Content and Editorial Director
It’s hard enough to stay gluten-free, vegan, paleo or kosher in your home town. But add language barriers, unknown cities and unfamiliar cuisine to the to the equation, and dietary restrictions can feel downright dispiriting. But they don’t have to restrict you, if you keep some simple things in mind.
Know the Local Lingo
Mastering key phrases like “no dairy,” “vegetarian” or “I’m allergic to onions” in the local language can ease your mind about what you’re eating. You can also carry an allergy or food restriction card for your wallet, available from sites like Allergy Translation or Select Wisely. They have picture cards as well, to make certain that dietary restrictions don’t get lost in translation.
Understand the Menu
Before you leave home, download Google Translate, and select the languages you will need. Using your smartphone’s camera, the app magically translates menus. That way, you don’t order the tripe-flavored dessert. Unless, of course, you meant to.
Do Your Research
Find out which restaurants at your destination can best cater to your dietary needs. You’ll also want to study up on the local food, so you can avoid problematic dishes altogether.
Cook For Yourself
If you’re staying in a rental with a kitchen, it’s easy to prepare your own meals. And a trip to the local outdoor market and neighborhood grocery store can make for super-interesting outings.
Traveling with a stash of snacks is a smart way to ensure you always have something to nosh on while you seek your next meal. When you pack your suitcase, throw in shelf-stable snacks like granola and protein bars, bags of dried fruits and nuts, packets of peanut butter, jerky, crackers and whatever will keep you happy and energized in case of a food emergency.
Bring Your Medications
If you have serious or life-threatening allergies, you should always be well stocked on medicine or epinephrine needles before a trip. Be certain to keep them in your carry-on, in their original packaging to help with security and customs. And make sure the countries you visit allow these medications, because restrictions vary widely. As a final measure, speak with your health insurance company to find out if you’re covered, and how to get medical attention, if you get sick overseas. And consider investing in travel insurance.
For some people, the challenges of traveling with dietary restrictions can seem daunting. But with a little advanced planning and a flexible attitude, people with even the most rigid diets can travel without trepidation.
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