—milk, soybeans, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish—account for more than 90% of allergic reactions. If your allergy includes one of these items, you need to learn where potential allergens may be hidden.  For example, soy sauce usually contains wheat and gluten. Artificial mashed potatoes may contain peanuts.

If you are traveling to a foreign destination, learn about the common cooking techniques  used there and how dishes are typically prepared. Identify ahead of time what food preparation modifications can be made.

Break language barriers

When traveling to a foreign country, or if you plan to eat in an ethnic restaurant, write on a piece of paper “I am allergic to ______ “ in the language of the country you are traveling to.  If your allergy is with specific ingredients (wheat, etc.) then you need to have questions about these ingredients in the specific language.

Use common sense

If you have any doubts about the restaurant’s understanding of your allergy or you sense there may be miscommunication, use your common sense and avoid the food. Always carry your medications with you and make sure anyone who you are traveling with or dining with understands what to do in case you have an allergic reaction.

Gluten-free and allergy-free translation cards are available in various languages at websites, including, and there are other translation tools available on mobile apps.

If your travels bring you to Kelowna, come into the ORA Kitchen & Bar, attached to our Kelowna hotel. You’ll find the staff friendly and ready to help you with your dietary needs. Hope to see you soon.


The award-winning BEST WESTERN PLUS Kelowna Hotel & Suites is known as a launch pad to the surrounding area’s 4 season outdoor playground in British Columbia, Canada. Winter sees world class skiing, and skating, while summer sun brings epic wine tours, golf, biking, and water sports. The Best Western is in the heart of beautiful Kelowna, BC and has 176 rooms and suites; plus conference center, mineral pool, spa and much more.



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