Travel

Restaurant Planning for Travel with Food Allergies

Party of 37, 19 Kids Menu’s Please!

We have an upcoming extended family trip to San Diego. As a family with anaphylactic food allergies, and a gluten intolerance, it can definitely already be quite the task to travel and dine with JUST our immediate family in tow. Add to that 14 cousins, 14 aunts and uncles, and 2 grandparents (think along the lines of a Home-Alone-size-clan, with food allergies in San Diego). So now we’ve gone from our family of 7 to a party of 37: 19 children and 18 adults. Everyone has their share of places they want to go, their own picky eaters, and things they have in mind. At least we almost have a 1:1 ratio of child to adult, ha!!

Plan Ahead

So what’s a girl to do? The easy thing would be to say we just can’t go, and not deal with it. So I did what I try to do before any trip we take, and I seek out as many restaurants near our hotel as possible, as well as near any other places we may be visiting. I then look them up to research their safety and friendliness.

Thank Goodness for Technology!

One spot I immediately check to see what others with food allergies say, is the app Allergy Eats. In addition to reading the reviews there, I checkout the restaurants website and social media. If I have any questions I send them a message. If I don’t hear back somewhat promptly, I then call. When I call I try to call between meals in their time zone, so not to call and expect detailed help while they are having a rush. If they are busy I ask when a good time is for me to call back with some questions for the kitchen or a manager.

Make a List & Check It Twice

From there I slowly add friendly restaurants to my list. I include the distance, in minutes, from our hotel by using the addresses and my map app on my iPhone. Next I include the website and any other notes about what is safe to order, or other important info or details.

Typically I’d print a hard copy of this for my diaper bag or purse, email it to myself in case I lose it, and also keep a copy in the “notes” section of my phone. That way no matter what, I should be able to quickly access my game plan.

Be Okay With Flexibility and Don’t Make Perfect the Enemy of Good

Since we are going with extended family on this upcoming trip, it is hard because we just hope that everyone will want to go to the friendly restaurants. So I send the list to my mother-in-law who is the planner and hostess of the trip many weeks in advance so that she can incorporate them as she sees fit. From there we will see what happens and worst case scenario if everyone is super keen on going to a place that wouldn’t be safe for us, that’s okay and we just Uber ourselves to a safe place from our list and then meet up with them later. It’s not ideal, we love our family and would love to eat with them. However, especially with the number of people we travel with it really is already pretty tough for restaurants to accommodate a party as large as ours, even without food allergies.

Have a Back-Up Plan

This has proven to work well for us. It’s always good to also have at least one or two places you can rely on in a jam constantly throughout your trip, whether it be a nearby food market, a fast food place, or even a convenient store where you can get some basics.

Additionally, if you are able to pack a suitcase, dufflebag, or backpack (depending on your needs), dedicated to extra food and snacks should you get in a bind, then you should be set!